By Jessica Hammer, 19
Wow, times sure have changed. That’s me in the pictures above. I was a 14-year-old high school freshman just five years ago. Skinny, awkward, innocent and desperate for social acceptance just about sums up who I was. I had no idea where I was going, but it seemed like the overwhelming roller coaster we call “growing up” started off on a rough path. Of course, I’m only 19 now so I definitely still have a lot to learn. However, over the short amount of time since I was 14 years-old, the standards have evolved dramatically among young girls and it has bothered me enough that I need to address it.
Of course, every generation goes through a state of change that the previous generation may disapprove of. (Has your grandma ever told you that your brand new outfit is ridiculous? So has mine. (P.S. Hey Grams, if you’re reading this, you’re still the bomb).
Since 2010, I’ve learned a thing or two about being a teenage girl. Now, as a young adult reflecting on the new generation of young people, I’m going to take everything I’ve experienced on my own journey and be 100% real with you. Yes, this will be a long message, I might offend you and it’s OK if you may not even relate to this at all. This will be directed mainly toward young girls, but as always, feel free to adjust this message to apply to your own life if you’d like.
Boy or girl, young or old, LGBTQ or straight, or whatever your personal circumstance may be, this message of strength, courage and promotion of individuality comes straight from the heart toward anyone who needs a little bit of tough love:
Dear beautiful girl,
When I was your age, I cut my own bangs and chose the colors of the rubber bands on my braces. I called up my best friends on my flip phone and our moms had to confirm our plans. I spent way too much time on my Nintendo DS playing with my NintenDogs (may they forever rest in peace) that sometimes I forgot to do my math homework before I went to bed at 8:30 p.m.
When I was your age, I just entered the world of high school and struggled to find confidence. I shopped in the graphic tee sections of Aeropostale and Hollister and got so excited when I was finally big enough to fit into my very own pair of American Eagle jeans. When I was your age, I thought I knew everything there was to know about fashion and makeup from what Miley Cyrus was sporting on the cover of Seventeen. My mom taught me how to apply eyeliner and I bought my makeup from the dollar store. (I still do, actually -- a broke college girl does what she’s gotta do.)
When I was your age, there was no Snapchat or Vine or “Don’t Judge Me Challenge.” When I was your age, I had never been to my boyfriend’s house because the only time we saw each other was during the school day. When I was your age, I was lost and vulnerable and I had a lot to learn about life. To you, beautiful girl, this may seem like the lifestyle of a child now. Little do you know, this was the normal life of ME, a 14 year-old just five years ago.
Times have changed (as they should!) but there are a few things to keep in mind as you enter this new stage in your life, as you grow from a beautiful girl to a beautiful young woman.
To you, young girls of this new generation:
I hope you don’t spend an hour doing your hair and makeup in the morning, because there is so much beauty to be seen without it.
I hope you forgive your best friend, because she’s going to be the one hugging you goodbye when you both leave for college.
I hope you don’t post about your lame boyfriend on Facebook, because you’ll look back and cringe in a few years, I guarantee it. He doesn’t count as a real boyfriend until you’re at least 16 anyway.
I hope you write in a diary instead of all over the internet, because when you dig that baby up a few years later, you’ll have some noteworthy moments to look back on.
I hope you don’t look to the influence of society for guidance.
I hope you turn down the invitation to the drinking party this weekend that everyone is talking about, because I promise it really won’t be as exciting as the seniors say it will be.
I hope you don’t tell your boyfriend of two weeks that you “love him” because chances are, there will be one hell of a guy waiting for you a few years down the road who will show you what love really means.
I hope you apologize for that horrible comment you said to your parents, because they love you more than you know right now.
I hope you look in the mirror every day and see something that is amazing and worthy of greatness.
I hope, when you experience your first heartbreak, instead of absolutely hating him and speaking negatively of him for the rest of eternity, that you thank him for teaching you something. If you liked him enough to date him, say “thank you” for the things that he did for you while you two were together. Tell that boy who broke your heart that he was a great stepping stone toward your future life partner.
I hope you do your homework and take pride in your intelligence.
I hope you make the choice to surround yourself with people who will encourage, motivate and lift you up instead of trying to fit in with the “popular kids.”
I hope you don’t spend hours scrolling through social media idolizing celebrities who will never be able to relate to you.
I hope you always choose your words carefully, especially when speaking to other girls. I know it’s easy to get jealous, but don’t you dare put down another female for being thin or thick or tall or short or whatever. We all know how hard it is to be a girl so instead of putting other girls down, I hope you choose to rise up and join the army of estrogen. How badass does that sound?
I hope you delete that sassy status on Facebook about how you’re "hot stuff and nobody can mess with you,” because you will be more respected for being humble than trying to be invincible.
I hope you visit your grandparents, not because your mom and dad forced you or because you want to take a selfie with Grandma for some likes on Instagram, but because they have incredibly vivid and beautiful souls and they usually offer the best advice.
I hope you never let a boy call you “sexy,” and if he does, tell him to take a hike. There are so many other words to describe the incredible qualities that make up YOU.
I hope you are kind to everyone you meet, because the way you act and portray yourself today will carry over to how people perceive you from now on.
I hope you embrace your passions and keep them close to your heart, because they’ll be the perfect outlet for stress and they might make a good career one day.
I hope you don’t try to act older than you are. There’s plenty of time for that when you’re actually old.
I hope you know that no matter how much your boyfriend says he “loves you,” no boy will ever be allowed to love you more than your daddy does. If your daddy isn’t around, that’s OK too. The big man upstairs will always love you just the same.
I hope you never give in to pressure from anyone, because it’ll feel a lot better to be proud of saying no than to regret saying yes.
I hope you choose not to share your innocent body and mind with a boy who won’t care about you five years from now.
I hope you don’t spend your money on things that don’t matter. Spend that hard-earned cash from your first job on life experiences, because skydiving pictures will look a lot cooler on your Snapchat story than a Starbucks frappuccino.
I hope you understand that life doesn’t suck if you focus on the things that are truly important to you.
Dear beautiful girl, I believe in you. Time has changed since I was your age and standards shift for every new generation, but there are some things you must always remember, regardless of how old you are. Never look to others for acceptance because what’s important is that you accept yourself. Do what makes you happy, but if those things are illegal or harmful, it’s time to do what will make you successful.
Be humble, be intelligent, be kind -- even to the people who are not kind to you, because people will respect you for it and good karma is totally a real thing. Remember where you come from, thank the people who serve you in any way, write down your goals and take one step every day toward achieving them.
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
(A 19-year-old young adult who is learning to be independent, courageous and passionate… who used to be just like you.)
This piece was originally published here.