Everyone always gets excited about 21sts, believing they are an occasion for conferring the mantle of adulthood, hence the gifting of oversized keys and ceremonial consumption of yard glasses (because opening doors and puking a lot are what being a grown up is all about). But the real business actually starts at 22, when nobody's watching, you've lost the cards, spent the money and the balloons have long since popped.
Independence can be tough and you are a very sensitive sausage. I was sensitive too, at your age, my edges have been worn off from bumping into bad decisions, loss and disappointment. Initially mourning the dents, these knocks were invariably a good thing, the reason I am now so well-rounded. Life is a bit like your mother's driving: a series of accidents and wrong turnings where the destination doesn't matter so much as staying on the road. I know sometimes it can feel like you're not doing it right – and if its any consolation everyone feels this way from time to time: that its all too much and people suck, but I can tell you, Sophia, you ARE doing it right. You are doing it way better than I ever did at 22.
Motherhood, or as it’s known by those of us who’ve experienced it: LMBAHS, for Left My Brains Around Here Somewhere is a journey to weirdness. Being a mother is intimate and intense, profound and painful – almost too much to bear, and I’m not just talking about the labour. Although, once you have experienced that level of pain, the rest of your life is a cakewalk. You’ll never fret about excel tables, burnt scones or how short your legs are, ever again. Once you’ve had a baby, any day you’re not pushing something the size of a frozen turkey out of one of your more sensitive orifices is a good day indeed (I'm not suggesting you do this any time soon. In fact, you know what? Forget I said anything about babies).
The point is, having you changed my life. One day I was Lisa Scott, the next I was (cue menacing tiddly pom music) Sophia's Mother. You were a huge responsibility I felt I never properly lived up to. We didn't have any money when you were growing up, not a bean, but you never made me feel bad about it, even though you must have wanted stuff the other kids had: a nice house, a car that worked all the time, a proper dad. I should have made sure you had those things. I'm sorry.
We haven't always got on. There has been yelling and meanness, things said and regretted, moments when you cried and I cried and a stranger would have been hard-pressed to figure out which of us were having the worse time. I'm glad we made up our minds to just be kind to each other, and I love the way you come over and tell me everything about your life, please don't stop doing that.
Giving your children advice is hypocritical in the extreme, as nothing in your entire experience of parenthood ever turned out as you expected, so all I've really got is:
Don't sweat the small stuff. Nothing is ever as terrible as it seems and the sting can be taken out of things considerably by not putting them on the Internet.
Smoking is bad. You'll get zipper face (awful lines around your mouth that make you look like the Corpse Bride). Plus, you'll die.
You don't have to be everyone's friend and some people just aren't worth it.
Like your mother, you love a fixer-upper. However, the truth is you can't fix people, its exhausting and unrewarding and inevitably to your emotional detriment. If you must love the male equivalent of a starter home; settle for new curtains and a lick of paint, there's no point gutting the kitchen.
Sophia, if you were a book, you'd be a bestseller. If you were a painting, you'd be a masterpiece and if you were a song, you'd be the best song ever written. Did I mention I was proud of you? I hope so. Honestly, it seems a miracle that someone so slipshod and prone to panic, so selfish and awkward and bad-tempered ever managed to have such a great kid. How on earth did it happen? Perhaps its best not to ponder the imponderable and instead think of you as a lottery I have clearly won. Whatever the cosmic circumstances causing the stars under which you were born to align, I am enormously glad they did.
Oh and by the way, happy birthday.