I’m about to break a major blogging code. I’m going to mention religion.
Wait! Don’t go anywhere! I promise I’m not going to blather about my religious beliefs. And I’m not going to try to convert you. If you stick with me, I think you’ll find that while I may be breaking one blogging rule, I’m also staying true to a main blogging tenet—make sure your content has universal appeal.
Phew, okay. It looks like you stuck around. Thanks.
So my daughter and I attend a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church. (Don’t worry…your computer and/or brain will not be infected with a conversion virus if you click on the link. Pinkie swear.) In the UU world, tweens/teenagers have the choice to formally join their congregations via a special “coming of age” ceremony.
In our local church, this ceremony is preceded by a year-long curriculum, which helps the youth learn more about UU principles and other world religions (including “non-religions” such as agnosticism and atheism) and, most importantly, articulate their own beliefs.
They spend a lot of time discussing life’s BIG questions, with the understanding from their facilitators and mentors that there isn’t any one right answer—except the answer that’s right for them. Our church’s coming of age ceremony culminates with the youth presenting their personal belief statements to the congregation.
The UU coming of age program also acknowledges the transition of our youth from our children, who are totally dependent on us, to young adults with both more freedom and responsibility.
I’d be lying if I said that part hasn’t been a little difficult for me. This is my baby we’re talking about, after all…
In the last couple of weeks before the big ceremony, the parents were invited to attend one of the weekly meetings. That night, they split the group by males and females, and each group spent time with their respective youth sharing some important thoughts with them.
You know. The stuff you wish someone had told you when you were in 7th and 8th grade.
And you’d actually listened.
The cool part was the girls were encouraged to share their wisdom with us old ladies. It took them a while to put on their brave-girl panties, but once they did, they were throwing out platitudes like us more worldly women.
Here are five of the nuggets of wisdom we shared with each other:
Life Isn’t Always Fair. Deal With It.
I was one of the women who shared thoughts on this one. I said that saying life “isn’t always fair” implies that it is fair some of the time, and that isn’t really true. Life doesn’t owe you anything and you’re not entitled to anything just because you were born into this world. If you want something—happiness, health, respect, love, a profession that fulfills you, lots of bubble wrap—you have to work for it.
The good thing about realizing that life isn’t always fair and sometimes seems downright asshole-ish is that you don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. When you know there won’t be anything presented to you on a silver platter, you’ll be less likely to feel jilted.
You want goodies on a silver platter? Then you need to get them yourself, platter and all.
Be Genuine. Be Yourself.
I also chimed in on this one. I said if you choose not to be yourself, then you have to be someone else, and it’s hard to keep up that gig for any length of time. A cat can act like a dog (or in the case of our dog, a dog can act like a cat), but it’s a hell of a lot easier for the cat to just act like a cat.
My daughter even felt moved to contribute, saying “Every morning when my parents drop me off at school, they tell me to be the fruit loop in a world full of cheerios.”
Doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Surround Yourself With A Strong Group Of Female Friends.
Oddly enough, this was one of the more controversial topics. Some of us agreed that is was critical for women to have a gaggle of female friends. Others insisted that they grew up just fine with only male friends.
We eventually all agreed that it’s not important if your friends are males or females, just that they’re good friends.
Part of that, one of the tweens said, included this: “Girls can hurt other girls in a way that boys just can’t. Girls can be really mean. And we need to, like, be nicer to each other.”
Wise, wise girl.
A lot of us acknowledged that there is something special about the bond between women/girls. One of the tweens said, “Thirteen-year-old boys are just weird. They don’t get us like other girls do.”
About five minutes after that, and as if on cue, my husband pressed his face up against the glass door creating a beautiful pig nose.
Did I mention he turned 40 this year?
This one bubbled up in my belly. I wanted to share my thoughts, but it’s always been a little scabby around the edges for me. But I’ll say it here…just don’t look at me, okay? I’ll lose my nerve.
I’ve been married twice. My first husband was a serial cheater and started down that road a couple of months before we got married.
Yup. You read that right—before we got married.
I married him anyway for one pathetic reason: I didn’t think I’d find anyone else who would ever want to marry me. I thought this was my only chance and I would be stupid not to take it.
You already know how that turned out.
I don’t regret that experience. Without it, I might not have learned how important it is not to settle. And I most certainly wouldn’t have met my second/last husband, nor had our amazing daughter. Who can argue with that.
A few weeks ago I read a wonderful blog post in which the author questioned at what point should we tell our kids (no matter how old) to give up on their dreams. I tried to find it to link to it here but couldn’t; once I do, I’ll update this post.
The answer to the question, from both the blogger and our group? Never.
One woman shared the story of how she had wanted to be a nurse her whole life and it took until she was in her mid-50s before she went to college. She was in her early 60s before she started working, but she’d never been happier.
Although I’m not in my mid-50s yet, it took me a long time to dig my dream of being a writer out of the musty bottom drawer of my rarely used dresser and put it on. My clothing size has fluctuated a lot over the years, but that dream enveloped my literary curves like a SureFit slipcover.
And I ain’t ever taking it off.
So what about you? What advice do you wish you’d received, and actually listened to, when you were a teenager? How would you elaborate on the above? And does anyone else agree that babies with pudgy cheeks and spouses who act like goofballs are the most precious types in the world?