Dear Future Daughter (part 2),
Two years later, I have some more to add to my original letter Dear Future Daughter from April 2016.
I am older now, though arguably none the wiser. Even so, continuing to get older as a woman is quite freeing. I wish I could save you the heartache of girlhood and teleport you to the time, whether it’s in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, or later, when you find peace with yourself. But you will be a girl (unless you choose to be otherwise), which means you’ll have to run the gauntlet like all of us, with your too-thick eyeliner melting and your torturous but cute shoes chafing and your bangs that you haven’t figured out how to style yet sticking straight up in the wind.
So the least I can do is pass along the moves to help you, hoping they’ll sink in earlier for you than for the rest of us. As I continue to learn the choreography myself, I hope writing it down will help you and me both.
Here are three more steps:
Move #11 (continued from earlier letter): Change often, with the core intact.
The older I get, the more I think that constant change is necessary in order to grow and thrive as a person. This means changing attitudes and beliefs; trying new roles, jobs, or professions; learning new skills; traveling or moving to new places; meeting new people and new TYPES of people; and asking new questions. The more you input into your brain, the more connections the neurons can make, and the smarter, more creative, and more versatile you are.
People know this, sort of. They always say: “Change is good.” They hacky-sack the phrase along with other half-hearted platitudes back and forth to each other. But the fact is, most people are very unwilling to change. The status quo is warm and cozy. It makes you home-cooked meals and puts you to bed on time.
Did you know that one of the best predictors of the greatness of a classical composer is the sheer number of compositions he creates? The quantity of ideas people come up with is one of the things Adam Grant, in his book The Originals, says distinguishes people who become great in their respective fields. His premise is that the most successful people aren’t necessarily MVPs; they are just up at bat more often. They generate more output. The more they crank out, the greater the likelihood of coming up with a revolutionary idea, theory, product, or solution. And how can you do that without gaining new perspectives, changing up your routines, and thinking differently?
That said, you still need a foundation while you’re renovating the house. This is mine:
- My family
- My key friendships (mutts included)
Everything else should, I think, be shaken up every now and then.
Move #12: Don’t do or believe anything that the TERRIBLE HORRIBLE CERBERUS TELLS YOU TO DO OR BELIEVE.
What, you ask, is the terrible, horrible Cerberus? Well, as you may know, Cerberus is the three-headed hound of Hades. In modern times, however, Cerberus’ three heads manifest in the following ways:
About two years ago, I started to both consciously and unconsciously take a break from the things in my life that I was doing because Cerberus told me to: going to church, using social media, staying home from social (read: scary) gatherings, turning down or not going after challenging (read: scary) opportunities, dampening my personality to fit what I thought was the norm, and “eating healthy” (aka obsessing over every damn calorie that went in my mouth).
And in those two years, something incredible happened. Cerberus started to retreat.
I’m not sure when it happened. It could have been when I lip synced solo to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” in front of 500 colleagues and the company C-suite at a charity work event (yeah, I would have listened to Cerberus on that one, but I didn’t know I was the only person who had signed up as a solo act or that the CMO and his cabinet were going to be the judges of the event until approximately two days before and at that point, I was already committed). It could have been when I realized that I was a capable professional and started to gain confidence in my work self. It could have been when I revealed how crazy I am. It doesn’t really matter; the point is that, even though Cerberus is always there, he doesn’t rule me anymore. And I hope you can figure out how to subdue him even sooner and more effectively than I.
Move #13: Be yourself, always.
I’ve been told often that I’m different, sometimes from people I don’t even know that well. One of the people I roomed with during a study-abroad after my freshman year of college looked me right in the eyes and said, “You know, Libby, you’re really weird.” And it was said in much more of a quizzical than a gently teasing way. My brother-in-law once told me I was kind of like a banana: “quirky, but generally well-liked.” A friend of mine in high school told me that I live “in my own little Libby-world.”
It used to make me uncomfortable that people thought I was weird. But I realized that after high school and even, unfortunately, sometimes college, the gold standard (i.e., conformity) rapidly becomes worthless. Outside of that warped adolescent bubble, people are actually looking for nonconformity. It rapidly gains value as a currency. Diversity of thought leads to much more creative and innovative outcomes in most areas of life (who knew?).
If you’re normal though, that’s fine too. Generally, being normal helps you out in life. I’m just saying that if you’re still pretending to be your dogs’ publicists for their mayoral campaign when you take them for walks at age 25, or dancing to the Pon Pon song when you’re happy about something, or collecting Funko Pop action figures to be your friends at your desk at work (Sadness from Inside Out is really pretty bad at giving positive feedback on my work, though), you might (maybe) still be okay.
To summarize these three new moves: Defend your core while freeing yourself in every other way. You’ll miss too much if your head’s down and you’re too focused on staying in between the lines.
It’s a beautiful life – live it!