To the Ladies in the Class of 2011

This weekend we traveled to Iowa to watch my husband’s little sister, Emily, graduate from high school. With more than four hundred kids receiving diplomas, the predictable formulaic speeches, and the Principal’s near-comical obsession with her school’s substantial AP program, I had quite a bit of time to think about all the stuff I wish I knew at that age. Of course, nearly everyone has those, “If I knew then what I know now” moments, but 17 years (holy cow!) after my high school graduation there are a few things I wish I could impart to Emily and the young ladies of 2011.   First of all, I would tell my younger self to LISTEN to my older self because I might have learned a thing or two in the passing decades. Also, this other stuff...

The young man you’re dating: Yes, a few people marry their high school sweethearts, but most don’t. In fact, just because you live in the Midwest where there seems to be a strong tendency to get married right out of college -- that doesn’t mean to you have to or should. If that happens, fine, but my point is that you should just enjoy dating and not be in a hurry to meet “the one.”

You are NOT fat: Take a picture of yourself in a bikini and cherish it! I know you think you’re too fat or your nose isn’t quite right or whatever, but someday you’ll look at that bikini photo and think, “Damn! I looked good. Why didn’t I enjoy looking good back then?” So, wear those adorable little juniors clothes and appreciate your nice legs and tiny butt.

Travel: Take advantage of every opportunity to study or work abroad, join a class trip, or backpack through foreign countries with your friends. There’s something about the experience of traveling as a student which can’t be matched and, as you get older, you may find you have other priorities.

Debt: No matter how much you think you need that pair of designer jeans, DO NOT PUT IT ON YOUR CREDIT CARD.   Trust me on this. Credit card debt is a huge burden and you don’t want to even go down that road. If you don’t have the money - don’t spend it. Sorry to sounds like your dad, Emily, but he’s right on this one.

Career: Follow your dreams, but be open to new paths. You might change your mind a million times when it comes of your college major or your career goals. Just keep going forward and striving. As long as you keep setting and pursuing goals life has a way of working itself out.

Vote and speak out: This is about your future and your voice/vote does matter. My favorite thing about your Taylor Swift adorned bulletin board is the button which reads, “Hate is not an Iowan Value.”   Stay engaged!

Keep lipstick in your purse: Emily, you are much more fashionable than me so there’s not much I can tell you here. However, don’t feel like you have to look   glamorous everyday.   It’s okay to throw your hair into a ponytail and leave the house without makeup if studying or sleep is more important than the flat iron. Just keep some lipstick in your purse so you can always feel a little bit put together.