A letter to my niece: The things I wish I’d known when I was 21


I am the proud aunt of four nieces and one nephew. So when my oldest niece, Chloe, turned 21 it got me thinking about my own journey since this tender age and I decided to use her landmark birthday as a chance to share a few things I wish I’d known at 21 with her. Of course, at this age, experience is the best teacher and our wrong turns and mistakes teach us so much but I hope my insights might help her cut a few corners, where I took the long road.  

At 21, I certainly didn’t think about the future and was just piecing it all together but looking back I see patterns and themes. And I’m sharing this letter (with her permission) because, although you are likely not 21, sometimes hearing about others’ values and journeys can spark a fresh curiosity in life or a new perspective at any age. 

Here is my letter:

Hey gorgeous. How did that happen? You became 21 in front of my very eyes. I feel so proud of you and you continue to inspire me every day. You have wisdom beyond your years and I am grateful you are my niece. I remember when you were that little girl. You always knew what you wanted and you caught that rabbit. Go girl and keep on catching rabbits! 

I’ve been thinking about what I wish I’d known when I was your age but have had to learn from experience. I’ve listed a few things out. You can decide if they are relevant to your life. 

Follow your own dreams and passions and don’t be defined by what others think they should be. It is possible to do this respectfully and honour where others are coming from. Claim your own life and don’t get too busy to take time out of your schedule to think, review and make sure you’re on track with what you want. That said, even if you think you know all the answers stay at least 1% curious, the world is changing so fast it’s impossible to be right about everything.

Play to your strengths and forgot about the things you can’t do. Get jobs (or build companies) where you can use your strengths every day. All the successful people I meet do this - they know what they are good at and develop a network of people around them that compensate for what they don’t like or can’t do. And then they live the life they love and do work that doesn’t feel hard. 

Look after your health - it is your wealth and if you don’t take care of it, it’ll take more of your time when you're my age. All the research says keep moving. It doesn’t mean you need to be in the gym everyday but get that body going. Take time relax too. Stress is a killer!

Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh and play every day, it’s a great medicine. I’m still learning about this one!

Remember to be kinder than you need to be. You never know what someone is going through. It can take a little longer but it’s good for your mental health and releases useful hormones that make you feel good. So everyone wins.  Plus the world needs more kindness, love and connection.

And make sure you’re on the receiving end of kindness and love. People treat you how you let them so if it’s not what you want, move on.....Keep the amount of give and take in balance. 

Don’t hold grudges. We all make mistakes and forgiveness is good for everyone. I think it takes the bigger person to admit they’re wrong and also be able to graciously accept an apology. 

I feel I should write something about saving the planet and leaving it better than we found it. This I believe is one of the biggest questions of our time but I also have a lot to learn on this one and don’t really know where to start. But I know that awareness is the starting point for change. 

So my little cherub....that’s all from your old aunt. 

You have grown into a wonderful and beautiful women. 

Happy birthday....And here’s to many more happy times.