On My Little Sister's 16th Birthday, 16 Presents Of Advice

On My Little Sister's 16th Birthday, 16 Presents Of Advice

"It’s all about you girl, on your 16th birthday." — Boys Who Cry

This week, my little sister is turning 16-years-old.

It is so hard to believe. I still remember her as being at least a foot shorter than me with a gap between her two front teeth and wanting to shop at Justice whenever we went to the mall.

Turning 16 years old is a milestone, one of the most major ones of the teenage years.

So, my little sissy, this is for you.

1. Get involved.

Now is the time of your life to join random clubs or groups. It is the time to explore all of the possibilities of things that interest you.

Do not hold back. Just go for it.

2. You are way cooler than any boy.

Yes, it is a novelty to have a boyfriend at this time in your life. You might see your life revolving around him. Please remember that you are so much cooler than any boy. One day, you will find a great guy who lacks drama and other negative things.

3. Do not give in to peer pressure.

During this time, maybe your friends are trying new things and want you to try them, too. However, if you are uncomfortable doing something and do not want to do it, then do not do it.

4. Tell Mom and Dad that you appreciate them.

I am sure they might be a bit tougher on you now that I am away at college and not home all of the time. However, they have your best interests at heart. They care about you more than anything in the world. Tell them how much you appreciate and love them; that will make them so happy.

5. Our dogs know everything.

Honestly, if our dogs do not like somebody, chances are they probably are not worth liking for some reason. Listen to the puppers.

6. Eat a cookie (or two or three or four).

Food is something meant to be enjoyed. No food is inherently “good” or “bad.” If you want something, do not deprive yourself of it. Learn from my mistakes here.

7. Learn from my mistakes.

You saw me through my worst relationship and my hardest classes. You saw how I handled myself or, sometimes, how I lacked on taking proper care of myself. Please learn from my mistakes. No need to repeat the past.

8. Talk about yourself.

We are often taught to be modest and to not brag about ourselves. However, if you are proud of yourself, share it. You deserve to feel that pride. You deserve to feel happy.

9. It is OK not to be OK.

For some reason, I thought that I always needed to portray a facade of happiness and optimism even when I was at my lowest points. It is perfectly OK to not feel OK and it is perfectly OK to show that.

10. Please know your worth.

You are so intelligent, beautiful, hilarious, and have so many other positive attributes going for you. Do not settle or let anyone trample over you; you are worth so much more than that.

11. Call people on the phone.

Stop Snapchatting and texting everything. Give someone a phone call or even a call via Skype. It is so much more personal. You will create so many more memories from hour-long phone calls than you will from Snapchatting pictures of your latest meal.

12. Embrace fear.

Yes, life is scary. The future is ominous. However, if you do not take chances, you will not get where you want to. Take a chance and face the fear.

13. Drink water.

Yes, it sounds stupid, but it is something that I am so bad at. Keep a water bottle in your backpack and drink it. Then fill it up and drink it again. And again. And again.

14. Thank God.

It is easy to get caught up in life, but always remember to pray to and talk to God.

15. Do what you want to do.

Do not base your decisions in life on other people's’ happiness. The main person who you need to make happy is you.

16. You can always turn to me.

You know how we always say "sissys by chance, besties by choice"? Well, I mean it. I will always be here for you, no matter what. You will never be alone.

Cover Image Credit: Amanda Topolski

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To The Sister About To Move Away, Girl, You've Got This

You may not physically be here right now, but you're always with our family.


You were there on the day I was born, somehow sleeping soundly as our mom gave birth to me. I'll never forget the photograph of her presenting me to the world and you sitting beside her, holding up your newly-purchased beanie baby with pride as if being handed this toy was equal to the miracle of birth.

It was a crab, by the way, which somehow makes it funnier.

Growing up, you loved to trick me. You'd make me do chores for you and steal my favorite Barbies, but I think that's just part of being an older sister. I'd stick my tongue out at you and cry out the same phrase, "Mooooom, Sissy is being mean to me!" In fact, I yelled this phrase so often that it began to take on a musical quality.

You were mean at times, but you always had my back. You physically beat up other children that had wronged me, and you let me crawl into your bed so we could watch TV together and exchange stories. We'd often immerse ourselves in fantasy worlds where we were princesses and we rode unicorns side-by-side.

But we grew up, and our fantasy world evaporated like the muddy puddles we'd play in after stormy nights. One second it was there, and then, it was just gone. I remember having a conversation a few years back where we wondered if we had known the last time we played Barbies would, in fact, be our last.

When I was a seventh grader, you were a junior in high school. Our problems were very different back then, but that didn't stop us from talking endlessly about them. We were so similar. We bonded over cheerleading, cute boys, books and music. But even more than that, we bonded over our similar life views and questions about the universe. We both possessed an innate love for life yet we were both distrustful of society's guidelines.

Watching you enter new life phases enthralled me. I thought, Wow, that will be me someday. I danced around the house in each of your four prom dresses, my imagination taking me to a place much grander than a high school gymnasium. Through your stories, I romanticized the future and hoped that I would be as cool as you.

It was a little tough at times, though, always longing for a different part of life. When I entered junior high, all I wanted was to be in high school. When I entered high school, I decided college was much cooler because that's what you said. And you were certainly right about that one.

You were the only one I felt comfortable sharing my writing with, the only one I knew could read the meaning behind my sideways glances. We just got each other in every way.

And we still do. To this day, you are one of the people I love and trust most. I don't know what I am going to do without you by my side, as you've been right there for 20 years. But I'm so proud of you. Of the many things we would lay around and talk about throughout the years, one topic persisted: moving away. Moving used to be a pipe dream, something beautiful that lived in your mind but would never come to pass.

And then you took a chance. And now that dream is a reality.

I want you to know how much I admire you. You are so incredible and resilient. I've never met anyone so strong-minded and willing to fight for what she believes in. You would never compromise yourself or your values for another person, but you are generous with others and so kind-hearted.

You are curious about the world and have a desire to learn about life and the richness it has to offer. That is a special quality that cannot be learned. You are beautiful in every way and are truly a blessing to have as a sister.

And it is from these very qualities and so many others that I know you will do great on your own. Sure, it's super tough at first; nobody said it would be easy. But if anyone can do it, then that person is certainly you.

I will always cherish our moments together, and you can always count on me to be there on the sidelines cheering you on, no matter where your adventure takes you.

Much love,

Your Little Sis

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