Recently, a small group of fourteen year old girls referred to me as ‘an old lady’. I’m 31. And not too old to give a good old fashioned ass kickin’. But still a little bit old. I get it, I was once 14, and even though it was more than half my lifetime ago, I recall thinking that 22 was hella old.
I’m not all fussed about being old, because I’m not even close. But I really don’t qualify as a young woman anymore. People who were born the year I entered high school are old enough to vote and apparently kids today aren’t using the term emo anymore and that came WAY after my day. I don’t get ID’d unless some young punk is trying to make me feel better about my life stage because young punks don’t know how awesome 30 is.
What’s more is that my 19 year old cousin is living with me for the summer and I’m not like a mother to her, but I’m not quite a peer either. Another 14 year old cousin came and stayed for 10 days and that was so much fun that we invited a friend’s little sister to come play as well. So I’ve been saturated with young women, feeling into the themes that are so similar to the time that I passed through not that long ago and reflecting on what’s rapidly shifting.
So now that I’m dusting my 20’s off my hands and my teens are a distant memory, like a nightmare you had way back when that lingers still, I have a few opinions about things. When I was younger, I certainly had a voice and wisdom and something to say, but there was always this fear of not quite being old enough to be taken seriously. But once you’re in your thirties, you really can start laying the smack down and not just come across as an arrogant, ignorant young thing who hasn’t been beaten up by life yet.
So here are some things I’d like to share with young women. Some are specifically for these cousins of mine. You’ll know it. And really, like so much of what we learn over the years, these tidbits can span over the generations and both genders, so send this to your uncle. Call it wisdom or musings or random suggestions. Or, you can just call it unsolicited advice and turn your nose up at it. But chances are I am younger and cooler than your mother, so listen up.
Here Are the Basics
You probably shouldn’t steal street signs and leave them in my back yard. But no, I’m not going to get all ‘parental’ on you because I’m not your mother. And that was funny. And opening my back door to check on the garden, barely awake, there was something prophetic about looking out and seeing NO STOPPING 9-5. Really? I can stop at 5?
It’s cute that you sleep until 2. This is something that you will outgrow. If you find yourself in your twenties sleeping until 2, and you don’t work nights, you should probably take a look at your priorities.
When you’re choosing a spot to place your yoga mat in class, go next to the biggest, sweatiest, manly man you can find. That way, you can silently fart unselfconsciously the entire class and everyone will think it’s him.
Beware of dirtbags. That’s some men. There’s this understandable phenomenon going on post-feminism where we can’t freely point out a dirtbag because that means we’re a man-hater. Now if we want to be evolved, we need to be inclusive and compassionate of the hard time that men are having in our culture and not speak up about inequality or douchbaggery. Being inclusive of both genders and recognizing that both men and women face unique challenges that need to be addressed and to have compassion for that is absolutely important. And some dudes (and chicks) are dirtbags. Don’t make excuses for them.
Your skirt is too short. And yes, I am jealous of your thighs. But your skirt is still too short.
Okay seriously, stop stealing street signs. This is ridiculous. At least steal something useful, like a tomato plant or solar-powered lantern.
Actually, don’t steal. Just don’t even bother with that. Throw lying in there too. And cheating. And putting people down. And drinking pop.
Put your fucking phone away and get out into nature. Do I really have to explain this? You need to be okay being with yourself. You need to be able to feel a rhythm that isn’t dictated by the myriad connections you have through your technology. There’s a depth of connection to yourself, the Earth and Spirit that cannot be felt while you’re plugged in and texting away.
And while you’re out in nature, urinate as often as possible without offending others. And hug trees. Yes I’m serious.
I know you don’t need to be told that you shouldn’t smoke or do drugs. But caffeine and sugar, be careful with those creeps.
There’s nothing wrong with your ass.
There’s also nothing wrong with your breasts or your feet or your knees or your thighs or your back fat or your face or your vulva or your personality. Unless you’re a bitch. Please don’t be a bitch, the world begs way more of you than that.
The following expressions of character are NOT being a bitch: Confidence, assertiveness, strong boundaries, making requests, saying no to requests, expressing how you feel, expressing what you want, refusing to tolerate abuse or other poor behaviour, expressing disgust when your boundaries have been crossed.
Try not to compete with others. This leads to pain.
Do your best to be kind to your mother. You don’t have to agree with her or do what she says or even think that she did a good job. But if you’re at least kind, when you have a kid, you won’t feel like such an asshole.
Get to know what you like. Do more of that.
Get to know what you don’t like. Do less of that.
Know the difference between what you really like and what you’re using to soothe or numb yourself.
Know the difference between what you really don’t like and what you’re just being lazy and resistant about.
Focus on habits, not results. This is particularly relevant when it comes to diet and exercise. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Engaging extremes is a bad idea. Don’t aim to drop some ridiculous amount of weight in a short period of time. THAT NEVER WORKS. Or it does, until you’re done with the extreme thing. The longer you take to start developing healthy and sustainable habits, the harder it will be. If you eat shit food now, start making small changes. If you don’t exercise now, get moving. When building new habits, always start with something that’s doable but a little edgy. Don’t make it too hard or you won’t sustain it.
Squat. Squat against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground…hold it there. Spread your feet wider than shoulders, toes pointed out and squat deeply. Deeper than you want to. Feel the strength and power grow in your legs, in your hips, feel your pelvis expand. Feel the solidity of the Earth beneath you. Squats will help you know your power and find your ground. They’ll give you more to draw on when you’re afraid, pissed off or confused. When you’re blindsided by rejection or failure, when you’re fired or dumped, squats will help you root down and move through. They’ll bolster you through identity crises and child birth. And they’re the best way to train your body to be able to piss in the woods without sullying your ankle. Every girl should be able to piss in the woods without sullying her ankle.
Peer pressure is real. I used to think that it wasn’t. This is because I’m strong willed and my friends never tried to talk me into things. But peer pressure doesn’t mean being overtly pressured. It’s the nagging feeling that we should have smaller thighs like that girl, or be as popular as that girl, or have lost our virginity by (whatever age seems like the right age). Whenever there’s that feeling that you’re behind or inadequate…there’s peer pressure. Don’t let that guide your choices.
An erect penis does not give a single fuck about your feelings. The boy attached to it may, but it’s a lot more difficult for him should he have an erection. Fact. You’re made differently. Your mind and body and heart are all intertwined and inseparable and it’s pretty impossible to not be emotionally impacted by a sexual exchange. This is not the case for dudes. Even the best ones. For them, sex does not = love. Period. Don’t fool yourself.
Also, don’t fool yourself by thinking that you can separate your sexual self from your emotional self. What for? To be able to better tolerate not getting what you need from a guy? Bullshit. Don’t do that. Apparently there are women out there who can ‘just have sex’. I’ve never met one. It’s not a badge of honour to dissociate from your tenderness. Your needs are holy, honourable and worth meeting.
And further, if you’re going to get a fake ID and go to bars when you’re 17, beware of a few things:
Negging: This is when a guy compliments and insults you at the same time. (Like, “Interesting choice of outfit, not being too concerned about your appearance shows confidence, I like that.”) It’s a weird thing to be on the receiving end of. The effect is that you’re left enjoying the attention or compliment, yet suddenly self-conscious and unconsciously wanting to win his approval and before you know it your bra is on the floor of the bathroom stall. Counter negging by developing a strong sense of self and getting to know your inner world and your emotions. If something feels off or even the slightest bit painful in an interaction, leave.
Consider what constitutes a good night. We, as women, as much as some of us are loath to admit it, shine under the attention and validation from others. If what makes a good night is being validated and having attention coming at you, whether on the dance floor or in a dark corner, know this:
Seeking validation + booze + dirtbags = shameover
What’s a shameover? When you wake up in the morning and roll through the events of the night before and feel parts of your self-esteem cracking and slipping to the floor. These are no fun. But if you choose to drink, you’ll likely encounter them and if so…
Cultivate deeply trustworthy relationships with women. Frienemies are lame. Women you can count on to – love you, accept you, support you, lend you 20 bucks, tell you when to drop a dude, NOT wear those pants, stop complaining about your job or quit already or that they’ve noticed you are happier when you meditate – are invaluable.
There’s some basics…got it? Now let’s dive a little deeper in…Stay with me young grasshopper….
Get therapy. Everyone has issues. Even the healthiest. Start dealing with those issues sooner and your relationships will be more fulfilling, you’ll know yourself better, like yourself more and will be better set up to contribute to humanity.
Beware of the Saturn Return. You may or may not believe or be interested in astrology. But sometime between 27 and 30 you will begin to feel like you’re having the bejeezes beaten out of you. Your identity will get so twisted around you won’t know where you’re looking, where you stand or if where you came from is real at all. Imagine life is one of those massive red boxing gloves. Now imagine it alternating between punching you in the face and in the boobs over and over and over again. It’s like that. You’ve been warned. And no, knowing that it’s coming won’t make it any less painful. But it will end. And you will be glorious.
Cultivate a spiritual practice. Meditation. Prayer. Dance. Yoga. Chanting. Nature Worship. Something that’s steeped in lineage or pieced together from your own inner stirring- connecting to the great mystery has boundless potential for your evolution.
Make poor decisions. If you’re trying to be good and make all the right decisions, you’re going to be tentative and questioning yourself. So take some huge risks and make some poor decisions. Like really poor decisions. One’s that you knew were a bad idea before doing it, while in it and certainly while suffering the consequences. This builds your experience, expands your sense of boundaries and actually can help you cultivate trust in yourself. Rather than thinking you’re an f-up, you can be all ‘I knew that was a bad idea.’ You can better trust your own discernment. You also won’t end up wishing you took more risks. Making mistakes will expand you and strengthen you, will help you to know who you are and who you’re not as well as what you want and what you don’t want.
The horrible things you think about yourself are not real. That dumb shit those kids said to you was super painful, but has nothing to do with who you are. While you don’t believe me now, know that the longer you believe those things, the harder life will be. Do the work now to be kind to yourself, life is challenging enough without the voices in your head berating you at every turn.
The perfect life you imagine in your head of how things will be when they are different than they are now is not real. There will always be pain and disappointment and challenge. This is not just because I am old and cynical. If you try to tell yourself that you won’t get old and cynical and that you will be able to create your perfect life because you think positive or build vision boards or will work harder or be smarter than everyone else, it will just make this fact harder to come to terms with.
If you’re really stepping into and living your life fully, it’s going to be a shit show. Don’t have any illusions that things are going to be all rosy once you’re an adult. It will be way better than being a teenager though, I promise.
If you want to work your ass off because you love what you’re doing, cool. If you’re working your ass off to earn your worth or prove something to someone or get somewhere…knock it off. It won’t lead you to where you think you’re going. Work hard, but rest well and be kind to yourself.
Learn to love your emotions. You’re not crazy. When you feel crazy, it’s usually because you have numerous emotions arising at once and your thoughts are trying to make sense of them all and someone once told you that you were too emotional. Thinking you should be less emotional than you are is erroneous. You’re fine. Learn to breathe deeply, make your heart expand larger than the feeling and you won’t have to harden around it or feel like you’re losing control.
Your circumstances do not cause your happiness. You will likely ignore this for your entire life. Enjoy the chase, you’ll never get there.
Assume that your purpose on this planet expands beyond you. This planet does not need another narcissistic consumer.
Get to know your desire to improve yourself. Let’s explore. One desire to be better can be considered evolutionary. You’re pulled to expand beyond who you currently are and where you’re currently at. You want more for yourself. When imagining growing in this way, there’s a blossoming quality to it, an opening and unfolding quality. You’re expanding, becoming.
Another desire to be better can be considered compulsive. You’re feeling the pain of your own seeming inadequacy and want to fix or change yourself to measure up. There’s a sense here that if you were different then you’d be happier or worthy or more acceptable. The felt experience in this is one of constriction and contraction, grasping and desperation. Become intimate with these desires and wherever you can, cultivate the experience of expansion and evolve.
Know the difference between healthy shame and unhealthy shame. Unhealthy shame is when you feel as though who you are is unacceptable or inadequate. Here, you compare and judge yourself and your behaviour and never measure up and feel a sense of dark sickness about it. Healthy shame is when you do something that’s not in line with your own sense of integrity and shame arises to let you know that you need to step up. Don’t fear shame, it’s valuable, so long as you use it as a tool and don’t roll around in it.
Share your gifts and wisdom with others. You’re never too young to do so. You have no idea how much I’ve learned from these young women I’ve had the honour of sharing my summer with. Let the world be impacted and graced by who you are. You are full. You are Holy. You are beautiful. You are bright with riches to share. Shine On.
What’s Hot for Chela Right Now…
Currently Reading: 50 Shades of Grey
Practice Focus: Relaxing into non-productivity.
Currently Watching: The Weather
Currently Listening To: Canailles
Shadow Element or Emotion Discovered While Writing This: I’m embarrassed to be reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Link of the Week: Dating Advice
Chela Davison is a Certified Integral Coach™ who gets all hot and bothered about the issues that matter most to our individual and collective humanity. She loves to press into the messes of life, challenge culture and leave sloppy wet kisses on your soul. She started her first company 12 years ago and has since been working with individuals and entrepreneurs to line up their life’s purpose with the work they’re doing in the world. She’s a writer, editor and one of the Creators at Beams and Struts, a magazine for hungry brains and thirsty souls. She can be found hanging around on her own website, laying down more words on her blog at cheladavison.com. She is a mother. And she likes you.