24 Lessons: To All the Girls I’ve Been Before

An open letter to young women on growing up.

Hannah Davies

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Marseilles, 2023. (Image courtesy of author)

Dearest 18,

  1. Sometimes you will act like a dick. Sometimes other people will too. Not just at 18, though especially at 18. You are young and naive and insulated and dickishness is inevitable; you are mostly blind to how much you hurt eachother. Repair what you can, remorse what you can’t, and avoid repetition. It’s okay. You are still loved.
  2. Please eat more food. Fainting and flu twice a year is not normal. Weights also have wonderful benefits compared to cardio. You will feel much better. Food can be excellent rather than a chore, by the way — you’re just in processed potato country. Italian peaches and French pastries are going to blow your mind.
  3. It’s okay to turn around and physically say “no”. Don’t waste your breath on anyone who respects you so little as to try and manipulate you. Don’t listen to the teenage friends who try to make you feel sorry for That Sulky Guy #7 — they like clubbing and drinking, not you.
  4. On that note, trust your gut. You do not find that person at the bar inexplicably scary for no reason. You are not dramatic or crazy or mean or paranoid or delusional or overreacting. In fact, it’s okay if you are, because your safety is more important than their ego. Do not be polite if polite puts you in danger. Run.
  5. You can come out if you want to. Nobody is going to publicly execute you. Your friends and family still love you. I’m sorry this world ever made you afraid.
  6. Ask for more. You get what you ask for and accept — not necessarily what you are worth. Remember that.
  7. Nobody is coming to save you except yourself. You get better at this. There is a certain fierce joy in taking good care of yourself.
  8. You are going to lose people you love. Sweetheart, you are going to lose people you never dreamed it was possible to lose. Best friends, first loves, patriarchs and matriarchs and almost-siblings. Hopes, dreams, innocences. Sometimes death saunters, sometimes it suckerpunches you. It will hurt so much and nothing can prepare you for it. Grief fades exponentially with time, but never quite goes away.
  9. You will feel very happy

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Hannah Davies

Brit Psychologist (MBPsS, BSc), UX Researcher, human.