dear Bridget: learn, grow, live

Dear Bridget,

As of last week, I am now thirty. I bet to you that seems ancient. I mean, hello, that’s like twice your age. I bet you think I have things figured out, that I sail through life with the confidence of a grown woman. I don’t. But I have learned a few things, tips to pass on that could make your life easier now. Let’s start with a practical one…

  • Embrace hydration.

I know. It sounds like something your parents would say. But let me tell you, it’s ridiculously important, not just for your overall health, but, on a slightly vain note, it’s great for your skin, keeps it healthy and elastic so it stretches more easily as you grow.

I’m lucky. I’ve always had pretty good skin and I can partly thank my debilitating, can’t-move-can’t-blink, vomit-inducing migraines for that. I discovered when I was in high school that the migraines I’d been suffering from since middle school were brought on by dehydration. So I became a major fan of water, pretty much constantly carrying around a water bottle.

So? So start hydrating now, girl. Get in the habit. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

  • Stretch yourself.

I’m not talking about physically (although I’m also a big fan of flexibility and exercise). But I’m talking about sticking with things, even if they scare you. High school was one of the most exhausting periods of my life because of the intense classes and mountains of homework. And yet, I don’t regret taking the challenging classes because they taught me self-discipline.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my three decades, it’s that self-discipline is unfortunately a trait in short supply. And the only real way to build self-discipline is to push through things that may be less than pleasant. Don’t dodge the tough situations, Bridget. They will make you stronger. And that strength will make it easier for you to accomplish things others struggle with.

  • Dump the emovamps. 

I’ve talked about emovamps before–those emotional vampires who will suck you dry if you let them. (You can read that here.) These are people who enter your life only because they need you. They’re the ones who have one crisis after another, always begging you to rescue them in some way. And yet, if you need help, they’re nowhere to be found.

Sometimes it feels good, to be the person who’s there for them. They’re usually incredibly grateful. But, Bridget, they take more than they give. And if you let them stay, they will leech the life from you. They’re like drowning victims who strangle you in their attempt to save themselves. What they really need is a lifeguard. Let a lifeguard save them. Refer them to a professional.

The true friends, the ones worth investing in, are the ones who reciprocate, the ones who ask for your help and return the favor. They’re the ones who support you just as much as you support them. Those are the people who deserve your time. The emovamps do not. Release yourself from the responsibility of caring for people who will drain you. The sooner you learn this lesson, the healthier your relationships will be.

  • Apologize only when you’re wrong. 

It’s important to stay humble, to be willing to admit your mistakes. But don’t apologize for being yourself. Don’t apologize for telling the truth unless you did it in a way that was unkind. As women, we often have that impulse, to apologize in order to make things better, to accept blame that may not be ours to claim.

Resist the urge. Be willing to ask for forgiveness when you’re wrong, but don’t let someone else’s discomfort or frustration push you into apologizing when you don’t bear any responsibility for their reaction. Be polite. Be courteous. But don’t apologize for being yourself. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours. Which leads me to…

  • Explore your personality. 

It’s okay to not know who you are right now. Believe me, it’s a process, it’s a journey. But it’s a journey you have to begin. Find ways to express yourself–write, draw, create. Read books, watch movies, and when you find a character you resonate with, ask yourself why. And bit by bit, you’ll begin to understand those characteristics that are uniquely you.

I started this journey in middle school, when I became (slightly) obsessed with personality psychology. I couldn’t figure out who I was or why, so I dug into books and tests, trying to find clarity. As weird as it probably seemed to my friend, it helped me. It was like having someone else look at me and describe me. And when I heard those words, read those results, I thought “aha! This is part of me…” and I finally understood some edge of myself.

Granted, tests can only tell you so much. Some things you have to learn to recognize within yourself. It’s a process, but one that leads, in some small way, to accepting yourself. And that’s worth more than you can imagine. Start now, Bridget. Study yourself. Get to know yourself. You’re worth it, I promise. And everyone will benefit when you understand yourself and begin to see how you fit into this world.

So there ya go, Bridget. A few tidbits of wisdom from my three decades. Oh wait, one final thought: it’s okay to still be figuring things out. Even at thirty, I’ve released myself from the obligation to have my life in order. Life is messy. It’s complicated. And there’s a certain beauty in that tangled mess, in digging through it to find something meaningful.

It’s an incredible, valuable, and intricate thing, this life. You will not make it through unscathed. And believe me, that’s a good thing. So roll up your sleeves, Bridget. Venture forth and dig through it. Just make sure you bring a water bottle.

Love,

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What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a series of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.

If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.