Dear 17-Year-Old Me,
I think I should probably warn you: nothing is going to turn out the way you imagined.
That guy you’re dating? He’s going to dump you next summer (and by the way, your mom was totally right about him).
That college major you picked? You’re going to get a D in computer-programming and be weeded out.
Don’t worry, though. I’m not writing to you to give away the farm or anything — doing that would take away all those golden learning opportunities. And, trust me, you’ve got a lot to learn.
No, I’m writing to you because I want to share something with you that you need to hear. That a lot of 17-year-olds need to hear, actually.
I know that you think that up until now, a lot of things have been unfair. The divorce wasn’t fair. All the anger, and resentment, and name-calling going back and forth between your parents … totally not fair. Your mom’s illness … that wasn’t fair, either. Your dad’s second wife that turned into a big ol’ witch the moment she said “I do?” Completely unfair. Your older sister always looking at you as though you are a wad of gum stuck to the underside of her shoe? Not fair. The friends who love you one day and hate you the next? So unfair. That family member you still have to see on the regular even though you know he belongs in jail? The most unfair.
I’m not writing to tell you that you don’t deserve to feel shitty about all this stuff. Because, believe me, I know how shitty you do feel. I know that along with your clothes and the new sheets your mom bought you, you’re also packing up your bitterness and resentment and taking it with you to college. Taking it with you as you embark into the world on your own.
You’re going to spend a lot of time dwelling on all of it. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Right now, you think that once you drive away from the home you grew up in, and the people who were so unfair, that all of these things will stop making you feel like crap — like a gigantic, do-over, second-chance eraser or something. That won’t happen.
Instead, all the unfairs are going to grow — festering inside of you until all of a sudden, you get really mad about it. Really, really mad. And once you get mad, you’re going to start doling out blame. All the bad choices that you are going to make? You’re going to find some way to blame that on someone else, you’re not going to take responsibility for it. You won’t hold yourself accountable. Because you think that you were dealt a shitty hand, and it’s just not fair.
Accountability. Remember in high school when that was your step-dad’s favorite word? Remember when he would say, over and over and over again, that he wanted you to take accountability for your actions? Remember how you thought you knew what that meant? You didn’t.
So I’m going to help you out, and I do hope you’ll listen to me.
The first thing I think you should know is this: you’re not alone. The world is filled to the brim with people who’ve been dealt a far shittier hand than you. In fact, someday you will realize just how good you had it, even with all the unfairs. But you’re not there yet.
The second thing you should know — and pay attention because this is the most important thing — is that you, only YOU, are responsible for your happiness. Not your parents, or your friends, or your boyfriend, or anyone else. YOU. Just you.
The people who’re closest to you … are highly flawed, because they are human. They make mistakes, some bigger than others. You’re going to spend a lot of time wishing that your mom was more mellow, or that your dad was more patient, or that your boyfriend was less jealous. But all that wishing is never going to get you anywhere, because trying to change people is simply an exercise in misery. Stop wishing. Start appreciating. And if you find there’s nothing to appreciate — then walk away. It’s really that simple.
You’ve been told before to “get over” some of the things you’re hung up on — and at the time it sounded harsh. It sounded like you were being told that your hurt didn’t matter. But the truth is, you do need to get over it. Or at the very least, learn to live with it. Because holding on to grudges is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
One of the best pieces of advice you’re going to get someday will come from your best friend’s dad. You will call him on what will arguably be one of the scariest days of your life. You will lie in a dark room and tell him how afraid and unhappy you are. And he will tell you that the absolute most important thing you need to do is self-preserve.
He will tell you that nothing else matters if you don’t take care of yourself. And he will be so right.
Self-preservation means different things for different people. But what it will mean for you is this: you need to let all the unfairs go. Dwelling on them is only going to make you miserable. It’s more than forgiveness, because forgiveness, for you, has always been easy. It’s making the choice to cut away all of the things that are dragging down your happiness, and starting over. It’s about not apologizing for your beliefs, and accepting that there are always going to be haters. It’s about being okay with not being liked. Because people not liking you isn’t unfair; it’s life.
You will also find that even though people, for the most part, don’t change, circumstances do. And sometimes the people who are responsible for the most hurt will turn out to be the people responsible for the most happiness. If you don’t open yourself up to that possibility, you’ll miss out.
The last thing I’d like to tell you, dearest 17-year-old me, is that you are going to wake up on far too many mornings to count wishing that you could take back what you did/said/acted like the day before. You are going to be embarrassed and ashamed and mortified by some of your actions. Barring your instinct to blame it on someone — anyone — other than yourself (as previously discussed) you will find the only person to blame is you. And, trust me, that is not fun.
The solution for this is also simple: apologize when needed, and move on. You’re not perfect, and the people who truly love and accept you won’t expect you to be. Everything else is just gravy.
With warmest regards,
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I’ve been lazy about blogging. I’ve been spending the evenings watching movies instead. Lately we saw Wanderlust and 21 Jump Street, both got me laughing out loud in a really dorky way. We also went to see Brave, which isn’t my favorite Disney Pixar movie, but it was fun to go out to the movies, eat popcorn and enjoy a warm summer night, while my sister babysat.
This week, our friends and their son are coming from San Francisco to stay with us. We, obviously, will have a difficult time watching fireworks since we’ve got little kids who are too young to appreciate pyrotechnics. So we decided that we would have a picnic with the kiddos instead. And the beauty of a summer picnic is that food and dessert can be super simple and still be so, so yummy.
I plan to make these with Gabriel’s help (he’s interested in “helping” these days). I love the idea of making two bite watermelon stars just with a cookie cutter!
And maybe even these without his help with the same cookie cutter. I love rice crispy treats and I make them the classic way, straight from the back of the box.
I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures so I can at least share those.
In the meantime, I can share this little snapshot of our summer so far. Very trashy, blow up pool in a ghetto back yard, but my babies don’t seem to mind too much.
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It’s true, there’s an app for almost anything.
Once upon a time, when Gabriel was 2 months old, we took a trip to San Francisco to visit Aidan’s parents and attend his friend’s wedding. We stayed at his mom’s house and I forgot the one and only thing that you should never forget when staying in a big house–the baby monitor. It wasn’t so awesome. .
Little baby Gabriel was asleep and we put him in a bassinet in the living room while we watched TV in the den. I eventually told Aidan I was going to go to bed in the downstairs apartment and forgot to tell him to bring the baby down when he was going to bed (why I didn’t take him with me is beyond me). Of course, he didn’t take him because he didn’t know to.
5am rolls around and I realized he didn’t wake up to nurse, which at that age he did about 3 times by 5am. I woke Aidan up and said, “where’s booboo?” (that’s what we call Gabriel).
“What do you mean ‘where’s booboo?’” he responded.
My legs FLEW up those stairs and found my little 10 week old son asleep in the big dark living room–he probably cried and cried until he just fell asleep. It still makes me sad to think about it.
What I didn’t realize was, duh, I should’ve searched for an app. So the next time we went to San Francisco, I searched for an app and found DOZENS! The one we owned didn’t work well at all, so I returned it and stuck with the app instead and I’ve never looked back.
I get kudos on the app all the time because it works so well. You leave your phone with your sleeping babe and you basically set it up to call another phone when your little one cries for a certain amount of time (you decide how long).
Like I said, there are a ton, but this one is the one I use. You can even record your own voice or play a song from your music library if your baby wakes up and hearing your voice or a song can soothe him or her back to sleep.
Also kind of neat? The app records them so you can hear what they do and say and even save that! Gabriel sometimes wakes up and says, “aha” his name for Chloe, which makes me think that he’s dreaming about her. So cute.
This app is perfect for traveling since it takes up NO space and costs a grand total of $2.99. Pretty good deal, right?
PS. Sorry for the lull last week, my big sister was in town from the Philippines and I was preoccupied laughing and enjoying her company. She’s back home now and I’m totally depressed about it.
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I’m a little in love with little boy euro shorts. I bought these for Gabriel last year and he still wears them, but I totally get that they’re not for everyone.
Here are a few options for boys.
1. Polarn O. Pyret. I really love this store. They have such cute stuff.
2. Zara. I’m tempted to buy these euro shorts for Gabriel this year.
4. Odile. Just kinda cute and boyish.
5. JCrew. You can always count on JCrew for simple stylish stuff!
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Is it weird that I’m not really into bikinis for little girls? I’m sure there are cute ones out there, but I guess I just like kids to look like kids for as long as possible before they are teenagers and adults and there’s no turning back.
1. Elle. Crazy expensive for a kid’s bathing suit, but it’s cute, right?
2. Gap. With monarch butterflies? Love!!
3. Polarn O. Pyret. Classic red stripes.
4. Zara. Subdued gray polka dots. This is probably what I’d put my little girl in.
5. Crewcuts. I love the rope belt detail!
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Yesterday was a day to celebrate the men who raised us, who support us, who love us.
My own dad did all of these things, and I am his grateful daughter. But yesterday, I was especially proud of him, and I want to talk about that here, even though it might be too fresh, and I might not have the right words yet. Because yesterday my dad did something for me that he hasn’t done in a long time – he fought for me.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I have a downright contentious relationship with my dad’s family. And when I say my dad’s family, I’m actually referring to four of his five sisters.
My aunts. The Tias.
One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve opened up more about my own struggles with my family is that I’m not alone – almost everyone I meet has a story to tell about the family members who make them feel like shit. I could fill an entire blog with the details of the psychological warfare my aunts have waged on me over my lifetime, but that’s not what this post is about. Suffice to say that my aunts have often — especially in the past few years — made me feel like the most unlovable person, ever.
I’ve been asked a lot during this time what my dad has to say. And the answer has always been … nothing.
This has been a tough truth to face – my dad is not generally the kind of man who sits back and does nothing when someone makes one of his girls upset. In fact, I still remember vividly having to talk my dad down after a particularly bad waitressing shift in college, where the cooks had yelled at me (anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows this is par for the course). As I walked to my car, feeling like the dam was about to burst at any second, my cell phone rang – it was my dad and he could tell right away I was upset. When I ‘fessed up the reason why he wanted to know the names of the cooks and I knew he was getting ready to drive over to that restaurant and give them a piece of his
My dad is not a man to be trifled with.
But when it comes to his sisters, he goes mysteriously silent. At first this made me angry. And then, it made me sad. And then I just accepted it. Because my relationship with my dad is more important to me than his mean sisters.
Throughout the past seven years that I’ve butted heads with my dad’s family, the script has remained the same: we’re family. Family is the most important thing. That’s just the way we are. Deep down we love you. If you really needed us, we would be there.
Translation: we’re going to treat you like crap, until you’re a helpless pile of low self-esteem, and then when you get hit by a bus, we’ll show up at the hospital.
You know, when I was a kid I used to read stories about cults and think to myself how do people not see how crazy it all is? But now I kind of get it – when everyone around you is saying the same thing, it starts to become the truth. And if you dare to have doubts about whether or not this is the right way to live, something must be wrong with you.
It took becoming a mom for me to realize that the ugly cycle of emotional abuse in my family had to stop. I took one look at my son, and realized that I could not allow him to feel the way I had felt for so many years. So I started to fight back, hoping that I could carve out a new place within my family.
No, it’s not okay for you to tell me something’s wrong with me for not being married. Mind your own business.
No, you don’t get to pick and choose who I love. That’s my choice.
No, you don’t get to make me feel bad because I’m succeeding in life, in spite of you. Positive thinking goes a long way – you should look into it.
You can imagine how well all of this went over.
Eventually, I realized that this just wasn’t going to work. That the only way I was going to be happy was if I emotionally and physically distanced myself. That the solution was not to carve out a new place IN my family – it was to carve out a new kind of family.
It’s been a struggle, and a balancing act — because I wasn’t about to leave behind the man who raised me, and loved me. Or, for that matter, the grandparents and cousins that are truly the redeeming members of my family.
And so began the tricky maneuvering of maintaining my relationship with my dad, grandparents, and cousins, while simultaneously trying to leave behind my relationship with my aunts. This has been a particularly painful process for my dad because he’s still in it – he still believes in those archaic notions of family that tell you no matter how bad it gets, you never turn your back on blood.
And so we tread carefully, my little family and I. We show up when it really matters to my dad, and we try our best to be polite, without compromising the limits of what makes us comfortable. No I’m not going to hug and kiss you when you just got through spewing the most awful lies about me to the rest of our family – I’ll politely say hello, from a comfortable distance.
Yesterday was such a day, and we showed up. We said our polite hellos to everyone sitting outside eating, and then we sat down to eat inside, by ourselves.
A few minutes into our meal, we heard shouting. And then the kitchen door burst open and my dad stormed in, followed by various family members, trying to talk him down. And somewhere in between all the shouting, I heard it – my dad, yelling I’m tired of this, this has to change.
He was talking about me. He was fighting for me. And he was really, really mad.
My own instincts to protect my dad kicked in, and I joined the family members begging him to calm down. Papi, I told him. They’re not going to change. Getting mad doesn’t do anybody any good. You should just ignore them, ignore whatever they say. Because I’m not here for them anyway, I’m here for YOU.
No, he shook his head. This has to change. This isn’t right. We’re family.
My dad spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding my aunts, and everything eventually calmed down. And believe me, I don’t have any illusions of this being some kind of permanent game changer – my dad loves his sisters, and that will never change.
But I was proud of him nonetheless. Because my dad finally saw, if only briefly, what I see – that family is not supposed to behave this way.
Family is supposed to pull each other up, not tear each other down.
Family is supposed to cheer you on, not hold you back.
Family should remind you that you are loved, not that you are tolerated.
This is the family that I’m in the process of building, from the ground up. This is the kind of family that I will fight for, until my very last breath. This is the kind of family that my dad fought for, yesterday.
Yesterday, our war cries were the same.
Best … Father’s Day … Ever.
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I wanted to share with you what Gabriel and I made for Aidan for Father’s day. I would’ve posted it earlier to share it as an idea as a gift for father’s day, but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise for Aidan.
I actually got this idea from Michelle because she made one for Matt. It’s really sweet and simple and in this digital age, you never quite know what to do with all those digital pictures and videos. I made it on iMovie which is totally user-friendly.
Click here to see our little present!
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That “scrape” I got (I put it in quotes because I have been trying to convince Aidan that it’s not just a scrape, that it hurts far too much to just be a scrape) was from hiking at Griffith Park. I bent down to pick up a flower while Gabriel was in his baby carrier and rolled my ankle and fell. I’m a wimp when it comes to blood (that’s why Gabriel’s accident was extra hard) and I almost fainted when I saw it–true story, I had to sit and breathe for a long time to let it pass. Aidan has since been tending to my “scrape” and trying not to laugh when I treat it like a gunshot wound.
I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s day weekend. We’re spending Saturday at my dad’s house swimming and Sunday, we’re not sure yet, but I’m sure it will be awesome. Let’s celebrate dads!
ps. Another favorite from this week? Gabriel is saying his name… although it’s more like “gay-b-yoh” which is totally close enough.
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I love waffles. We all do. We sometimes get the frozen kind, just to have in the freezer, until it dawned on us–why can’t we make our own waffles and freeze them ourselves thus avoiding all the weird additives that are in store bought waffles. Done and done.
But something we do a little differently, we use Pamela’s gluten free pancake mix. I swear to you, this stuff is good and you won’t notice that it doesn’t have wheat and you’ll feel better for it–swear. It is quickly becoming a staple here at chez Hawken. If you aren’t down for it, here’s a basic waffle recipe that you can totally freeze and use later too! I’d recommend doing double the batch (whichever way you chose to do it) so that you have a good little supply of waffles!
We also do things a smidge differently from their recipe.
1. We use melted butter instead of oil.
2. Sometimes I use milk instead of water (we rarely have milk, but we did this time, so I used it).
3. I also add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter.
4. Lastly I separate the egg whites and whip them until they’re stiff, and gently fold them into the batter making the waffles nice and fluffy.
I grease the waffle griddle with melted butter. I’m also over conservative when I pour the batter onto the griddle, mostly because I hate cleaning up batter when it spills over the sides. As a result, I often have some incomplete waffle squares.
Once they’re all done, throw them into a freezer safe container (a ziplock bag totally works) and throw them into your freezer and they’ll be good when you’re ready for them.
When you’re ready to eat them, just heat them up in the oven or in a toaster, top with some almond butter for extra protein and bananas. Or maple syrup and butter. Or ham and eggs. Or whatever your heart desires. They’ll be amazing, swearsies!
Remember my other idea for easy breakfasts for toddlers? I’m thinking of trying that recipe out with Pamela’s pancake mix!