Dear Maya

My friend Suzanne got in touch a while back with a lovely idea for her daughter Maya. Maya is about to have her 12th birthday (dear god you couldn’t pay me to go back). She asked the women in her life to write a letter to her, offering some advice.

I fretted over this request for quite a while. Being a worrier as a child, I was concerned that I would just give morbid advice. That said, I didn’t want to give generic thoughts either – try new things! Be yourself! Speak your mind! All of these things are true, but undoubtedly, someone else was going to say them to her.

I have today off from work, (Thanks, Columbus, for being a jerk but providing a day off, I guess) so I had a chance to sit and blabber something out. This is what I sent…

Dear Maya,

Your mom, who I have known since we met at Ohio University, has asked that I share some thoughts with you on your 12th birthday. Living so far away, I haven’t had the chance to get to know you up-close, so know that these thoughts are from my own experiences (rather than advice that I am giving based on observing your personality)
Do you best to act every day in a way that will make you proud looking back on your life and your behavior. This does not mean that you need to spend every day trying to pen the next Great American Novel, or inventing some creation to make you millions, or curing cancer.  Be good to others. Be kind. In an argument with friends or anyone else, never throw mud or hit below the belt. If you’ve done something to hurt another’s feelings, apologize. It’s a horrible feeling to know that you’ve hurt someone else, or said something wrong, but you know what? It’s OK! When I’ve hurt someones feelings (fortunately I think it’s a pretty rare occasion – I have learned to think before I speak) I feel horrible about myself. Am I a bad person? How could anyone like me? But I let myself feel bad, apologize, and remember that I am not the mistake I made or the rude comment I let slip. I am human, I make mistakes. We all do!
If you’re feeling blue, take a long walk. Even if you don’t feel better at the end of your walk (and I almost always do), and least you’ll feel better knowing you moved your body. ; )
Growing up, I was a worrier. And why not? The world is a big place with many things we don’t know. It’s a bit intimidating, right? But still, know that you are strong, and capable, and loved. When you feel worried or unsure, remember those facts, and know that the worry and insecurity you feel will pass. Sometimes after a good night’s sleep.
Part of being loved, by friends or family, is being able to lean on them and for them to know that they can lean on you. If you feel frustrated or lonely, call for reinforcements (that means call your friends or a family member and share your thoughts with them). They will feel honored that you came to them, and they will likely someday return the honor by calling you when you are in need.
Did your mom ever tell you that when she and I first met, we didn’t really like each other? It’s true! But, we got to know each other slowly, and she is one of my most treasured friends today. Keep an open mind when you meet new people. If you don’t get along with them and they don’t seem destined to be a friend, you will at the very least, learn something from them.
Growing up is hard, but I know you’re gonna rock it!
Wishing you a most wonderful birthday, Maya!
Lots of love from Boston,

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