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A Letter to my Younger Sister

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Essays  ✺  Letters to

Dear Peanut,

I know adulting seems scary. And that aging more than 21 doesn’t seem as fun anymore. These are things I wish I knew when I turned 24. I hope they help you find direction and prompt your introspective muscle. I only want to see you shine and live with intentionality in the choices you make in how to live. Here are 16 lessons:

  1. Let your values lead you. It’s like how the stars helped guide Moana as a compass. They help guide you. Write out a list of qualities that are important to you. When you meet people from different places and walks of life, you can still connect with them when you understand their values and you can explain your own.
  2. Start journaling. It helps you solve your problems. It’s the easiest way so that they don’t creep up on you. Just because you “fail” English when you’re in high school does not mean you cannot write. Hell, I got a better grade in AP French than I did in AP Language. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing mindset or even a large part of your identity. Writing is cheaper than therapy and takes a load off your mind. It is working overtime all the time. She thanks you already.
  3. See the glass half full. Life can always get worse. Focusing on it will only allow you to notice more of it. Channeling energy into negative things will make you feel like a powerless victim. While you’re writing, try out asking what you are grateful for. The questions you ask yourself each day are what prompts your attention and what turns into your reality.
  4. Nothing is a waste when everything is a lesson. Those biology courses seem like a sunk cost but they got to where you are today after learning it was a path you didn’t want to pursue. Plans will inevitably change. Any roadblock is making you resilient for your future self. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
  5. Focus on what you love. This also increases your self-esteem. It’s easy to remember the bad marks instead of doubling down on the good ones. The things that light you up and you enjoy are the ones that bring you energy and fill up your cup. Focus on your strengths. Like Father Dominic Maciose said in church yesterday during Claire’s wedding, the point of living out life as a Christian is to be loved and to share love. The rest is all details.
  6. Give permission to yourself to be imperfect. It can be fun and humbling to just be bad. Too high of expectations sets you up for disappointment. Leave room in your life for things that you don’t have to be great at. It makes life more fun this way. That’s what beach volleyball on Tuesday nights has been for me the past year. It’s too high of a bar to expect a perfect serve each time. Being human is about imperfections.
  7. Recalibrate who you hang out with. This seems obvious but who you hang out with in real life and online is who you become. It’s where your limited attention goes. Notice this by leaving encounters and focusing on how you feel. Is your energy increasing? Or decreasing? It’s easier to focus on this when you meet new people rather than having the bias of how long you have known someone. If someone is not including you in volleyball and you want to play, go find another group to play with. Nobody has time for snooty muckity mucks who act like they are too good for you. They’re not. I know firsthand. You’re the best and anyone who disagrees is missing out.

8. Spend time alone. When you realize that you can have fun with yourself, you will feel less pressure to have a gazillion friends. Loneliness feels less likely. Spend that time alone in places that you love and you’ll find other people who also love the same spaces. As for me, I found friends at parks, surf breaks, bookstores, and cafes in Honolulu.

9. Communicate openly with people you love. Friendship is about people who are there at the high points and at the low points. They help build you back up to see the potential that you can fulfill. Decisions feel lighter when you involve others and get the support that this is something that makes sense. Icing out the world never actually solves the problem. When you feel you have a load too much to carry, corral help and know that love means you are not a nuisance to others.

10. Veto the bully in your brain. This means you first need to notice the mean thoughts that happen in your noggin. For example, I used to always call myself a slacker when I wasn’t productive and that made me feel even more pathetic. There was a snowball effect. It never helped me. Instead, I’ve found that talk to myself like my best friend would is better. It’s okay to see a therapist if you want help here– I support this decision. It’s easy to build yourself down at a job interview because you know why you’re not the best fit without one credential. But there are so many more reasons why you should be hired– highlight those instead.

11. Set boundaries. This is something I am still working on. It takes maturity to do this. Similar to how you’ve been able to inspire our pets Polo and Hummer– mortal enemies– to call a truce in your bedroom for your affection, you can do the same with anything else in your life. Whether it is something like a topic you don’t want to discuss or behaviors you don’t want to allow, set boundaries with yourself and those around you. Communicate those.

12. Carve out what your non-negotiable needs are. This means experimenting with your limits. Similar to how we both did this with booze before college with how many drinks it took to get drunk, figure out the other (more important) ones. Whether it be how much sleep is essential to function, the ideal number of nights socializing to energize you or how fitness will play into your life enjoyably. You know my quirks. Go find yours by wearing your scientist cap and embracing them.

13. Tailor your environment. It matters more than you know. Who your roommates are, whether your desk is in your bedroom or the main room, or a product like noise-canceling headphones for work mode can make all the difference in setting you up for success. Know that it matters with how you operate. This includes with people as well. Sense your own energy levels based on the people in your environment. (refer to number 7).

14. Be like Smudge. Sure she’s just a major crybaby who is a floofy feline friend, but she’s aware of when she’s hungry or wants a back rub. She lets it be known to the world, and won’t shut up about it. Even if no one cares about her peeping, she doesn’t stop expressing herself. We have a wider variety of ways to do this than her, so maybe crank the volume down. Needless to say, nobody else will advocate for your needs except yourself.

15. Be kind to yourself. It’s really easy to compare ourselves to others who are busybodies or even to our past selves who used to get up for 5 am double swim practices in high school. But we are constantly changing. As we listen to these needs, we don’t need to be judgmental about whatever we hear.

16. Go for it. Be “gek”, or crazy, like Omi would say. Life is better that way. As a musician you know I’m obsessed with Mike Posner said, “Not all crazy ideas are great. But all great ideas are crazy.” You don’t need permission or a reason. Just listen and go for it. The only person holding you back from living your best life is yourself. Sure the risk is scary and there could be rejection or scars from your actions, but these create lessons. A life without regrets is more freeing one than one full of shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.

In summary here’s what I wish I knew when I was your age:

  1. Let your values lead you.
  2. Start journaling.
  3. See the glass half full.
  4. Nothing is a waste when everything is a lesson.
  5. Focus on what you love.
  6. Give permission to yourself to be imperfect.
  7. Recalibrate who you hang out with.
  8. Spend time alone.
  9. Communicate openly with people you love.
  10. Veto the bully in your brain.
  11. Set boundaries.
  12. Carve out what your non-negotiable needs are.
  13. Tailor your environment.
  14. Be like Smudge.
  15. Be kind to yourself.
  16. Go for it.

On a final note, learn to enjoy the process and the outcomes will come. Keep experimenting and be open to imperfection. And when you find your limits, go back to number 11 and set boundaries. And when you figure out those boundaries, make sure to share them with the people in your life. You’re doing great sweetie.

Love you forever and always,


This was originally published in 👯‍♀️ Letter 124: A Letter to my Younger Sister.


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