My daughter just celebrated her 13th birthday and her bat mitzvah. After months and months of hard work, of late nights studying, she stood up in front of friends and family and beautifully recited her Haftorah portion. In the Jewish community, technically, she’s now an adult — a woman — with adult-sized responsibilities and obligations.
While I’m not quite ready to send her off into adulthood just yet — 13 is still young in so many ways —there are a few adult-sized lessons I want to make sure she knows now. A few of these she’s probably heard on repeat — but they’re worth repeating — and a few I’ve only just learned myself, and why not give her a head start?
Don’t Fall Victim to the Trap of “One Day”
It’s easy to say you’re going to do something one day. It’s easy to promise to get together some time, to vow to write that book one day, to take the trip next year. Some time, one day, next year are illusions. They’re words that make you feel like you’re moving, but really you’re stuck in the same spot wishing you were somewhere else.
Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed — unfortunately that’s all too familiar a truth in our family. If there’s something you want to do, don’t fall victim to the trap of waiting for one day that may never come. Do it now. Make the phone call, write the first word, book the plane ticket.
Own Your ‘No‘
“No” is a tiny word, but it’s immensely powerful. It’s a word I’m still learning to use without guilt and without couching it in softening language. The faster you can learn to own your “no”, to not feel guilty using “no”, the better. No is your boundary. No is often your peace. Owning my “no” is a lesson I learned the hard way — and I hope you don’t have to.
Be Open to New Experiences, New Ideas, New Points of View
This lesson could also be summarized as “put your phone down”. Recognize that the world is so much bigger than our little town, than the (often brilliant and wonderful) people who fill our little town. The world is bigger than either of us can imagine, so be open to experiencing as much as you can about it. Be open to seeing old ideas in new ways and new ideas in old ways. You’ll never be bored.
Show Up for People — Actually Show Up
Show up at the celebrations — the showers and weddings — and show up just as often to the funerals and shivas. Show up in the moments no one else shows up for. Show up for moments that feel uncomfortable. Show up in the spaces that are threaded with grief. It’s one of the most important things you can do for the people you care about.
Be Selective About Who Gets Access to You
Not everyone wants what’s best for you. Not everyone is worthy of your generous heart. Not everyone deserves continued access to you or, in some cases, a second chance if they squandered the first.
Sorry about this advice. Please don’t let it jade you. I hope it doesn’t jade me, as I’m just learning this myself. But the reality is that you’ll meet people who need to dim your light to feel like they’re shining brighter. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “bad” people. It just means they’re not your people. That’s okay. They’re on a different path — but don’t let them block yours.
Financial Literacy Matters
Get comfortable with the vocabulary around investing and saving. Plan for the future and be able to speak confidently about financial matters with anyone in the room.
While you’re at it, keep your important papers organized. The deeper you get into adulthood, the more paperwork there is and the more often you’ll be called upon to produce that paperwork. Rifling through boxes of unorganized files late at night to find that one document is stressful. Keep it organized. I guarantee you’ll thank me one day.
Own Your Mistakes, But Don’t Let Them Define You
Chances are you’ve inherited a bit of a perfectionist tendency—sorry about that. You’re human. You will make mistakes. Own up to them. Work to do your best not to repeat them. And then forgive yourself. You are not the sum of your mistakes.
Move Your Body
Yes, this lesson again. Move your body daily in some way that feels good — whether a walk, a stretch, a marathon run. As an instructor, I’m partial to moving via Pilates, and more than happy to again dive into a very long-winded explanation about how Pilates supports spinal mobility, grip strength, and all the things you need to keep moving long into the later years of life — but I’ll spare you today. Just find a movement you love, whatever that looks like, and do it often.
Learn the Difference Between Gut Instinct and Anxiety
Gut instinct is that quiet voice that guides you, that speaks with steady certainty. Anxiety is the loud, intrusive voice that probably makes your heart rate shoot up. It seems obvious on paper, but in reality it’s hard to tell the difference. Do your best to learn the difference, and trust your gut.
Drink a Lot of Water
Just do it. You’ll thank me later.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
There will always — seriously, always — be someone who is smarter, taller, more successful. The sooner you learn to stay focused on yourself and your goals and your peace, the better.
The Key Really is Balance
Balance between work and rest, between movement and stillness, between big moments and small. Finding balance is harder than it sounds. It’s a constant, daily practice, but worth it. In truth, balance is the key to making any of these lessons work for you.
Thirteen may be an adult in the Jewish community, but it’s just a beginning — as are these lessons. There’s so much more to learn. So much more I have to learn before I can even pretend to pass the knowledge on.
And maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all: keep learning the lessons.
… And drink water. That’s important.
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