I'm no expert on teenage girls, aside from the fact that I was one once -- but I gained a 17-year-old daughter a few summers ago, and as the mother of two young boys I wasn't 100 percent sure what to expect. Most people told me it was going to end horribly (including a few members of her family), but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and that summer was as much a learning experience for me as it was for her.
I learned that if kids are given the opportunity to rise to the occasion, they most likely will. She was amazing and made me truly believe that our future is quite bright with lovely ladies like these on the verge of entering the adult world. I could make a list a mile long, but a lot of life is best learned along the way, so they'll get there. For now, here are 10 pieces of advice for her and others just like her to get adulthood started off right:
1. Get your college degree.
I'm serious. Live there, commute, or go back to school if you've quit, but just get your college degree. The wage gap is real. The differences will be subtle in the first few years, but once you're in your 30s, the wage gap is very, very real and will get exponentially larger over time. Also, education matters -- imagine what would happen to racism, sexism, and crime in this country if we had more educated citizens? Be one of them.
2. When in college, pick a major that will get you a job.
Landing a job means landing a paycheck. Landing a paycheck means being able to pay your school loans off and pay your living expenses. If you are passionate about something that will also get you gainfully employed, then by all means, pursue that passion in college. However, if you are passionate about something that will never have you earning a paycheck with enough to cover rent, utilities, car, food, or school loans each month, pursue your passion on the weekends while during the week you work your "marketable skill" job to learn what it takes, and how much it takes, to be a functioning member of society.
3. If you have something nice to say, say it.
And if you don't have anything nice to say, then just shut up. People tend to only speak up or out for negative reasons, and the positive will go unsaid. If a random memory enters your head and makes you smile and it involves a person you haven't spoken to in years, or really hardly know -- reach out and tell them they made you smile today. The first time I did this I was about 19 and it ended up having a profound effect on the way I'd choose to lead my adult life. I didn't think anything of it at the time. When I was done telling the person a memory involving him had made me smile, the conversation ended and I went on my merry way. A few months later I bumped into him and he told me it had been one of the darkest times of his life and he was having serious suicidal plans and was thinking of executing said plans in the near future -- then my random phone call came. He said it was the best thing that had ever happened to him (at the time -- I hope better things have happened since). My point? Something you do that seems so inconsequential can be THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENS TO SOMEONE. Or to turn the argument around, something you say that seems so inconsequential to you can also be the worst thing that ever happens to someone else. Which one would you rather be?
4. Keep your credit score impeccable.
Maybe you have a credit card, but you'd best not be charging anything on it that you can't pay in FULL and ON TIME when that bill comes in. Not paying bills at all will negatively affect your credit score, but you know what else will? Paying them a few days late. Keep organized and make sure your billing address is accurate and you are receiving the bills. If they have an old address for you and you aren't receiving the bills, it doesn't mean the debt has magically disappeared. They'll eventually find you and then there will be a lot of interest and penalty fees tacked on to your balance. That's a lot of extra money you wouldn't have had to pay if you had just stayed ahead of your debt. Know the bills that are in your name. If you move, make sure you alert the utility companies to close your account and give them a forwarding address to send you the final bill. A few dumb mistakes in your early 20s can be paralyzing to you 10 years later when you want to buy a house and a bank won't work with you because your credit score is so low.
5. Self-confidence is sexy as hell.
- The more educated you are about a topic, the more confident you are in that topic, right? SO GET TO KNOW YOURSELF. Understanding yourself and why you feel and act the way you do about life, friends, love, or work -- and having empathy enough to understand why other people may act differently to the same situations -- will lead you to have confidence in the topic of SELF.
- Self-confidence is tricky, and not everyone has it. In fact, a lot of people don't. Here's a simple trick to tell the difference: In a crowded room of strangers, there are two kinds of people. The first kind is the one who enters the room and immediately wants everyone in the room to like them. The second is the one who enters the room and wants the others to prove they are worthy of being liked, otherwise they really aren't going to bother with them. So that's self-confidence. The second person.
- Know the difference between self-confidence and arrogance. One is attractive; the other is not.
6. Get rid of the frenemies.
True friends don't lie, cheat or steal from you. True friends know you, and they know your strengths and weaknesses and would never exploit you for their own personal gain. Know the difference between friends and frenemies, and get rid of the baggage. It's not quantity, it's quality. And, as the magnet on my childhood refrigerator said, "In order to have good friends, you have to be one." It's a two-way street. Don't forget that.
7. Don't assume that because someone has money, they have class.
And don't assume that because someone has a fancy job title, they are the smartest person in the room, either. There are some very bad people in this world with a lot of money, and some incredibly dumb people in this world with fancy job titles. However, there are also plenty with money and fancy job titles who are inherently good. The point is: Don't just assume.
8. Men are terrified of you.
They also might be in love with you. They also really want to impress you. They also have no clue how to express any of that, so sometimes they do really weird things to get your attention. Have patience with them. However, don't string them along just because you like the attention. If someone is truly in love with you and you don't feel the same, have the backbone to let them down. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Let them find someone who will love them back.
9. Your parents love you, no matter what.
They do. They want what's best for you, and they want you to be happy. But now that you're an adult, be an adult. Don't depend on them for money. Go out and make your own!
10. Be a beautiful person.
True beauty shines from within. Beautiful people do what's right, not what's popular. They are true to the people they love and those who love them. They are happy with their imperfect selves, and know that life is about the journey and learning from everything that comes along the way -- the positive and the negative. They understand that different doesn't mean scary, it just means different. They are open to love -- of self, of others, of Earth. They know that life is a struggle for everyone and no one has had it easy, including the ones who make it look like they have. They know they have so much more to learn about everything, and welcome the opportunity to do so. So be beautiful.
I'd love to hear other great pieces of advice successful (and by "successful" I mean at life, not just in the office) women have heard and followed over the years.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.