Six years ago, I turned thirteen.

It's so strange to think I was once your age, leaving a place that had sheltered me as a child. I vaguely recall entering Rocky Run and feeling like someone had pushed me out of my skin, my comfort zone. I missed Massachusetts, the snow, and the elementary school friends I had made. I was on the cusp of teenagedom, and whatever juvenile ties I had in Lowell were firmly uprooted and planted in a completely different environment. I didn't know how public schools worked, and I certainly didn't know how there could be more than forty kids in a grade.

In five words: I didn't belong in Virginia.

I had been raised for twelve years believing that swearing was bad, any spaghetti-strapped shirts were distasteful, and premarital sex was a one-way ticket to hell. And suddenly, I was being shoved into a school where girls wore a little too much makeup and boys wore their pants a little too low. The experience with public schools was more than I had bargained for, and it was something I rejected for a long time. I couldn't wrap my mind around how much freedom there was and how different things were.

I don't think our mom had any idea what she was signing up for when she hauled us back to Virginia. She wanted to be closer to our dad, I know that, but I don't think she realized how difficult it would have been for me. I can't say for Donny (maybe he'll tell his experiences), and you were too young to remember anything. At thirteen, I was learning to fit in again, trying to carve a place for myself in middle school. If the idea of fitting in seems foreign to you, don't worry. Once you're a little older, you'll understand.

To be honest, Babby, I don't know how you'll transition into your teenage years. I know you'll say something like, "Whatever, Vien. I'm still going to be me, and nothing's going to change." But that's what everyone says. Change isn't something that happens overnight. You've grown up so much this past year, but I still see that bit of childhood innocence in you, which you have to preserve as much as possible. You have the rest of your life to be an adult--spend this time enjoying what you can.

With as much love and adoration an older sister can muster up, here are my heartfelt advices for a newly teenaged you:

1. Less is more. -- This is so, so true for makeup, I promise you. So many people have complimented me on looking great without makeup. And guess what? You have the same complexion as I do.

2. In an argument with our mom, you will lose 90% of the time. -- I have personally tested this for six years.

3. Always look left before making a right turn. -- You'll have to wait three years before this can apply to you, but this is especially important. I've earned enough honks and middle fingers for the rest of my life.

4. You'll never be fat. -- No matter how many times I call you Baby Fatso or Jelly Bean, I don't mean it. I'm a jealous whore who hates anyone skinnier than me. Don't fall into peer pressure about what you look like, don't follow my path, don't spend time pinching your stomach in front of the mirror, just... don't. It's horrible, and it will take years before you get out of that negative mindset.

5. Boys are idiots. -- High school romances are not worth it. They rarely transcend brief attractions, and in the end you'll only be left with a broken heart and the burning question of, "WHY DIDN'T HE LOVE ME?" Don't put all your eggs into one basket because chances are, he's going to drop that basket and create a mess.

Corollary: Girls are idiots. -- They're backstabbing and conniving, so watch out who you call your best friends.

I don't claim to have the perfect teenage experience. In fact, I'm positive our mom lost five years off her life putting up with my temper. But I feel you won't be as troublesome as me. I constantly goad you to do stupid things, and you're smart to say no. I tell you all the stuff my friends do, and you have enough common sense to say, "That's dumb." Good. I do plenty of dumb things, so be smart and learn from my mistakes. Learn from your experiences, but don't waste time learning the same things.

Your eyes are probably glazed, and more likely than not, you're drooling on your keyboard now. If there's anything you should take out of this note, then take this: never jeopardize your morals. Our parents raised us well, so don't throw away their hard work.

Happy 13th birthday, Babby.