Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Niece Project

When I look back on my teens and early twenties, I feel pangs of heartache. People often told me I was mature for my age and I believed it. I was school smart and got good grades. I’d moved around a lot, giving me a unique perspective of different cultures around this country and abroad. So I thought I pretty much had it together.

I didn’t.

Some good things did come out of that time period: my son for whom I’m so grateful, wisdom learned from hard lessons, and a few lines drawn in the sand ever after.

But I didn’t come out unscathed, and there are experiences I simply wish I hadn’t had to endure. If I could go back and whisper in the ear of my younger self, reassure her of her inner wisdom and of her innate value, I would. If I could go back and say something to her, to help her navigate around some of the particularly painful experiences, I would. I think back on those years in my life, and there are things I wish I knew then. In knowing, I may have made choices that were healthier, safer, and more in tune with my needs.

Such is life that time only moves forward. And while I can’t do anything to help guide my younger self, I can offer what I’ve learned to other young women and hope that one thing I say will help one young woman avoid one unnecessarily harmful experience.

This is my letter to my younger self, to my nieces both of whom are becoming young women, and to other girls and young women. It is my wish that they will understand the compassion and caring in my words.

Dear Lovely,


Don’t feel worried or disappointed if you don’t know what you want to do in your life. Relax. The possibilities are vast, and you will discovery many things in your life that energize you. The world is far more exciting than you can possibly imagine. Your choices are far more numerous than your wildest dreams.

There is however another side to your future. In your lifetime you will endure more pain and hardship than you can imagine. During these times it is so important to seek out your true friends, be kind and gentle to yourself, and know that this too will pass.

Your future will offer you the full range of the human experience. The cycles of life and death are all around us. Allow yourself to be touched by all of it.


There is no reason to rush anything (unless it’s taking a final exam or catching the bus!). Take life at your own pace. Do not hurry or feel pressured by others; the important things will happen in your own time, when you are ready.

If you are confused, hesitant, or uncertain, that means you haven’t gotten to “yes.” Honor that. Perhaps you’ll get to “yes” later, perhaps not. If something doesn’t feel right to you, believe in yourself. Your true friends will not pressure or manipulate you.

You will never look back on your life and wish you had gone against your gut feelings. You will almost certainly look back and wish you had trusted yourself more.

Here is a secret I have only recently learned. If you are having an internal argument, a struggle between your head and heart, you need only listen to your body. Is your heart racing? Is your breathing shallow? Is your stomach clenched? This may be your body telling you “no.”


I want you to know that you deserve good people and good things in your life. And while there may be times that good friends are in short supply, keeping company with yourself will be better for you than keeping company with those who are not true friends.

You will never lack for people who truly cherish you. All the others are just cluttering your view.

Your true friends will understand when you need to do something for yourself. Your true friends and family will not judge you. Even if they are confused by your behavior, they will trust you. You will never have to explain yourself to them.


Have you noticed that the people you love – those with generous hearts, the ones who laugh and cry, the ones who really listen to you – always look beautiful to you? You are and always will be beautiful to those who love you.

You are more beautiful than you can possibly imagine.

You are much smarter than you realize.

You are far stronger than you know.

There will be a time when you fully appreciate how wonderful you are; even if you don’t yet, treat yourself as though you already know you’re wonderful. Treat yourself at least as well as you would treat your best friend.

Karen: You are a person of value. You do not need validation from anyone.

Christine: Be kind and loving to yourself. Do not run away from yourself out of shame, and do not blame yourself for the troubles of the world. Do not hide away from life – look up to the sun every morning and let the warmth penetrate into your life and do not be afraid to share it!

In the end, you are the absolute most important thing. Friends may come and go, you may live in many different places, you may have several different jobs, but the one thing that will always remain is You. Trust yourself. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Love yourself well.

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