Dear Daughter, This is What I Wrote You at 18, Here’s What I Need You to Know Now

Dear Daughter, 

On your 18th birthday, I wrote you a love letter that contained all the most important life lessons I knew at the time. Five years later, we have both grown and learned, sometimes the hard way.

As you prepare to graduate from college and enter the next phase of your life, I am excited to see what’s ahead for you. I know you may be scared, but you have what it takes to make a good life for yourself. Of that I am certain.

One of my favorite singers, Lori McKenna, is in her 50’s like me. She sums up what it feels like to be this age perfectly in her song Settling In.

I don’t have all the answers but it’s starting to make sense.

Lori mckenna

Here are some of the things that are starting to make sense to me. I offer them as a gift to you on the next leg of your journey.

I have some advice for my daughter as she graduates from college. (Photo credit: Melissa Roy)

A mom’s advice to her daughter as she is graduating from college

1. Have some adventures 

You have decades ahead of you to settle down and become a responsible adult (whatever that means.) There is no need to hurry that process along. Say yes to last-minute invitations. Jump on that plane and figure out where you’re staying when you get there. Take a job that makes no sense to anyone but you. Move across the country or the world to live in a place you’ve always dreamed about. You can always come back home. But you will never live this day again. Make it count.

2. Everyone has a story 

American poet Miller Williams writes the following lines in his poem, Compassion:

Have compassion for everyone you meet,/ even if they don’t want it./ What seems conceit,/ bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign/ of things no ears have/ heard, no eyes have seen./ You do not know what wars are going on/ down there where the spirit meets the bone.

Miller Williams

As you have already discovered, there are jerks in this world. They did not get that way by accident. There are always reasons people act the way they do. Remembering this helps me act more compassionately towards them, because I know their behavior is not about me.    

3. Don’t be afraid to make a decision 

If it doesn’t turn out the way you thought, you can always make a different decision. You’re never stuck. Understand, too, that as Rush sang in their song Freewill “When you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”

When you are paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice, you are not trusting yourself. Remember, you know who you are and you know what to do.  Don’t worry about what other people are going to think. Get quiet and let your higher self guide you to the next right step.    

4. It’s all about love

Many people go through life fretting over whether they are following the right spiritual path. I spent years of my life doing the same. But here’s what I’ve discovered: it’s not as complicated as people make it. It’s not about what set of beliefs you follow. If you’re letting love guide you in all situations, you’re living a spiritual life. I learned this from my dad. His mother taught him that “it doesn’t cost you any more to be nice to someone so you ought to do it.”

Grandmother was one of the most devout believers I’ve ever known, but you would never know what her religion was because she never spoke about church doctrine. Instead, she let her life speak. Love. It’s really that simple. 

5. Be the change

If you want to be happy, first make someone else happy. If you want to attract a good partner, first be a good partner. The more love you give to others, the more love will return to you. What you send out into the world always comes back. Choose your vibration wisely. 

6. Your heart will break. Let it. 

But first you’ve got to let someone in. It’s risky for sure. If you go through life armored up, though, you will not only protect yourself from pain but you will also prevent yourself from experiencing the full range of emotions, like joy and passionate, mutual love. If you can find a way to lay that armor down, as terrifying as it is, you will be richly rewarded.

Yes, your heart will be broken. Maybe a few times. But each time that happens, your capacity to love and feel will expand, and you will become more fully human.

7. Don’t live your life to please your parents 

Rumi, the Sufi mystic, wrote:

It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.


Even your parents. As much as we adore you, and as well as we think we know you, you are the only one who can truly know what makes your heart sing. Chase after it and don’t worry about what we will think.

This is your one wild and precious life, my love. Enjoy it.

More Great Reading:

My Late Husband Wrote a Letter to Our Son for His 18th Birthday

About Melissa Roy

Dr. Melissa Roy is a retired educator and mom of two young adults. She lives with her wife and fur babies in Central Florida.

Read more posts by Melissa

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.