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Jennifer Pellegrini Headshot

Words of Wisdom to My Teenager From a Been There, Done That Mom

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It's so hard to believe that 15 years ago, your father and I were introduced to someone who would change our lives in the most amazing way possible. I try to work an "I love you" or two into our conversations every day, but one day, I won't be around to tell you, so I'm writing it here. I love you in a way I never thought possible, and have every single second of every single one of the 5,479 days (and counting) since you were born.

Your dad does, too. You're our reason for getting up in the morning; and neither one of us could ever imagine our lives without you.

Anyhow, what I'm doing here is putting together some things to keep in mind as you go through the next year -- and decade. Some of this stuff you already know. Partly because you're wise and partly because they're things I've been telling you for years. How's Been There, Done That, Now Take My Advice? No? Well, it's a working title. We can always tweak it before it hits bookstores.

On self-esteem
It's easy to love other people, but much, much harder to love yourself. Love yourself, even when it's not easy. When your face is broken out and your nails are chipped and raggedy and some guy ditched you and your best friend blew you off to hang out with someone else -- love yourself. Your value isn't tied to how tall you are (or aren't), whether you're good at music or sports or art, and whether some random guy or group thinks your face fits on a particular day.

On boys
They will come, and they will go. Many times. You will break hearts and your heart will be broken. Just remember -- when you have to break a heart, do it with kindness and compassion. You would want someone to treat you the same way. And when your heart is broken, I will always be there with a pint of the ice cream of your choice to listen to you vent, hold you while you cry or just sit in silence with you.

Never forget who you are and where you came from. Remember the tiny wartime house we lived in when you were first born, the one where the furnace was behind a fake wall in the living room. It will keep you humble and grounded in reality. Remember that your parents worked hard for you to have the things we have, and that our parents worked even harder before us. Be grateful for the sacrifices made for us, and for you, and take none of it for granted, because we expect you to earn your own way in the world.

Don't squander money, talent or time.

A day on the couch with a book is not squandered time. A week on the couch is.

Challenge yourself to meet new people and learn new things.

Don't let anger or negativity rule your life. An hour wasted in anger is 60 minutes you can't get back. Your life expectancy is about 82 years. That's 718,797 hours. That may sound like a lot, but factor in time for sleeping and it's a lot less. Why waste those hours on letting someone else make you miserable?
Be kind. It costs you nothing and means the world to people who are the recipient of your smile, words of encouragement or aid.

Be patient with others, like small children, the elderly or people who don't get things as quickly as you do. Remember that you were young once, will one day be old and don't know everything as well as you think you do.

Sleep in on weekdays when you can.

Wake up early on weekends when you can.

Laugh at yourself, but laugh with others.

Keep your word whenever possible. When you have to let someone down apologize and offer an explanation.

Never spend more than you earn or give more than you have. One is a sign of greed; the other is a way of showing off. Neither is a good way to live.

Share your wisdom, your experiences and your chocolate.

Remember that your success in life is limited only by your willingness to work hard, dream big and occasionally fail.

Accept failures at face value for what they are -- opportunities in disguise.

Don't take the easy way out of something. It may save you time and energy, but you won't get the same experience out of whatever you're doing than you would if you did it the right way. Don't make things harder than they need to be, but don't look for shortcuts so you can hang out with your friends an hour earlier. You won't have to ask if you had done the best you could, because, in your heart, you'll already know.

Settle for anything but the best effort from yourself or people you're working with and you'll get exactly what you deserve. That doesn't mean you should be a drill sergeant, but it does mean you should encourage people to work to their full potential.

Choose your friends wisely. Over the next several years they will influence your decision about guys, school, jobs and hobbies. Choose friends who share similar values to your own and will respect your decisions, even if they disagree with them. Be respectful when you disagree with theirs, too.

A cup of tea, warm blanket and a loyal pet are sometimes all you need to make you feel better on a day when you feel down.

If I think you are making a mistake, I will tell you. If I think you are wrong, I will tell you. But I will always be on your side to support you, because I love you.