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6mo Cincinnati, OH, United States Story
A Letter to My 16 Year Old Sister

Dear Shannon, 

As this school year comes to a close I know you are starting to feel the pressure of the decisions you will have to make in the coming year. I can vividly remember how overwhelmed and scared I was when it came time to make a decision about college. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning; growing up is all about learning how to make decisions for yourself. 

As you know, I pretty much graduated from high school and never looked back, but occasionally I do think about my life when I was your age. When I do it's mostly fond memories, but there are so many things that I wish I would have known. So in the spirit of “if I knew then what I know now”, here are some thoughts I'd like to share with you. 

1. Attitude is everything. 

One thing that I have found so different about my post high school life is that I don’t have many bad days. I can remember having some awful days in high school. But it wasn’t because school was hard or my life was that bad, it was just that I had a bad attitude. I put so much pressure on myself and I was afraid of failure. While high school is important, it is just like anything else in life, you take what you can get and you try your best to learn from it.

I also played the victim way too much. I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. I convinced myself that so much was out of my control, when really it was entirely my choice how I handled things. Don't let other people's pessimistic attitudes get you down. 

2. Do things to make your life more simple, not complicated.

Something that I remember Dad said to me in high school is that "life is simple." And he’s right. It took me a while to understand, but it’s true. Life is simple, but simple doesn't mean easy. Simple as in humble.

The tasks of daily life are simple; few things in life are so complicated. Yet, I am sure you will find the decisions you must make in the next year to be complicated. The reason for this is outside factors that impact your decisions (friends, money, politics…). As you become more aware of the environment around you, you see the impact of your decisions. Making them seem ten times more important and therefore extremely complicated.

I encourage you to find a way to make your life simpler. Spend time alone. Block out any negative thoughts. Be vulnerable with yourself. Make lists of things you like and things you don’t. Think seriously about what it is you really want. It’s so hard, and almost no one really knows. It will become a lifelong dialogue with yourself. But the earlier you start seriously asking yourself what makes you happy and what does not, the better you will become at making decisions for yourself that make your life better. Living a life of purpose is much easier when you have a clear goal you are working toward.

3. Cherish every day as a new beginning.

Of course you have to learn things on your own and live your own life. I just wanted you to know how much I struggled in high school. How badly I wanted to have this aha moment where I would magically have all the answers. That one day I would wake up and know what a wanted to do. That all at once I would have the confidence I never had before. 

I never had that moment. But everything I have done in the past few years, all the experiences I have had lead me to wear I am now. And I can honestly say that as a 21 year old woman I wake up every day with the hope that today will be better than yesterday. That I will learn something new today. I will get a little wiser today, I will continue to work for the life I want and feel great about myself at the end of the day because I know that I am doing the best I can. 

Please know that as much as I am nostalgic of my past, life has continued to become more exciting as I’ve grow older. Again, when I look back at my life in high school I am happy to remember good times with friends, but I have changed so much since then. The experiences I have had since high school have made me proud of all I have done. 

You are awesome. Please understand that I would never try to change you, and I do not have an agenda for sharing this with you. I am only hoping you can see that I have been where you are. 

Believe in yourself and the person you want to become. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you. 

Love always, 


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