A year ago, I read a letter written from a father to his daughter. It discussed the challenges young women face in this day and age, specifically regarding relationships. The father discussed how it is not a girl's job to "keep him interested," but instead to know that she is "worthy of interest."
For the past 12 months, I remembered the numerous online outlets in which this letter was published, the number of times my Facebook friends shared it on my newsfeed, proving not only its popularity but also its relevance.
But I realized there are far more complex matters facing young women these days -- relationships being just one. To showcase some of what young women face, I decided to write a letter to my potentially future daughter, who may be born in 10 years or 20 years. I figure if a father can write a letter, than so can a girl who is coming of age through experience.
For my daughter,
You may be a square peg in a round hole or a fire during a snowstorm. Whatever you are, be a good one. You're going to live out of habit often, but I hope you learn to live primarily a life of intent.
You'll learn this the more you experience.
You'll be on a playground, and you may choose to read books on a picnic bench or play on the swings or race boys on the soccer field.
You'll probably go through a phase with bright colored eyeliner and foundation that doesn't match your skin tone. And that's OK. You'll learn to pick the right shade.
You'll wear a shirt that is not "your color," and you will outgrow your jeans. Don't worry though: You'll buy new ones, the sun will still rise the next morning, and the earth will still rotate on its axis.
You'll buy a piece of jewelry (a ring, a necklace, a bracelet) that for a short time you will treasure and look after with such care. But then you will inherit a greater piece of jewelry (your grandmother's favorite necklace, a ring from a close family friend, your aunt's bracelet from childhood), and you will realize that often the tarnished gold of an heirloom is far more valuable than an order placed online.
You'll acquire role models at a very young age, but I hope you never cease to gain new mentors in all that you do.
You'll favor things that are out of the norm -- like thunderstorms or sad movies or music that doesn't have a single word, but only a soothing melody. And you'll like simple things too -- like belly-aching laughter and the smell of book pages and autumn.
You'll have emotions, and you'll question your feelings and compare yourself to others. But you'll learn that if you need to cry, you cry; if you need to laugh, you laugh. Don't let anyone tell you to stop crying or criticize your emotions. You're a human, and proud of it.
You'll meet a boy (or a girl) who will awaken a part of you that you will want to remain closed. He or she will be your first love, but certainly not your last. You'll learn the pain in goodbye and the bone aching, I-can't-feel-my-limbs pain of heartbreak. You'll wish you had a smaller waist and that you understood sports and that you didn't talk so much.
But remember: They are your first love for a reason.
You'll eventually meet someone who loves you, regardless of your place in the world, or your waist size or the number of other beautiful women out there. They'll love the blurry-eyed look on your face when you first wake up in the morning. They'll appreciate the fact that you may not understand sports, but you understand that person better than anyone else. When you're with them, a constant song will play in the back of your head, and you two will be great.
Don't get too caught up in all of that, though.
Because you'll grow up, and you'll buy yourself roses, rather than the drooping flowers a boy once handed you. You'll wear red lipstick. You'll have friends that will sit on a couch and listen to your hopes and dreams and happiness and sorrows, then dance on a table with you later that evening. You'll learn that these people are your soul mates.
You'll travel the world -- you'll see things that shock you. Take a picture of those places, people and things.
You'll fall in love with late-night conversations in bathroom stalls in big cities. You'll dazzle in sequined dresses on cold nights.
You'll also find a different kind love than the one that has been written about in the novels you'll read: a passion. Maybe it's teaching, dancing, science, singing, math, writing, acting, engineering, drawing or building.
Whatever it is, even if you are a misfit or a rebel or a sorority girl or an entrepreneur or a round peg in a square hole or all of those things at once, always make sure you are living the life you want, not the one others think you should.
And so, darling daughter, I hope you learn from my lessons. Though I expect, in the end, you will have to figure it all out yourself, just like the rest of us.