A Letter To My Nieces

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Dear Ava and Addison,

Both of you just had a birthday recently. Ava, you are a bright lively four year old. Addison, you are sweet and spirited at three years old.

As I watch you develop your own little personalities, I see that you have so many opportunities ahead of you. There is the excitement of going to school for the first time, slumber parties, your first crush, and figuring out how to drive through a fast food drive through for the first time. The possibilities ahead of you are vast and inspiring.

As your aunt, I want to pass along some words of wisdom for you girls. These are things that I look back and reflect upon and hope that you can become wiser much sooner and with less pain than I did.

So listen to your awesome auntie for a sec.

1. Fashion comes and goes. Do not let it rule or ruin your life. People go into debt and feel less than adequate all the time for pieces of cloth, and it really causes more anxiety than it is worth. Unfortunately as women, there is a lot of pressure to assert your sexiness with your clothing. Sometimes I am afraid of how the media portrays things, and how so many of us fall prey to believing we can’t measure up to the hype. Even my younger self shed a few embarrassing tears because I didn’t have the newest craze, and thought I would never fit in. Find a style that makes YOU feel comfortable. Clothes don’t define you, you define you. Be tasteful. And just be prepared that whatever you think is cool right now, you may regret years down the road. So no need to sweat it now.

2. Learn how to write effectively. With the way that technology rules our lives, so many people do not know how to write a full sentence with proper structure when the time arises. Understanding the difference between an adverb and an adjective and how to properly format a letter is important.

3. Take time to travel. Study abroad; go on road trips; just go places. This will help expand your scope and show you things you could never imagine. It is also a way to bring stories to life. Experiencing things in real life are so much better than TV/pictures. And if you only pick one place to go, your Uncle Tom and I would suggest Savannah, and also take us with you.

4. Don’t just emulate Disney princesses. There are many other women to have as role models. My personal faves are Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Audrey Hepburn, Eleanor Roosevelt, and your grandmas.  I know this is a shocker seeing as I love most things Disney. While Disney princesses are beautiful and show how to be hopeful and can sing a glorious tune, they make it seem like you always need a Prince to save you from your worst nightmare. Be your own hero. Continue being strong for yourself.

5. Don’t get a credit card until your 20s. There is no reason for you to have one before then, and at this point hopefully you will understand how to effectively keep track of your money. Also the gimmick of they will give you a free t-shirt for your information is a hoax. This is you signing up for a card, and thus going down the road of a bad credit mark. And usually the shirts aren’t that cool. If you are that desperate for a shirt, it’s time for an aunt/niece date.

6. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Yes I know I am saying this one without learning this myself, but this is me teaching you through my mistake. I would suggest learning it while you are learning how to drive in the first place. Personally, I think it would be much easier that way. Plus if you are in a tight jam, it’s a handy skill to have.

7. It’s ok to change your dreams. Don’t let others dictate what you want to do with your life. These dreams will evolve over time, and you will figure it out. Just know that you need to be your own advocate for your dreams. The rest of us will fall in line when we see it makes you happy.

8. Know how to change a tire. Life skill that all people need to know, and it is relatively easy to do once you know where the jack goes. Also be ok with getting your hands dirty…

9. Don’t compare yourself to women in magazines. That’s not real life. I know there have been days that I have tried fitting into a size that I know is too small for me, and just ended up feeling miserable about my body. Comparing yourself to an image that is more than likely edited in some way is only going lessen your confidence in the beauty you already possess. Plus who wants to diet their entire life away? You don’t have time for that. (Plus your grandparents’ cooking is too good for that!) Beauty is being healthy and taking care of yourself, not the idea of trying to fit into a size double negative no waist/butt zero. Clearly this is an imaginary size that just leads you to think the worst of yourself since it is unattainable but yet glorified. Beauty is not measured by the number on the tag.

10. Watch Audrey Hepburn and Molly Ringwald movies. They are just too good not to watch. Seriously trust me. Sometimes ridiculous, yet iconic.

11. Make-up is not a necessity. As a tween, you may think you might die if you don’t have concealer or mascara, but I assure you, you won’t. Also less is more. Caking on make up takes away from your natural beauty. So unless you are on stage pretending to be another character for a part or you are cheering on your favorite sports team, there really isn’t a need for the make-up mask. Hopefully this is something you can learn faster than I did…

12. Be smart. Challenge your mind and spirit with learning new things every day. This doesn’t just mean getting straight As in school (although those do help to secure scholarships if college is what you are after.) This means being able to articulate your thoughts and not believe everything you hear without doing your own research. Be able to justify yourself and stand up for what you believe in. In the same light though, be able to objectively hear all sides of a story and be open to new possibilities. Soak in knowledge from everywhere and everyone. There is always something to learn.

13. Don’t depend on a love relationship to decide who you are as a person. You make you. They don’t make you. Naturally, you will meld hobbies and love some of the same things and they may encourage you to be a better person, but each of you should be your own person who makes your own decisions. Be true to yourself and be ok with who you are when you are alone. Ava and Addy, you are both fantastic, and don’t let the idea of love tell you otherwise. The love you find once you can do that is much happier, satisfying and real because you can be you at all times. And since this is a lesson that most of us have to stubbornly learn on our own, I am ready to wallow with you with Twizzlers and Sabrina (yes an Audrey film) when the time comes.

14. Get enough sleep. Naps are cool (in small increments)! Bedtimes are cool! I know it may seem crazy now, but there will come a time when you pray for more sleep. Being fully rested will help you enjoy the day more fully, instead of being half asleep or being in a caffeine induced coma all the time.

15. Read. Books, magazines, newspapers, whatever, just read. A well read woman is a dangerous thing, in a good way obviously. The act of reading inspires us to be imaginative, to think, to reflect, to connect, and so much more.

16. Play with a Skip It. Literally and figuratively. This is such a fun toy, so maybe Aunt Stephie and Nuncle Tom will have one at their house someday. I urge you to infuse fun activities in your life. Get outside, do things, be active. We are so stationary these days that it is important to “skip” the technology once in awhile to get our bodies in motion.

17. No job is beneath you. We all struggle with this at some point. However, if you are making an honest living and working hard, you will see the benefits. And if it is that bad, you will find a way out of it in due time. We all have our cleaning up puke or passing out hamburger stories (hopefully not together, but maybe) that taught us about hard work and earning your own way.

18. Show love. The world needs more of this, and both of you have such big hearts already. Don’t be afraid to love others who may not love you back. You never know how that love can impact the world.

I can’t wait to watch you both to grow into strong women who care deeply for those around you. I am excited to see what paths you take!

Believe in yourself. No matter what you hear or see from our culture, you are more than enough. So go and do great things because you are great. Only you can write your story, but don’t forget that you have many people around you who can be supporting roles and think the world of you. Just remember to be as human as possible.

You think it is tea party time now?

Love always,

Aunt Stephie

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