You're thirteen and everybody, it seems, is claiming that this is a fantastic time to be young in America. The Beatles have arrived, the Civil Rights movement is gaining momentum, the Space Program is underway, and the planet has not yet been blown to smithereens.
Ads in magazines and on television suggest that this is a glorious time to be alive—so long as you have the right car, cigarettes, and hair color. The message, of course, is as fallacious as a snake-oil panacea. So go ahead, look up at the stars and wonder at the deeper mystery that is life. Stick to your love of painting and music, for these will prove your salvation. The gift of music will be food for the souls of your listeners as much as it is for you.
You think it would have been marvelous to have been born beautiful. Half a century later, you will realize you were lucky you were not—courage and perseverance being among the things you might have left by the wayside had it been easy to wow the boys at an immature age. Don't trouble yourself worrying what other people might think of you. You'll learn it really is none of your business. Reputation, on the other hand, is worth guarding. But for now, it's time to relegate tears of frustration to your little-girl past. Growing up means getting used to an imperfect life. Tragic events, such as the assassination of President Kennedy on your thirteenth birthday, will always be a part of life. The noble example of Jackie Kennedy's courage in the aftermath will etch a more profound memory of what is good in this world. Accept that you can't change the behavior of other people, you can only change your responses to them. Take heart from great people around you, including your parents, for they've hung onto their ideals and joy in life through far worse events.
Your father will offer the best advice when he tells you it takes an act of will to choose a positive outlook, regardless of evidence to the contrary. As individuals we are weak, but as an interdependent collective we're capable of creating a powerful vision for the future. Quantum physicists will prove what Buddhism has taught all along: out of chaos comes order, out of order—chaos. Long before scientists confirmed it, the ancient Kahuna of Hawaii have known that thought is material and that the material future is borne of our thoughts. Positivity attracts positivity. You will know that no great world solution or, for that matter, great artwork has ever come of negative thinking.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," your mother is fond of saying. ("Same as it ever was.")How right she was! Treat others with the same consideration and respect you would wish for yourself. Retain the saving grace of good humor. Don't take yourself or your own situation too seriously but care for yourself as if you were your own child. Love well, but cease to love where love is not returned.
Hang out with the best, most gifted and compassionate people and learn from them as much as you can. Travel will renew your faith in there being more good people than bad. Eat only nourishing unprocessed foods. Get the sleep your brain and body need for repair. Laugh and play like a kid, but don't procrastinate or be cowed by hard work. Be an avid reader and pursue higher education to avoid becoming a hostage to fear. Strengthen your resolve to remain open-minded, tolerant and alert to progressive possibilities.
Since absolutely nothing lasts, remember to take your days one at a time. You'll want to be around long enough to make a positive impact. When the going gets rough, use baby steps, one in front of the other, but keep moving. You'll learn that remaining in motion while retaining a positive emotion not only increases good health long into old age, but helps heal old emotional scars. Practice yoga and martial arts—you're going to need both. Smile a lot, especially when you don't feel there's a reason to. Smiling uplifts the good-mood chemistry of the brain along with the muscles of the face. Plus, it's contagious, so you're doing everyone else a favor at the same time!
Choose your battles wisely. Prioritize and accept compromise. Admit wrongdoing and apologize. No success will come without sacrifice. From hard and persistent work you will achieve half your goals, at most; with luck and positivity, a handful of your dreams. When overcome by desperate and dark thoughts, remember: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As your mother says, "This, too, shall pass." It wouldn't be a cliché if it weren't true.
It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. The poet Maya Angelou will tell you that people won't remember what you said or what you did so much as how you made them feel. Hang on to your ego, but consider yourself lucky if you bump into an obstacle that results in a humbling self-examination. The lies people tell themselves are largely responsible for the suffering they attract. Beware, too, of the group ego (think of high school cliques!) While these may provide a temporary sense of belonging to someone with a fragile ego, they make it easy to slide into bad behavior: just because the group says "yes," doesn't mean you're wrong to say "no."
When men write the rules, the game can really suck for women! You are going to have to contend with double standards of sexual behavior as well as a diminished standing to boys stupider and less accomplished than you. While you (and your future partner!) will live the credo of feminism to counteract misogyny, you must promise yourself you won't waste precious energy stewing about the misperceptions of sillier members of the opposite sex. You will apply yourselves instead to rearing your sons to be gentlemen of good character, that they may be worthy of excellent women.
Keep your hopes up for a better future, even when the sword of Damocles hangs over it in the form of climate change. I would wish you to remember that brave new worlds call for brave young girls.
From one who loves you, now as always,