An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday | Susan Elford
7 things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 17
NOTE: I originally wrote this blog four years ago when my eldest turned 17. This week she turns 21. She’s off to a university exchange to Australia in a few short weeks and she continues to shine. She is the reason I started my first business over 20 years ago and both my girls are the reason I strive for a more equal world, each day and every day.
My eldest daughter turned 17 last week. I still marvel at how much life switched around for me when I went from being a daughter to being a Mom. When the time comes around to celebrate her birthday every year, I truly want to celebrate her, and the gift she gave me of being a Mom.
And I can honestly say (apologies to my own mother) that as a child, I did not give a thought to how my life choices and even my very existence might have impacted her and my Dad.
My eldest daughter’s birth caused me to see life in a new way, to think about others before myself, and most of all, to want to create a successful and meaningful career wrapped around being the best Mom I could be to my young child.
And while being a parent has been the best ride of my life, I find the roller coaster is taking a different turn now as she could conceivably be off to university or college in little over a year from now. This chapter of having a school-aged daughter at home could be quickly coming to a close.
And as I think ahead to what awaits her and the choices she will knowingly and unknowingly be making over the next year as she thinks ahead to her future, I find myself wanting to tell her everything I know, and also not…to just allow her to experience her journey as her own journey.
Which led me to write this open letter to my daughter, Amanda, on her 17th birthday.
As I watch you grow up and take on the world with confidence and curiosity, I can’t help but marvel at how much you seem to know yourself at such a young age. You choose your friends with purpose, you are thoughtful in your school and activity choices, and above all, you try your hardest to do your best almost all of the time.
You are a caring friend, a loving daughter and a thoughtful human being who has already learned the power of nurturing relationships and trusting your intuition. What an incredible gift.
What else is there to say? So much and yet so little. If my wish for you is to embrace life and explore all the world has to offer you, then who am I to show you the way? You will find your own way, and the journey will be that much sweeter because it will be your own.
That being said, I wouldn’t be your Mom if I didn’t try to inject some of myself in this life journey of yours, so here are seven things that I have learned along my way through life that I think will serve you as you find yours:
1. Love yourself
The issue of self-respect and self-worth come up time and time again in this world of ours, and more often for young women who feel they need to compromise their values to get ahead. The more you love and respect yourself, the more others will love and respect you. Get connected with what you value, know your self-worth and treat yourself as you want others to treat you.
2. Love others
You already know the great gift of beautiful, deep friendships and relationships as we cultivate those in our family and I have watched you choose and honour your friends ever since you were a little girl. Celebrating those you love, encouraging and supporting your friends’ in their choices and being very selective about those more intimate relationships, will give you guideposts for life that you will be proud to call your own. If you love others, they will love you back and the reward of being the one who can be relied on will always serve you well.
3. Be courageous
Making choices that others around you are not choosing is hard to do. Doing what matters most to you often means summoning courage you didn’t know you had to choose the road less travelled. Taking the time to understand what is truly important to you and making decisions from that place will almost always serve you well. Something that comes with this courage is not being afraid to go it alone when you have to. Creating and following your own path is not for the faint of heart — it takes courage. Courage I know you have.
4. Be passionate
Living a life that is passionate and with a convicted sense of purpose will have you see and experience the world in ways many others don’t. Act on what you care about. Tell people you care. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Always give your “all” and you will continue to stand out from the crowd. You will be admired for your desire to do your best, but most of all, you will go to bed at night satisfied that you made yourself proud that day.
5. Honour your roots
As one of my friends advised recently: “You are never too old to snuggle with your parents.” And while I hope you continue to take that advice quite literally, always know there is a place for you in our hearts and wherever you or we may be. Our home is always your home — in spirit and in place. Travelling back to your roots, your heritage and where you came from will always serve you well. It’s your history. And we grow from our history and from the roots that we cultivate from birth and from generations before us as well. Learn from your past; from your parents’ past; and from your grandparents’ past. And while I believe in honouring tradition, it’s important to live for today.
6. Listen to your gut
You may just be growing into your intuition, but something I know for sure is just because we get messages from places that don’t always make intellectual sense, that doesn’t mean they don’t hold true. If your gut says you shouldn’t do it — you probably shouldn’t. It’s worth investigating all sides of a decision a few more times before going against your gut. And more often than not, your gut knows best. Trust your instincts. They are telling you something — just as your brain does.
7. You are enough
I don’t think we can ever hear this too much. YOU ARE ENOUGH. Just as you are. Just as you are with your gifts, with your truth, and with your dreams. You are more than enough to live a life of purpose, with passion and courage. Don’t ever forget that. Not only are you enough, you might even be TOO MUCH for some people. Those aren’t your people. Bottom line: you are just right, just the way you are.
And above all, no matter what, I will always love you. I will always be here for you. And I couldn’t be prouder to call you my daughter. Thank you for coming into my life. My life and the world are both better because you are in it.
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Originally published at https://susanelford.com on June 6, 2022.