In my family I am the eldest of a set of six cousins, all connected by our grandmother, a true matriarch. I feel responsible and connected to each of these younger girls, though they are not as young as I often imagine them to be. A year and a week stands between myself and the second eldest and nine years between myself and the youngest. Aside from them, perhaps more accurately called young women than girls now, I have three younger pseudo-sisters, again young ladies who I care very much for, though this time connected to me through my best friend. As I have watched these girls grow up, becoming open minded, bright and enthusiastic about life, I often have sudden bursts of love for them; moments where I cannot express how much I care, how much I'd like to be there as they learn and explore their broadening worlds. Here is a list (though, non-extensive, nor all inclusive) of the things I want all of the younger women I have in my life to know and to do:
1. Ask questions.
Be curious about the world, about people and about things that are presented to you. Be wary of things you do not understand, but seek to understand them rather than avoid them or agree blindly.
2. Be engaged.
Pay attention to the people around you, instead of your phone. Be involved in conversations, remember things that people tell you about their lives and themselves. Know what is happening around you, not only situationally but in the world as well.
3. It's okay to say "No"
This is true for sexual contexts, yes. Consent is not just sexy, consent is mandatory. This is also true for areas outside of sex, though. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or if you just plain don't want to do something, say no. If you really don't want to make plans with someone, you can tell them. If you'd rather stay in than go out, say so.
4. Things get hard sometimes
There will be points in your life where you will be stressed, or confused, or just plain broken. It sucks. But it's all part of the process. You are strong and you can handle these moments. If you need help, ask for it.
5. You deserve to be happy
This, perhaps, emphasizes number 3: do not do things that make you unhappy. Be with people you enjoy being around. Date people who understand you and make you happy. Never believe that bad things happening determine your worth. Even with karma and the idea that if you make a mistake or hurt someone you should get some kind of comeuppance, this consequence cannot last forever. You deserve happiness.
This is not exclusive to significant others. Go everywhere with love in your heart. Have compassion and kindness. Love your family, love your friends. Show them you love them, tell them you do. It makes the world a brighter place.
7. Respect properly
Respect has two different meanings: to understand someone as being equal to you and deserving all treatments that you believe yourself to deserve, and to understand someone as being in a position of superiority to you. Know the difference between these two things. Respect your parents in that they probably are still the boss of you, but respect your friends and your peers in that they feel and hurt just as you do.
8. You can come to me about anything
I can give you advice, or I can just listen. I care about you and I love you. And while perhaps it's not what you'd like to admit, I have been alive for a bit longer than you (this means I might have some life experience that could be valuable to you!) If you're in trouble I want to know so I can help. If you're lost, I want to help you at least find a compass. If you're happy, share your joy with me.
I believe this includes everything I meant it to, though I will probably think of more things to tell my young women in the future. It's a wonderful thing, to have such bright people around you growing up. I hope they all know I cherish it.