Catherine Anaya

A gift for forever

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If you could write a letter of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? 

A few years ago a co-worker honored me with a request to write something similar to his soon-to-be-16-year-old daughter. 

He and his wife wanted to present her with letters of advice from people they love and respect.

Here’s part of what I wrote:

“When I was 16, I spent much of my time alone while my single mother went to work and school, trying to improve herself. 

At the time, I didn’t appreciate the sacrifices she was making to help me one day achieve my own dreams. I only knew that I resented the fact that she wasn’t there. I wanted the two-story home with the white picket fence, eating dinner with two parents – not reheating frozen food in a studio apartment, alone. 

Please remember to love and appreciate your parents for the things they do, instead of dwelling on the things they don’t. They may not be there all the time, but know that they are trying to earn a living and create a life for you far better than their own. They would move mountains for you, and everything they do is always from a place of love … 

Study hard. My mother ingrained in me the importance of higher education. I grew up surrounded by teen pregnancy, high school drop-outs, drugs and violence. I was fortunate to have a parent who not only spoke the words, but practiced what she preached when it came to getting an education. Education is the ticket to success. Everyone measures success differently, but education will allow you to measure yours however you choose … 

Get a job. I took great pride in earning my own money and not having to ask my mother for everything. Yes, the first job was only scooping ice cream at Häagen Dazs, but I took my work seriously, even then. I worked my way up to assistant manager. And when I made cheerleading, and my mom told me I had to pay for my camp and uniform, I took a second job that summer. Yes, it was only Taco Bell, but I learned how to roll a mean burrito! Even if it’s a few hours a week – take a job and learn responsibility.” 

I asked my friend if I could steal his idea for my own daughter when the time came. 

As you read this, we will have just celebrated her 16th birthday, and I will have given her a book full of letters – some from family, others from people she knows well, not so well or not at all. 

As I write this, several letters have started coming in. They’re poignant and personal – everything from valuing her relationship with her brother to treasuring her impending right to vote.  

I encourage you to consider this for a teen in your life. Some gifts are forever and worth more than anything money can buy.

Catherine Anaya anchors CBS 5 News weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6 & 10pm. She is a mother of two, marathon runner and motivational speaker. Reach her at catherine.anaya@cbs5az.com, connect with her on Facebook, twitter and at CatherineAnaya.com.

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