To My Niece

Photo by Anna Demianenko on Unsplash

Dear Mia–

It feels as if 105 years have passed since I was your age, in my early 20s, experiencing freedom, wondering what the world had in store for me.

I came from a conservative background. My daddy died too young and my mother had very set beliefs in how a young woman should behave. I doubt my sister has told you about our upbringing. Suffice to say, I was a rebel when I decided I wanted to wear eyeshadow and I was well into my teens at that time. That’s pretty archaic now, isn’t it? My rebellion was good for both your mother and me. She never wanted to rock the boat with our mother.

When I was 17, I met the boy who I thought was The One. He was 21, called me beautiful, and just seemed so sweet. I was sure I was in love. Maybe I was. I wanted to be. I thought getting married and having babies with the boy I loved would be the end all, the greatest thing.

It didn’t happen with him and his story has a sad ending. A story for another time.

I didn’t fall in love again until I was 24. He was a smart English scientist who made me laugh and who I thought might be my soulmate. But it didn’t work out then because I wasn’t who he thought he needed/wanted/loved. Rejections make you feel less than. I know I did. I hurt.

But a little hurt just made me more determined. Romance and boys were my obsession because I was made to believe that if I got married, I would be happy. Happily-ever-after. All the books and movies tell us it’s so. We read them. We thrive on them. But we never take a moment to look around at the real lives.

My mother’s bitterness should have been the first clue that this was not the case. She got her man but he . . . .

If I could talk to my younger self as I am talking to you, I would tell you to follow your dreams. If you want to be an artist, do everything right now to make that happen. If you want to be an actress, pursue that dream.

To my younger self: write, write, write. Never stop. Put yourself out there and keep writing. The twentieth rejection was not a rejection of you. There were editors who wrote back that they believed in you. Why didn’t you believe in yourself?

Your 20s are the time to make things happen. Not that you can’t in later life, but do it now when you’re unencumbered. When you don’t have the responsibility for anyone but yourself. Keep trying. Never take one failure as a complete failure.

As women, we have an extra hill to climb. We face derision from other women. We live in a world that is still not equitable. I hope this changes in your lifetime because I don’t believe that it will in mine when some women won’t claim the term feminist mostly because they don’t quite understand what it means or if they do, they’ve somehow decided they don’t want to be equal to men. Barefoot and pregnant and cooking. Please don’t choose that for yourself. You are worth so much more.

Take chances but not dangerous ones.

Be kind. It is true that you never know what another person is going through so always give the benefit of the doubt. But trust your gut.

Mostly, please pursue your dreams. Now. Sure, have boyfriends. Enjoy closeness but keep this time for you. It will be gone in an instant and you may never have another chance once you have a family. Right now, it feels like you have forever, but I swear 20 years will speed by and you’ll wonder where the time has gone. I’m suffering whiplash from that right now.

If I had my 20s to do over again now that I know how it all turns out, I’d romance but that would never be the end all. I’d fervently write and write and write because that was my dream and maybe even my talent which I didn’t strive for because I thought I needed my happily-ever-after.

All I ask is that you be smarter than me.

Pursue your life’s destiny.

Be your own woman first before you become someone else’s.

You are worth so much more.

Love, Your Crazy Author Aunt

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