To Christa,
You’re celebrating your 18th birthday in a room full of people you love, yet most of whom you will never speak to once the following 6 months have passed. The next 7 years will see your life flip and turn, and you will surprise yourself at how you deal with every bend in the road you face on your journey. Everything is going to change, but at the end of it, you will be more you than you’ve ever been.

‘Not everyone will have the same heart as you’

But don’t hold that against them; guide them if they deserve it, or leave them behind and move on if they don’t. Your family will always help you when you need it, and when you feel like you don’t. Never fret because of it: their intentions are good, though it may not always seem that way. Listen to their advice, but don’t always agree with it. Disagree respectfully and some of the best experiences of your life will come of it. Follow your gut but always apologise if you are wrong. Don’t feel ashamed to swallow your pride and help yourself to a nice big slice of humble pie every now and then. Making bad mistakes will build your character; you won’t always be right, so learn from your errors in judgement and never make them twice.

‘If someone tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t’

Don’t always listen to the advice you’re given. You will go against your gut feelings at time, and you will get hurt. Other times you would have made the best memories off the back of your incredible (and sometimes brave) decisions. There will even be a few times that both will happen, but bear in mind that spontaneity doesn’t always reward you with happy memories. You will look back and wonder why you made foolish choices, but revel in the thought that they are in the past.

You will lose loved ones and long for their irreplaceable presence. Friends will come and go, but there will be very few people you meet that will support you at your weakest, and make you smile when you feel like crying. Those you will talk to for hours about life’s many wonderments, be it once a day, or once every few months. But they will know your deepest darkest secrets without ever judging you. Cherish these people and always return the care they give. Oh, and try to see them a bit more. Your life is never ‘too busy’; make time, not excuses.

There will be times that you will love yourself, times that you hate yourself, and times where you just wished you could be someone else. There will be times where you will scream into your pillow at night to silence your tears, go through some really shitty situations that you won’t always understand, and have your heart broken by failed relationships, and friendships. Keep your guard up and don’t be a doormat; hindsight is 20/20 but assess every situation in the moment and always ask yourself “you wouldn’t let your partner treat you this way, so why are you letting your friends?”. Have morals, standards and integrity and you will get through it, all of it.

‘There is nothing more risky than pretending not to care’

Don’t be afraid to look desperate and be straight-forward, there is nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve but always protect it. Don’t be afraid to be honest or emotional. Know your worth, at all times, and never settle for less than you deserve. There will be some people that want to see you fail, but even more that will want to see you succeed. Your pride will make you think you know it all, but you never will. Listen, really listen, when people talk, not to reply, but to understand, and never stop learning from them.

Take that leap of faith and step of out your comfort zone once in a while, you can achieve so much more that way. Commit yourself to everything you do; never do anything half-assed and don’t let anything that has your name on it go to shit. Your reputation will take you years to build, and only seconds to smash. It will be very tempting to take the easy route out of things, but try your best not to: ‘straight roads never make a skilful driver’ after all.

‘Everything happens for a reason’

There will be times your strength will be challenged, and your loyalties and courage questioned, but don’t let that beat you. Always stand up for what you believe in and put your all into anything you feel deserves it. Learn to forgive people and accept apologies that never come.

Don’t pay attention to what people think of you, the only opinion that matters is your own. Stop staring at screens for so long and fully immerse yourself in life’s experiences: they won’t last forever, so take pictures of things you want to remember – the memories they show will never change, while the people in them do. Don’t fall into the trap of being materialistic. Nothing is more valuable than your time; objects will always be obtainable so spend your money on memories instead.

Eat that cupcake you’re craving, your waist won’t change because of it, but your happiness might. Equally, eat your vegetables and treat your body well; push it to it’s limits and you’ll be surprised of what you’re capable of. Live a balanced lifestyle and do your best to avoid hospital visits.

‘And just like that, he walked out of her life as quickly as he’d walked into it’

You’ll have people say that relationships are hard work and the best days are only that because of the sacrifices you make daily to get the best out of each other. Never, ever believe them. Relationships needn’t be so difficult. Find someone that meets your expectations, but make sure you meet theirs too, and you will fall into happiness in a way you’ve always longed for. Be patient, and fate will reward you 10 fold. In the mean time, learn to love yourself; spend time alone, eat alone and laugh alone. Enjoy your own company before you let someone else in to share that with you.

Eventually, you will find the person that gifts you each day with love and passion and it will take you many months to realise you deserve the happiness they give you. They will do all of the little things you’ve always dreamed of, and look at you every day like you are the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Don’t rush and fall in love with the idea of love; you will never know what love is, until you learn what it is not. Wait for the person that never makes you feel like you are hard to love, and lets you forget what it felt like to be sad.

‘Be the person you want to meet’

Don’t be afraid to ask people if they are doing okay more than once if they say they are, but look like they aren’t. Smile at people, even when they don’t smile back. Be good to people and kinder than you need to be, even the shitty ones, you will sleep better at night knowing you are not one of them. Don’t try to get even, show resilience and humility; karma has a funny way of working its magic. Be a bad liar and you won’t have to worry about catching yourself out. Always be polite; manners are free and cost nothing to distribute. Just because you are free to say whatever you want, it doesn’t mean you should. Think before you speak, be sensitive, and learn to bite your tongue when you have to. Your sarcasm and wit will be your best friend, and your worst enemy.

Don’t torture yourself about what has happened in relationships in the past, your heart is fragile and doesn’t need to carry the burden of other people’s mistakes. Go through life enjoying each and every butterfly in your stomach and laugh until your cheeks hurt and you have tears in your eyes.

Build a family of friends that help you to become the best version of you. Ultimately, the beauty you hold is deep within yourself, but the time will come where you will be lucky enough to be surrounded by people – the best kind of people – that give you the ability to be, and be appreciated for, exactly who you are.

You can be anything you want to be, my dear, but it won’t come easy and you will have to work hard to get it. Know the difference between wisdom and test scores; common sense will get you further in life than any academia could. One day it will click; you will lie in bed at night and the space that used to be filled with tears will instead be filled with happiness; you will smile because you are happy, and you will smile because you are at ease, excited for what the future holds. You are exactly who you want to be and you are truly proud of the person you’ve fought to become.

Love, Christa. xo