As a father of three daughters, I think about them and their future constantly, especially now that my eldest daughter is headed off to college. I am not sure if I have done an adequate job in schooling her properly, but hopefully I can still make an impact if I keep talking to her and answering her life questions.
I would probably summarize my advice to her or my other daughters as follows:
You are not someone’s property or in their care. All humans must stand on their own two feet and take care of their individual and societal responsibilities. Do not let any label — mother, daughter, sister, wife, or girlfriend — limit or define you. You were born in the presence of those who love you most, and if you live a good life, you will die surrounded by those whom you love the most. Above all else, you are in charge of your body and your sexuality. Use them wisely as you see fit, and do not let anyone tell you what you can do with your physical being. Even when your body fails you, your mind will carry you forward through life. Invest in your mind and learn what you can.
You have grown up thinking that your parents have their lives together. This is a lie. We have made countless mistakes while you have been in our care, but we could not allow ourselves to give up because we learned how to persevere and maintain hope from our parents and theirs. You will never give up, you will never surrender, and you will never lose hope. It is not genetically acceptable for you to lose your will because you are just the manifestation of countless generations that have preceded you. The fact that you exist means that everyone who came before you still exists. This is the responsibility you carry with you every day, and it can fuel you to great heights if you embrace it. Fail every day in every way and learn from your mistakes, but do not wallow in sorrow or self-pity because you are born into a privilege that your forefathers could not have imagined.
You must learn that the people around you have a tremendous ability to influence you for better or worse. Choose your friends wisely and surround yourself with people who are better and wiser than you. It can be painful to not be the best, smartest, fastest, or wealthiest among your peers, but the sooner you learn to find your balance, the better off you will be. Do not avoid people who are better than you until you learn what they have and how to get it. Learn how to love and be loved by those you befriend. The people who accompany you through life will be your biggest influence; choose them wisely.
Discard people who hurt you or make you feel bad, but not before you learn how they made you feel bad so you can stop others from doing the same in the future. In matters of the heart, choose your love the same way you would choose your friends. In other words, find someone of quality to love, someone who is better than you in some ways so that you can learn from them, but also someone whom you can teach. Love is not about gender or sexuality; it is about finding a person you can make a family with. You may or may not decide to have children in the future. This is your choice, but please understand that reproduction is how you got here in the first place.
If you cannot bear children of your own, then give your love to a child who needs a home. If the thought of having children creeps you out, then go forth and create something so that you can leave behind a legacy and do credit to your ancestors. If you have children, then promise me that you will give them a better life than you had, just like your mom and I have made sure that your experience was better than ours.
Getting drunk or high is a part of human society. You must learn your limits for yourself, but you must also learn that intoxication often leads to devastation. Whether this is because people become addicted or do stupid things while under the influence, intoxicants and the intoxicated are not to be taken lightly. If you must drink, then do so socially and only in the company of others. Do not take a drink until after sunset. Do not make decisions or communicate with people who are not physically in your presence while you are intoxicated.
Who knows, by the time you are older, cannabis may be fully legal and accepted. If it is, lean toward this plant even above alcohol if you have a choice. Do not allow yourself to be alone with strangers if you are intoxicated. Immediately get yourself to safety and text or call me or your mom no matter where you are or what your condition. It’s unfortunate that, s a woman, men will seek to prey on you when you are weak or impaired. Assume the worst from people you do not know when drugs and alcohol are present.
Mastery over money will make your life better than you can ever imagine. Learn about investing, saving, and making money. Ask everyone what they do and keep asking more and more questions until you understand how they make money. When you know someone is well off or successful, ask them for tips and advice. The economy is invisible to many, but for those who understand money, it is a completely different experience. Save 10% of everything you make in cash for a rainy day.
When you make more money, start investing it in mutual funds until you know enough to buy stocks. Do not think of investing as saving, think of it as a form of shopping because your goal should be to accumulate pieces of businesses and ideas until money is no longer an object. Do not borrow money, and make it clear to your friends that you do not lend money either. Never ever gamble on games of chance without being aware that these games have ruined many people’s lives. When you spend money, spend it on investments and experiences, not things. Your health and your time are both forms of wealth so treasure them the way you do the money you earn.
Life will be effortless if you learn how to rely upon yourself and your intellect; if you celebrate every failure as an opportunity to do things better the next time; if you learn how to have healthy, loving relationships with people who help you grow and improve; if you have a healthy amount of wariness around intoxicants and the intoxicated; and if you learn how to make money work for you instead of the other way around. It’s a lot to take in, but if you maintain focus, you’ll get there.
This post originally appeared on Quora.