A little girl made me cry on my first visit to the ROM last week.

We didn’t notice each other at first; we were both staring intensely at a velociraptor. Randomly, we caught each other’s eyes. She smiled, then skipped away to join her family. Her young mom scooped her up and showered her with kisses. My eyes welled up with tears. I wondered, will I ever get to scoop up my own daughter? 

The debate over whether or not I want to have children is one I started with myself years ago. I wonder if I will ever feel ready, if my life will ever feel stable enough that I wouldn’t cause undue psychological damage to any offspring. I wonder if I’m even able to have children, because for all I know, I can’t. What I can and have been doing, however, is keeping a mental list of things to tell my prospective daughter (or son). If I ever have a of my own to swoop up at the ROM, these are a few of the things I’ll say:

Some people will try to tell you that money buys happiness; others will tell you to follow your dreams even if it means you’ll be dirt poor. Try to find a happy balance between the two. While you can’t eat money, most establishments will accept money in exchange for food, which, in many cases, is better than happiness. Just wait until you learn about poutine.

Some people will tell you to dance like no one is looking. Good tip. I’d like you to take it one step further: request songs like no one can hear them. Sure, your friends will pretend to be embarrassed that you keep harassing the DJ who is pretending not to have your song (he secretly DOES have the song and your friends are secretly proud of your persistence), but you will feel victorious when you hear the first notes of George Michael’s Freedom.

Some people will try to make you feel ugly. They’re wrong. They probably feel ugly themselves and that’s the only way they can make themselves feel better. Have a bit of compassion for them, then completely ignore them.

Some people will try to tell you you’re beautiful. They’re right. Beauty comes in different shapes, sizes and colours, and from different places, like your brain or your heart or your laugh. But remember that beauty is not the be-all-end-all. There are more important things in life than beauty, like strength of character, keeping your word, patience and loyalty. Don’t lose sight those in an effort to be anyone’s definition of beauty, even your own.

Some people are going to break your heart. Let them. Heartbreak is at once one of the most dehumanizing and humanizing experiences out there. Yes, it will suck the life out of you and you will question your sanity and you will do stupid, often self-destructive things that will worry me, but part of me will get it. And that’s the upside: you’ll be able to connect with anyone who’s had their heart broken, which is pretty much everyone.

Some people you love who are around right now won’t always be around. I wish that wasn’t true, but since it is, don’t wait until it’s too late to tell them how you feel, no matter how ridiculous you might seem. Most of the great things in life are at least a little ridiculous.

Follow Erica on Twitter @ericaruthkelly