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A Letter to my Daughter -- The World is Your Oyster

29/09/2015 10:07 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Mother and daughter sitting on sofa at their home and talking.

My Darling Girl,

As you approach your final school exams EVER, there is so much I want to share with you. So many lessons that I want you to take on your journey -- lessons which I learnt too late and, in some cases, those I still grapple with.

Be prepared to make choices. Don't be scared to share your opinion. You will be judged, but don't be scared of judgment. I've seen your hesitation to make choices even in simple things. You were born to be different.

If you make choices, you will fail. It's probably the only thing I can promise you. I want you to fail. Fail hard and fail often. Don't be scared to fail. I know that it seems counterintuitive -- here I am telling you to go out and fail when everyone your whole life (including me) has tried to teach you how to succeed. And we've all rewarded your successes -- oohs and aahs when you brought home your first painting, accolades when you got into the top sports team or orchestra, awards for 1st, 2nd or 3rd... But I wonder if we got it wrong. I wonder if we should have been rewarding you more for the effort that came after failure.

Here's the thing: without failure there won't be success. Failure should build. It should build resilience, it should build courage, it should build persistence. Failure should build character. The best successes come out of failure. Think of any major discovery or major achievement in history and I promise you that failure and rejection preceded it.

  • Einstein famously didn't speak until he was four.

  • Socrates was considered an "immoral corrupter of youth" and was sentenced to death.

  • Winston Churchill failed 6th grade.

  • Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.

  • The Beatles were told that guitar music was a fad.

  • Michael Jordan was dropped from the basketball team in high school.

  • Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times by publishers before his first book was published.

  • Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.

How you get up after you've failed, how you re-calibrate yourself, how you turn it around -- these will be the things that build your character and lead to success.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not telling you to drop out of uni, or to purposely aim for failure. I am telling you that when you make a choice, when you take a calculated risk, there will be times that you will get it wrong.

You may pick the wrong job, or the wrong boyfriend or the wrong degree. It doesn't matter. Believe in your heart that you will learn from everything you do. Every choice you make will lead you somewhere. Everyone you speak to, no matter how annoying or how different they are from you -- believe that they will all teach you something.

You will have to listen hard, though. Sometimes you will hear blah, blah, blah and you will have to use every ounce of your being to hear the lesson. Absorb everything. From everyone. It is a privilege to learn and you should learn constantly from everyone around you. Don't be a snob about choosing teachers or mentors. The most important things I have learnt in my life have been from people from whom I foolishly thought I had nothing to learn.

Lastly (and I know that this is the most difficult thing for you to understand) -- you are beautiful. Embrace it. Know it. Own it. I know that you don't believe me. I know that when you look in the mirror you focus on the hair that is out of place, the pimple on your face, the abs that aren't defined, the thighs that you don't like... There are always going to be people in the world to point out those things. So what? The measure of a good person is not the size of their thighs.

Of course, as your mother, I think that you are beautiful on the outside. Your almond eyes, your smile that can light a room, your dimples, your beautiful olive skin -- these are all features that I love. But that's not why I think you are beautiful. It's the kindness that you show to your little brother when he is looking for attention, it's your integrity and your immense and overwhelming sense of goodness.

I don't want anyone to think you're perfect. Clearly you're not! Your room is often a rubbish tip, you are annoying to a fault at times and you're often very self-focused. That doesn't make you a bad person or any less beautiful. It makes you a teenager. It makes you human.

As you prepare to enter the world I need you to believe in your own beauty. Your doubts may never go away. I am almost 50 and there are days, weeks even, when I think I am too fat, too ugly, too thin, too mean. The list goes on. Maybe it's part of being a woman and getting up to face the world each day. Maybe it's just us.

As you get older, you will become more comfortable in your skin. You will see that your body is beautiful and it allows you the freedom to do the things you want to do if you treat it well. You have to look after your body. Treat it with respect. Exercise, don't eat too much rubbish and respect the fact that if you live to 100, it has to last the distance.

This is such an exciting time for you. A few weeks left before final high school exams and then the world is your oyster. You can do anything. You can be anyone. The world is still not an equal place though. The fact that you are a woman shouldn't mean anything. Unfortunately, it still does. I can only hope that by the time you are my age, women and men will be more equal. I hope that you will be paid the same as a male colleague with the same experience and that having children will be considered a privilege and burden for men and women alike. I hope that your career will not suffer as a result of your choice to have children.

Things are changing. I know that they will continue to change because I know so many amazing men and women out there pushing for change. Be a person who fights hard for other people. Seek out female friendships -- they have been the most important friendships I have had. Find women who get you. Women who listen when you're down, who laugh at your jokes no matter how lame they are and women who you connect with. You will find them in all sorts of places -- and you will know instantly who these women are that you share a connection with. Some will become life long friends and others will fill a mutual need at a point in time. Either way, make strong female friendships. Women need each other.

I can't wait to see what you do and who you become. I know that whatever path you choose to follow, it will be an amazing journey for you and those watching. Treat people with kindness and respect and remember to treat yourself the same way. Look after your body and seek out love and take chances.

The world is your oyster. Embrace it.

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