I recently took some portraits of my teenage nieces for my sister’s birthday.
I had asked them to look as natural as they could. I wanted to take them outside to capture them in a natural light. They moaned and groaned, but as they relaxed and forgot I was there, they became their beautiful authentic selves in front of the camera.
As I edited the shots, I was struck by their innocence and beauty. I saw how untouched they were by the demands of life and not fearful for the future—just filled with hope, laughter and fun.
I have always been close to them and used to babysit them as toddlers until they went to school. I felt privileged to have had a part in their growing up, and an influence, to some extent, on their young lives.
I know they need to explore and do their own thing, but there is always that need to give them some guidance that nobody else can give. Some pearls of wisdom that if only you would have heard earlier, you might not have wasted so much time being someone you were not.
I thought about the advice I could give them about life. The kind of advice I would have liked to hear when I was their age—whether I took it or not.
These are the things I wish I had known:
1) Keep laughing—no matter what.
Never lose your sense of humour—it will keep you going in the toughest of times.“Laughter is the best medicine” is advice I wish I had taken. I always took myself too seriously and worried about everything. It was such waste of time. Always retain the ability to laugh at yourself—it just makes life that a bit easier to take!
2) Always tell yourself you are beautiful.
Look in the mirror and just say it, “I am beautiful.” You are perfect just as you are at this moment and always will be. Believe it to your very soul and you’ll always feel amazing. You don’t have to look like anybody else or be like anybody else—just be you. Embrace those imperfections, the ones that make you who you are. Don’t ever let anyone tell you are not beautiful—those people are not worth it. Don’t let them spoil your joy. Ever.
3) Pick a good bloke.
Always go for a nice bloke. You have to be attracted to him, obviously, but if there is a choice, pick the one that’s good to talk to—not the cool guy. Choose the one who will nurture you, who wants you to be independent and successful in your own right and loves you for it. A guy who thinks you are gorgeous but also respects your views. Make sure he can speak to your mind as well as all the rest. He will be a friend and companion for life.
4) Don’t try to fit in.
Just don’t. It doesn’t work. I know it feels like you should try to fit in at the moment, but choose a different path. Be yourself—be kind but always be you. Never be afraid to let go and move on either, people come and go—that’s just life. It’s important to remember to flow with it all and to be true to your beliefs. If you feel something is wrong or right deep down, act accordingly. You should always be the most important person to yourself.
I know some of this may seem simple, but I wish somebody had taken me to one side at a younger, more tender age and cared enough to give me some words of wisdom.
I worried all the time as I was growing up about who I was, where I fit and how it was all going to pan out. It took a long time for me to realise some of this stuff and if any of it goes in, I will feel grateful, like I’ve done my job as a caring aunt.
Summed up: always look after you, be kind, keep laughing and be loved by somebody sweet. Simple.
Oh, and always, always look after your aunt!
Author: Emma Toms
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen