Over the last 18 years I have watched my nieces and nephews grow up. Wow, it's hard to believe that that much time has gone by. I am certainly thankful for the experience of being an aunt before being a mother, as I have learned so many wonderful lessons about how I will raise my own children one day...
In watching them grow, I have been able to relate their hardships to those of my own youth, and try my best to give them advice or lend an ear that doesn't tell them how/what to feel, or what to do, but instead let them find their own way with my support. Each and every one of them has their own struggles to overcome, including divorce, self-esteem issues, addiction, or missing the loving arms of a parent being nearby.
I am proud of them for who they are becoming and am happy to see them overcome their struggles in their own way. They don't realize that they are also teaching me to be a better person as well. I've watched them do so many things, that I wish I would have done when I was their age and am thankful that they were able to experience it!
As they wish for the things that all young people do (making their own rules, getting a driver's license, graduating, getting a job, turning 21, getting married, getting their own house)and I did as well - I ask them to take the following words of advice with them -
Live in the moment. Don't wish your life away. I know the future is exciting and that you want to be at the next stage of your life, but when that comes, there's always the next thing. Just let things happen, don't worry about what is going to happen because it won't get you anywhere. Live for the moments you are in right now… because you aren't guaranteed the future, and what a shame it would be to put your happiness on hold! Stop waiting for your life to start - you've already crossed the starting line! You can't always plan ahead, sometimes you have to plan to be surprised.
When you think you can't go on anymore, you can, and you will. When you think love is 'just a game' it can be – you just have to learn how to play. Every road you travel down will lead you to where you are supposed to be just trust and have faith even when it seems like God is wrong – He isn't. If you are with someone, and you get into a fight, it shouldn't mean it is over – it simply means this: decide what you will put up with and what you won't and find a way to make it work or leave. Love is fragile – handle with care; but remember bruises WILL heal so don't be so quick to walk away. Love takes time.
Take the time to smile at a stranger, to wave at a neighbor. Take the time to listen to a friend, to call someone out of the blue. Take the time to write someone a letter. Give yourself permission to laugh. Answer that phone call you don't really feel like taking right now. Go outside. Breathe in life. Forgive. Trust. Stop being jealous. Call your brother. Call your sister. Call your mom. Call your Dad. When you drive by their house and you are in a hurry - stop for a minute just to give them a hug. Donate your time, your money. Write down your thoughts. Believe in something. Believe in yourself. Stop looking for something, wait for it to find you. Own up to your mistakes. Say sorry. When you talk to children, get on their level. They will teach you something every minute. Play on the slip and slide, even if you are embarrassed. Video tape it. Act like a kid. Go barefoot in the mud. Tell the truth. Surprise someone. Turn the TV off. Cuddle on the couch. Say what you are thinking. Take your time. Earn your money. Don't settle. Don't judge. Give up your seat. Make it a point to walk in the mountains. Don't jump over the puddles. Walk barefoot through the stream. Get muddy. Sit in the grass. Dream. Set goals. Surprise yourself. Kiss hello and goodbye. When someone hugs you let them be the first to let go. Pay it forward. And above all, love yourself. And LIVE your life.
For Chelsea, Devin, Cassy, Moriah, Dylan, and Lydia