Advice for the Daughter I’ll Probably Never Have

I’ve discussed the fact that I (probably) can’t have kids, and how much it sucks. I mean, I’ve mostly come to terms with it – but there is a neverending grieving process involved. I want a daughter who’ll kick ass and end up running the world. I like to imagine her, this funny, smart, brave kid – and all of the things I want to teach her. Since it doesn’t look like I’ll ever get that opportunity, I still want to share my philosophies with y’all, because they’re a damn good way to live your life and I think every child, especially the girl chirren, should have these words of wisdom spoken to them from birth.

Don’t let others define you.  Your life is going to be full of people attempting to tell you who you are – they’re going to try to label you so you fit into a category in their life. The problem with that is you can start believing the labels, tailoring who you are to fit someone else, everyone else. You are your own person, you define who you are, labels are bullshit. Embrace all of the wonderful complexity of you and defy anyone who tries to simplify you – their inability to accept life fully is not your problem, don’t reduce yourself to make things easier for the unimaginative.

You make your own joy. Every day, every moment, is filled with choices – choose joy as often as you can. Don’t rely on others to make you happy, you’ll always be disappointed. But if you’re already happy, you’ll shine brighter than everyone around you. Find what brings you peace and happiness and pursue it fiercely. Encourage others to do the same. Be a beacon of joy.

Don’t hide from pain. You’re going to get hurt – physically, mentally, emotionally. Don’t let the fear of pain keep you from chasing life. You might end up with some scars, be proud of them. A scar means you won, you survived, you’re still here. Scars are never ugly. Protect yourself as best you can, but at the end of the day, take the risk for what you want.

Use your voice. You’re a woman and society is going to tell you that you should be quiet. Fuck. That. Talk about everything you want. Loudly. Ask questions. Argue with someone if they’re wrong. Speak against injustice. Tell your story. Demand that you be heard. Shout if you have to. You have every right to speak, don’t let anyone take that from you. Talk about your dreams, talk about your fears, talk about your period, talk about your body, talk about what is important to you and don’t let anyone belittle that.

Listen to the world around you. Pay attention when someone is talking to you – even if you disagree with what they are saying, listen to them and fight them based on their words. Pay attention to the media around you – listen not just to the words said, but to the context, the subtext, the words unsaid – language happens on multiple levels, listen to them all. Give as much thought to what you’re hearing as to what you want to say. This is how you have a real, meaningful conversation – with others, with the world, with yourself. If you don’t listen to others, they’re not going to listen to you.

Read every day. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read about people different from you, read books by people different from you. Read fiction and nonfiction, read the newspaper, read the back of the cereal box. Reading will give you empathy, it will make you think harder about the internal lives of others. Reading is an escape from your world. Read for pleasure, read to learn, read the books assigned to you in school. Read books that challenge you, that give you perspective, that make you cry, that make you laugh, that make you ache with their beauty and truth. Read every damn day.

You look exactly as you’re meant to look. Looks are a genetic crapshoot, don’t let them define you. You’re probably going to hate some of your physical appearance, but you should love more than you hate.  Study yourself in the mirror, accept your reflection and move on. Focus on the bits you love – highlight them however you want. Dress in clothes that make you feel beautiful. Don’t obsess over trends, they don’t last and you have more important things to do with your life. Experiment with makeup and hairstyles. Makeup washes off, hair grows back, have fun with it. People are going to say shit about how you look, no matter how you look, so you should focus on making yourself happy and tell the haters to go suck an egg.

The most beautiful thing about you is your mind. Your mind is everything. Don’t waste it. Learn everything you can. Stay curious. Investigate the world around you. Figure out solutions on your own, don’t just look up the answers, think your way through. Be the smartest person in the room without shame. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. Don’t let anyone tell you that your gender means you can’t be good at math, or engineering, or sports trivia. Your brain is an incredible universe – explore it and cherish it. When you know your mind, when you know who you are, you’ll radiate strength and confidence.

Your body belongs to you alone. Your body is yours to treat however you want – try to be nice to it. Eat good foods that fill you with nourishment. Engage in physical activity. Test your limits. Be loud and take up as much space as you need. Display your body how you want. Never feel shame about your body or the way it looks. No one can touch you without your permission. This goes for giving hugs to relatives as much as it goes for unwanted sexual contact. You have no obligation to let someone touch you. You’re going to want to touch some people – ask permission first. When you’re older, sex is going to be important. Only have sex when you want it – only have sex with people you respect and like and who respect and like you back. Feel free to experiment, but be smart and safe about it. Don’t let someone pressure you into doing something you don’t want – and don’t do that to anyone else. Don’t cheat and don’t facilitate someone else cheating – honesty and trust are important. And never ever let someone tell you that you’re bad for finding pleasure, your body, your choices. As long as you respect yourself, their opinions are pointless.

Don’t give your power away. You control your own life. Yes, there are laws and rules you’re going to have to follow, but your choices are yours. Don’t let anyone make them for you. Don’t let someone talk you into doing something that feels wrong – don’t give anyone that power over you. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel or behave or what you should want or what you deserve or what your worth is. Be active and present in your own life. Pay attention to politics. Pay attention to how the world is run. Find the ways things can be better – for you, your family, the entire freaking planet – and work on making those changes. Your circumstances do not define you. If you find yourself in a relationship – romantic, platonic, business – where the other person treats you like garbage, get the fuck out. Take ownership of your life. Don’t use other people as an excuse for the mistakes that you’ve made. Don’t give others the credit you deserve. Your strength will astonish you.

Allow yourself to love and to be loved. Love is limitless and mostly effortless if done correctly. Love your family, love your friends, love your pets, love your work. Above all else, love yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you won’t trust when others do. Sometimes love isn’t enough, but it can be. Romance is not love, neither is sex. They can be a part of it, but don’t let flowers and orgasms come before respect and trust. Don’t take your loved ones for granted, let them know you love them as often as you can without being creepy. Let them know with words and deeds. Listen to them, respect them, support them – but don’t lose yourself in the process. Love should not diminish who you are, it should amplify you.

Finally, you have one life, enjoy yourself. Don’t borrow worry, don’t dwell on the past. Learn from your mistakes. Take the time to know the people around you. Take naps. Have lazy days. Do something unexpected. Laugh as loudly as you want. Buy yourself pretty knickknacks that make you smile. Go barefoot in the summer. Dance when the mood strikes, even if no one else is. Do your best to not harm others, when you do, apologize and mean it. Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t let anyone treat you like a joke. Know that you are loved and precious and absolutely, completely, wonderfully perfect as you are.

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