This month has certainly brought back memories for me as my daughter, Melissa, graduates from high school. It seems that the last 18 years have gone by in a flash as I can still remember, so vividly, my own experience of the prom and all the peripheral, but all too important details such as the dress…the shoes…accessories…hair…make-up…and of course the date! Things have changed a bit though since 1979…and in one area in particular, for the better!

Personally, my self-worth was very low when I was in high school. I felt so self-conscious of how I looked…I didn’t feel I was pretty and my skin must have been reacting to those thoughts. I felt so not good enough when I didn’t make it onto a sports team or cheerleading squad and I can still recall feeling so disappointed when I didn’t receive a carnation that were sold at school every Valentine’s Day.

Back in my day (hmmm… now I sound like my dad!), we waited, or at least I did, with trepidation, to be asked by that special guy to go to the grad formal; feeling bad about ourselves if we weren’t asked, or maybe even opting not to go at all if we didn’t have a date so as not to exasperate the unjustified, yet, nevertheless very real feelings of being a loser!

In my daughter’s circle of friends, which by the way, is such a great group of young people, the pressure of having to have a date didn’t seem to exist as they organized themselves into couples for the evening, however enjoying the experience as a group.

As I look at Melissa and the young woman she has become, I feel so proud…not necessarily of what she has accomplished, although she is an honour student…did make it into a unique college acting program ranking in the top 40/240 applicants…recently received a character award for her initiative… and was nominated for a scholarship for her talents…okay, maybe I’m a teensy little bit proud of her accomplishments!

In all honesty, none of these things truly matter. What I am most proud of is who she is: kind, conscious, respectful and a very centered, compassionate and connected young woman with a self-worth that is so much stronger than mine was at her age! She believes in herself; knows and accepts who she is and I can see how she also believes and sees these qualities in her peers; allowing her to not plug into the dramas that can plague the teenage years.

Last December she came to me confused as to the direction she would take or if she would even go to University or College at all! I inspired her to make the choice that felt good to her and hoped she would not make a decision to make us (her parents) happy or feel she “had” to continue her schooling past post-secondary as admittedly I had done. I encouraged her to follow her heart and do what she wanted to do and to know that I would support her in whatever that decision was.

Not wanting to interfere I did offer the suggestion, however, that she could apply to the programs she was interested in as it would be months later before she had to decide, and at least it would give her that option; not applying would have closed the door completely to going to school.

I didn’t even have one passion when I was her age; Melissa had two and so she applied for both: Fashion Design and Acting. She decided she would wait and see where she got accepted and go from there.

It was a very busy winter of auditions and portfolio preparations, and as I watched her have countless 20 hour days trying to also keep on top of her regular school work, I knew that her decision would become clearer to her. Melissa went away to Europe over Spring Break and had decided what she wanted to do…prior to the acceptances arriving.

As she was going through the process of her submissions, she connected with how she felt. She recognized that although she had a unique vision for fashion and the artistic talent for design, she admitted to herself that the construction and sewing of garments wasn’t something she really enjoyed…it felt too much like work!

She concurrently discovered the truth that she loved all aspects of drama…rehearsing lines…stage management…set design…cast meetings etc.; but more importantly, she had fun doing it all!

How lucky is she to have tapped into her passion and to enjoy it so that it doesn’t feel like work? Or is it luck?

I believe this is how it can be for everyone and probably one of the best gifts that I could have given Melissa is the example of doing what I love along with letting go of any kind of control or expectations as a parent of what she should do, what would make her the most successful, monetarily speaking, or what would be considered an acceptable path in my older and wiser (?) opinion.

She has always known that she could never be a disappointment to me and my love for is unconditional and is in no way correlated to her grades, career plans or anything else for that matter!

Over the years, I have developed a deep trust and respect for my daughter’s ability to know what is best for herself and even at the tender, yet oh so wise age of 17, that she has her own ‘GPS’ system that will guide her to create the life that she is meant to live.

Congratulations Melissa! I am so happy to have the privilege to be your mom and to watch you blossom into the beautiful young woman you are, inside and out, and I am excited for you as you embark on a new chapter of your life going away to college.

I know that where ever your journey leads you, you will always know the right path to choose for yourself as you listen to and follow your heart.

Author's Bio: 

As a personal trainer for emotional fitness, author, speaker and awareness coach, Jo-Anne Cutler is passionately committed to inspiring and empowering others to find more peace and happiness in their lives by becoming emotionally fit and in her role as a child advocate, empowering others to be the conscious connected parents, teachers and role models our children need them to be. She has created an audio program called Breaking the Cycle, is in the process of writing her own book, is a certified coach using The Inner Workout™ and is also the agent/manager for Colleen Hoffman Smith who created this transformational emotional fitness program. Jo-Anne is the author of several published articles, co-author of 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol. 2. and 101 Top Child Development and Parenting Articles. She offers private/virtual/phone coaching and consultations as well as a free monthly e-newsletter. Please visit