Song for My Daughter

Life can be one long love song, a musical scrapbook of your greatest hits, a jumble of waltzes and nocturnes, hip-hop moments, and two-part inventions that weave melodies in your head with harmonies in your heart.

Life can also be one long dirge, a monotone drone without shape or nuance, a thin and reedy voice drifting over swampy waters and the five-o’clock shadow of parched fields, sad and sorry and soul-less.

You’re twenty-one years old. I would go for Option A.

Here’s the thing. You’re the composer. You’re also the conductor, the Maestra. At this point in your life, with teachers and parents and colleagues and friends telling you what to do and where to go, you probably don’t feel like you’re in charge of anything. But you are. You get to choose your life song. You, as a strong young woman living with the comforts of the modern world, can pluck the best notes, the finest sounds, from your musical garden. You can string notes together any way you like. They can be cliché and smooth—a daisy chain of simplicity—or rough and raging, as thorny and complicated as the world around you. The notes, when linked together, will lead you somewhere or nowhere, far away or back home, to the hardened soil of foreign lands or the soft chairs of familiar rooms. All of these places will be safe, because you own them; they will be part of your soundscape.

Like generations of women before you, you will encounter swollen, oily men with grabby hands and bloated egos. You will walk into seemingly harmless situations—petal-strewn pastures that turn into minefields capable of shredding your confidence and obliterating your self-esteem. When you’re not treated well, speak up. Do not play the shame blame game. Shout out the name of the offender and move on. Let punctuated shrieks of anger and survival be part of your life’s soundtrack.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Expect respect in every aspect of your life. You are not a princess. You are a queen. Off with the metaphorical head of anyone who flunks the human dignity test.

Move on. Can I say that often enough? No.

I promise you this: Good guys do roam the earth—you will meet them and they will acknowledge and appreciate your wisdom and strength. Accept no less.

You will succeed; you will fail. You will laugh and cry. You will fall in and out of love. You will stumble in the haze of romance, dance on the toes of an unsuspecting partner, and shield your tired eyes from loss and  loneliness. You will study and work and then study some more. You will have babies or not. You will learn to say yes; you will learn to say no. You will speak up and sit down, stand tall and stop short. You will figure out what you want; you’ll decide what you need. You will learn to say goodbye.

When you are old, say, fifty or so, you will shout, “This is my song!” Some will sing along. Some will plead indifference. Others will think you’re crazy. At this point in your life, and you can trust me on this, you won’t care. You’ll be proud to have a song worth singing.

Is there anyplace better than where you are, right now? You’re ready to pick up the conductor’s baton, poised to deliver the downbeat, prepared to guide your orchestra through a musical score full of highs and lows, crescendos and diminuendos, full stops, repeat signs, and codas. Anything might happen.

Go for it, Maestra. Find your song. Be fierce.

Photo of Julia Goldsby by Annike Elisabeth Luise.

Robin Meloy Goldsby is a Steinway Artist. She is the author of Piano Girl; Waltz of the Asparagus People: The Further Adventures of Piano Girl; and Rhythm: A Novel.  

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  1. Carol Ann Habich-Traut says

    Well said. To be reread often lest we forget.

  2. Carrie Swing says

    So beautifully written, Robin. It brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Strong, tender, melodious, and well said (as usual) Robin. I will forward to my daughter. Hugs, Holli

  4. Joyce McGhee says

    Wonderful essay filled with wisdom to a beautiful daghter!

  5. BRAVO! Gorgeous words to share.

  6. Melissa Volker says

    love love love love love. A beautiful gift to your daughter and message to the world.

  7. Tracy McGhee Moede says

    Beautiful, Robin! I’ll be sharing this with Becka and Ally 🙂 Thank you for the words that fit the thoughts in my head that I would like my girls to know.