A few weeks ago my niece and her friends(who have become my adopted nieces) graduated from high school.  I really wanted to give them a great gift, but I’m still not working and therefore could not buy them anything.  I started to write them individual letters, but soon realized that most of what I wanted to say was already said in “Free to wear Sunscreen”.  So I shared with them that speech and then elaborated some of my own takes on life.

Olivia, Arianna, Hailey, and Erika,

Aunt Karen wanted me to write down some thoughts as you look towards your future, and as I wrote I noticed that much of what I wanted to say was already said by this journalist from the the Tribune. By the way, she says it better than I could any day.  I do want to elaborate on a few points she makes, though.

1.  Never lose your inner child.  That kid will help you laugh when you want to cry, create when you feel stuck,  build when you need bridges and let you imagine, just because.

2. Make sure you travel across country at least once in your life.  We have an amazing country, breathtaking beyond anything you can imagine. Our citizens are friendly and loving and you just don’t see that on the evening news.

3. Travel abroad.  You never know how good we have it here until you see how other countries live. Learning other cultures will also make you much more empathetic and an all around better person.

3. Don’t have regrets.  It doesn’t change anything.  Use any mistakes you make as a learning experience.

4. Read.

5. Walk.

5. Breath.

6. Never lose the need to learn.

7. Don’t be afraid of sadness.  It makes you appreciate happiness that much more.

8. Always drink your cereal milk from the bowl. One: you won’t dirty a cup, and two: the cost of that milk could feed a child in a developing country for at least a week.

9. Take a dance class at least once in your adult life. See number 1

10. Sing at the top of your lungs. See number 1.

11.  Always take your make- up off at night,  It will wrinkile your skin

12. Don’t worry about your hair all the time.  It is, what it is.

13. Eat pizza, donuts, and cookies once in awhile.   Again, see number 1

14. Be Kind

15. Be spiritual.  That doesn’t mean you have to go to church or believe in a God. It means that you need to be aware of your own spirit and feed it. You will be a better person for it.

16. Lastely (I think), Be yourself.  and be aware that “yourself” will change as you experience life.  Don’t be afraid of that. Embrace it. 

17. I swear this is the last.  Always know that Aunt Karen and I love you all unconditionally, and if you EVER need anything, all you have to do is ask.

this is the script to my youtube linkEverybody’s Free

(to wear sunscreen)

Mary Schmich

Chicago Tribune

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97… wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.


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