A Letter of Encouragement for My Teenage Sister

Signed, Your Adult Brother

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

First of all: I love you. Very, VERY much.

I recognize that the nine year age gap between us has, at times, made it hard for us to relate to each other. We’ve gone through times of avowed silence and times of anger, the source of friction very often being my own impatience.

Regardless of our differences, know that I am exceedingly proud of everything you’ve accomplished. I know sometimes it seems everything our parents say and do are a result of routine; arbitrary things parents do for their children. But I hope you know that they, too, love you deeply, and are immensely proud of you.

The educational system has the propensity to put students through a plethora of emotions; joyful at times, discouraging at others, overwhelming at its worst. In all of the ups and downs, you must know this:

Your academic results do not define who you are.

If your results are pleasing, give thanks. Not everyone is privileged with academic aptitude. If the results are not to your liking, or if you feel you could have done better, you’re putting unnecessary pressure on yourself; learn from the mistakes you’ve made and move on. You’ll only hinder your progress by dwelling in the past. In fact, the upcoming years are going to present more challenges and obstacles. In light of this, I want to share a few life lessons that have been afforded to me in my transition to adulthood.

Firstly, everything in life, even failure and rejection, are opportunities for learning and growing insofar as you allow them to be. Your learning has only just begun.

Don’t quit at the beginning!

One of the biggest changes I’ve made in my life has been reducing my use of ‘traditional’ forms of social media, like Facebook and Instagram, and transitioning to platforms that actually edify my learning. I highly encourage you to make that transition. I’ve wasted many hours of my life going through mindless scrolling, all under the guise of relaxation.

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are inevitably the perfect breeding grounds for comparison; discontentment and envy quickly follow.

Learn how to unplug and appreciate what you have, because everything you have is a gift. There are alternative avenues for leisure, avenues that truly let your mind rest. Recognize those outlets and use them whenever necessary.

Take advantage of our system of free information. Grow and develop a love for reading. I encourage you in this regard because I see so much of myself in you, and reading has transformed my life. Books are gateways of information, affording you diverse perspectives that you would have otherwise missed. Be willing to explore and listen to opinions that may differ from your own.

With that said, there is so much in this life that you will not understand. There will be difficulties you will encounter that come absent reason; questions with answers you may not comprehend. Don’t let any of those factors ever limit you from achieving the best version of yourself. (And note this: the benchmark for the best version of yourself is Christ and righteousness. Not Taylor Swift or any of those Korean girl bands).

I say this because as you grow older, you will feel the need to assimilate to the latest beauty and fashion trends. I, too, felt the same pressure, and responded by adopting mannerisms and clothing styles that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, all for the sake of ‘fitting in’. I discovered how to make people ‘like’ me, but I lost myself in the process. Don’t make the same mistake. Explore different options, not just the ones that the media or pop culture tells you is ‘cool’. It’s OK to be different; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I am also aware you are venturing out on your own. Friends hold a significant priority in your life. These people will have an influence over your thoughts and actions, whether you like it or not. Be conscious of what they represent and value; choose wisely. Don’t compromise your character in pursuit of new friends or for well-paying career.

A just life does not mean a materially abundant one, but it is one you should pursue nevertheless.

Learn to love all of yourself. You are more than the sum of your parts; your physical appearance is only one facet of your life on earth. What matters more is on the inside: your character and value system. Learn to love deeply and act compassionately. Your soul will flourish under these conditions. I acknowledge that even the best Christians fall short of the compassion we are taught to uphold. But it is necessary for you to know that a compassionate life is a rewarding one. As Karen Armstrong writes,

Compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

Be a part of the greater good, and always seek righteousness.

Learn to trust in the Lord with all your heart.

This is so, SO important.

In the past, I took this statement lightly, but trust and faith take on different meanings when the path ahead is blurry and obscure. Take this from a relatively fresh college graduate: I still do not know exactly how God will use me. But I have found that when I focus on what scares me, instead of trusting in God’s deliverance, I become my own obstacle for happiness and inner peace. I spent many months living in constant fear and have experienced many sleepless nights. But by living in fear of the unknown and failure, I missed out on life lessons only afforded to us along the journey.

I now know it is better to journey than to arrive.

The truth is many lessons will be hard. You will make mistakes, you will fail, you will hurt, you will cry.

Life will continuously bring about new changes. Learn to accept them, for change is one of the few constants in life, God’s love being another.

I have made many mistakes and continue to make even more. I pray that my words will liberate you from the pressure of ‘perfection’; that they give you the courage to face adverse challenges, and more importantly, to be unapologetically yourself. Many authors have nourished my soul by giving me permission to admit my own doubts, fears, and angers. This letter aims to do the same thing for you.

Lastly, be responsible for your own physical safety and health. You are cared for and loved by many; you exist as a part of a greater body of people. Make decisions that won’t cause your family grief or pain.

Once again, I love you very much.

Take care and God bless.

In Him,

Daniel Teo

Daniel also shares his life journey through an autobiography series titled The Pursuit of Amelioration (TPOA). All entries are documented in real-time. You can check out all the chapters of the series at About TPOA.