A letter to my nieces and nephews

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These photos of you, this is how I will see you forever. Young and ignorant to the challenges of adulting and life in general. No one who loves you will ever want to see you unnecessarily struggle a day in your life. I say “unnecessarily” because I believe some struggle is important.

I hope you know I am always here to listen. I will never judge you or scold you for anything you have done. I will commend your honesty and bravery every step of the way. I may not always have the best advice, but I will always have advice. I am a keeper of secrets unless I think what you tell me is a cry for real help, but I promise, I will never do you wrong.

I want you to grow knowing what a beautiful human you are. In every way each of you is different yet equally amazing. You all have strengths and dreams and hopes, and I want you to live your life the happiest way.

Don’t do something because you think you have to. Do everything because your heart wants you to. Don’t feel like life has to be a cookie cutter dream, make your own path. The American Dream is different for everyone.  Make sure you experience this life how you want to experience it. If you want to travel, DO IT. If you want to go to college, do it! But if you don’t…don’t. It’s okay. College isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of successful people who don’t go to college.

Don’t get credit cards because you can at a certain age. DO go to Vegas or buy lotto or pick up a six pack of Schlitz because you can…but don’t rack up a bunch of credit cards. I promise you will regret it. I also promise you won’t make enough money to pay them off quickly for many years down the road — college education or not.

Don’t feel like you have to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t worry about that. What is meant to be WILL be, I promise, but don’t let any relationship get in the way of the path you are taking. You do YOU! Don’t feel like you have to get married or have kids right away. Do things when you are ready, when you know it’s what you want, and you know it will add to the wholeness of your life.

My life has been a series of clichés and advice I wish I had taken. I believe in learning from your own experience but sometimes it’s okay to listen to an adult who has struggled through a choice they made — understand you don’t HAVE to learn from their experience, but in the long run, you may be glad you did.

Listen to live music in different venues. Listen to live music you haven’t ever heard of. Read books by authors you have never heard of on topics you aren’t sure you know much about or find interest in.

Eat foods you haven’t tried and be open minded about it. Eat real food, but don’t hate yourself for having candy or pizza on the occasion you desire a treat. It won’t kill you.

Take care of your skin and your feet. These things are irreplaceable. Wear sunscreen and shoes that fit. Moisturize and exfoliate, and don’t pick at flaws.

Stay healthy but don’t obsess over yourself. Don’t waste time shaming yourself for not looking a certain way…it’s nonsense…and I mean this as pure as it’s possible…your way is the perfect way to look. Just take care of yourself. Always love yourself, and if you are having a hard time figuring out how to love yourself, ask me, I’ll give you a pocket full of reasons.

Play outside and find a hobby you love and go after it. If you want to try something…try it…and if you aren’t good at it, try again, or don’t, but either way move on.

Practice good hygiene and good manners. Never lose track of the good, kind soul you are. Respect adults — within reason. If someone is terrible to you, you don’t have to tolerate them no matter their age. You deserve the same kindness you give to the world.

At some point life will not go your way. Embrace it. Let this experience strengthen you. Do not let it crush you. Do not become a victim to the curve balls you are occasionally thrown. One day you will see these things shaped you into the resilient human you are.

I want you to always remember that sunshine can burn when you get too much. Stay humble and always learn. Open your mind to the way everyone lives their lives and understand there isn’t a right way, or a wrong way. We aren’t given a good life, or a bad life…we are given a life…it is our job to make it beautiful.

I love you.

Love, Aunt Andrea

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