What a strange time to be 17. Our world has contracted just when a young person's universe is meant to expand.
How long is the OE (overseas experience) on pause?
How long is studying abroad a risky proposition?
My daughter turned 17 on Wednesday. Any parent can tell you about this odd phenomenon of children sprouting like bamboo - how burbling babies quickly become teenagers who want our car keys.
Blink, and they're navigating the globe. Or, in 2021, possibly crisscrossing Aotearoa.
I've enlisted help from bestselling author Glennon Doyle and her memoir, Untamed. Doyle has excellent advice for all humans, in particular, for women.
"Being human is not hard because you're doing it wrong, it's hard because you're doing it right."
I'm sad your possibilities feel more limited than mine did at your age. Sad I can't send you on an overseas adventure just yet, and that visiting the grandparents in Covid-ravaged America is on hold.
For a teenager, postponement looks permanent. But I believe we will resume something resembling normal life in the future. This pause is not forever.
Other lessons that will help you in 2021 and beyond:
Keep friends from many generations. The more birthdays you have, the more you'll value the wisdom of youth and the exuberance of older folks.
"Be careful with the stories you tell about yourself."
Know your worth. You deserve kindness, a fair wage, freedom to express yourself and the confidence to pursue your goals. Anyone who disrespects you does not deserve your time.
"Love is the opposite of control. Love demands trust."
Never settle. Love should not be a struggle. Expect in a partner the qualities you need.
Abuse in any form - emotional, physical, financial - is not okay. It is infinitely better to be alone than to be lonely within a relationship.
"There is no one way to live, love, raise children, arrange a family, run a school, a community, a nation. The norms were created by somebody, and each of us is somebody. We can make our own normal."
Follow your own path. Have a serious relationship. Or not. Have a romantic fling. Or decide it's not your thing. Adopt six dogs (after you move out of the house) or keep one cat.
"So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they've never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers."
Be true to your word. Only offer what you can deliver. Meet the friend you've made plans with. Meet deadlines. Pay bills on time. Remember all debt must be repaid.
"When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself."
Don't jump on the latest diet craze. Any regime that forces you to constantly evaluate your next morsel pulls your focus and zaps mental energy. Save your brain power for living in the moment and for problem-solving.
Don't complicate eating. As Michael Pollan wrote, "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." By 'food', he means whole fresh foods rather than processed food products.
"Freedom is not being for or against an ideal, but creating your own existence from scratch."
Cherish your liver and your mental health. Excess alcohol can destroy both. Never underestimate the ease with which a habit evolves, the way one daily wine can become the whole bottle. Understand that peer pressure for everything - drinking, spending, drugging, fanaticism - persists throughout life.
"All the devil has to do to win is convince you he's God."
Being a life-long learner doesn't only apply to school work, it also applies to all the media you consume. Do not believe everything you read, see or hear. You already know what constitutes a reliable source. Consult several. There's an old saying, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out" (I do, and I believe I can prove it).
"The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me."
Your struggles can become triumphs. Remember how your Year 5 teacher said you were behind in maths? You're the same person who just passed her NCEA calculus exam.
"Blessed are those brave enough to make things awkward, for they wake us up and move us forward."
Don't be afraid to change your mind. We make decisions based on the best information we have at the time. That information could change tomorrow. Be flexible.
"The braver I am, the luckier I get."
Take calculated risks. Often the scariest leaps produce the most meaningful results.
When things go pear-shaped, take deep breaths. Call me if you want to talk.
"My children do not need me to save them. My children need to watch me save myself."
It's your life, Miss 17. Take the wisdom that resonates for you and shelve the rest. I'll be cheering you all the way. I love you.