Alternate title: One of the youngest and brightest heads to the oldest and the best
A letter to my oldest, as she ventures further along the path intended for her…..
School bag all packed and ready to go.
Funny, I typed Abu first. She’s with us watching over you as you go, you know. I’ve never been so sure of anything as I am that.
I need you to know you can do this. I know it doesn’t seem like it to you, but you have done amazing things so far, and you will only continue to amaze. You have it in you. Just reach down deep inside and grab hold of it. The same thing that allowed you to move halfway across the world and let your light shine, the strength that had you starting over at a new school six times and finding your niche, and the passion that helped you figure out what you believe and stand up for what is right—all of that will see you through.
No matter what twists and turns this path takes you on, always remember that we all share this world, and we all have the same right to be here. Remember that people really want to be heard, so be sure to listen. Not just with your ears but also with your heart.
I know we say “grace abounds” quite often around here, but do you really get it? That means that when you unload the dishwasher when the dishes aren’t clean, I need to be more gracious in my response. And that when our friend calls and says he wants to get sober and off the streets, again *sigh*, we continue to love and support him. That means that whatever story you have to share, I will listen. And it means when your roommate wakes you up, coming in late from whatever path she’s on, you forgive and forget and move on. You see what I’m saying? Grace. Don’t leave home without it.
Make it a priority to learn people’s names. Everyone’s. From your classmates to your big sisters to the lady who cooks your lunch to the “workman” who fixes your leaky sink. Learn their names and say them. Shows folks they matter, and shows you know they do. It’s just the right thing to do.
I’m going to mess up. I’m going to be pushy and ask you questions that will tread all over your new-life independence. And I’m going to suggest how you might do something differently. I’ll just go ahead and apologize now. I’m sorry. It’s what I do. But I will try my best not to do it more than once or twice. A week. Deal?
And you’re going to mess up. You’re going to overcommit or forget an assignment or do less than your best on a project. You’re going to, at some point, feel like there is a big old “FAIL” etched across your forehead. Rest assured it’s not. Get up, dust yourself off, and try, try again. Keep on keepin’ on. That’s what Maemae and Cap used to tell me. All those many times I felt like “Fail” was my new middle name. All those times I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide from my mistakes. That was their solution—try again. And you know what? They were right. They were always right. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
You are about to meet all kinds of kinds. Try not to judge. I know it’s hard, but that is one of the worst things you can do—for yourself and for them. You might miss out on knowing someone really awesome because you’ve dismissed them based on some kind of first impression that winds up being totally skewed and off track. Don’t be heard sharing the failures or missteps of others. That’s common as pig tracks and besides, it hurts folks. That whole “do unto others” thing that Maemae preached about on a daily basis—that’s what this is all about. You don’t want others telling about your missteps, let those of others go as well.
At the same time, be wise. Surround yourself with strong people who are full of positive energy. It’s not your job to fix crazy or toxic or hurting people. You can be kind, but don’t take that on yourself. One of the best things you can do for a toxic person is to let them go. And point them in the direction of help. And that’s it. I know that sounds harsh, but in the words of a wise therapist, “It’s okay to choose healthy.” And your Mama highly recommends it.
Don’t let your past be your excuse. Ever. It can be a launching point and a reminder of how not to be, but don’t let it be an excuse. You can rise above those who haven’t been what they should have in your life. Don’t let them live in your head rent-free. It’s time to evict them. Forever.
Make time to laugh. And try new things. Stay in touch with your artistic self. Listen to your music. Sing out loud. Explore and take walks. Give yourself permission to reinvent yourself but don’t change who you are. (I know, I sound like one of those judges on a reality tv show—”be yourself but not so much, ‘kay?”) I hope that makes sense. You are wonderful just as you are, but you can branch out and do more, do different. Swim. Ride. Make your own adventures. You have what it takes. Go for it.
Get plenty of sleep. You know how you get. Sorry, you got that from me. And when in doubt, take a shower. You know how they make you feel better. If something ever starts weighing heavy on your heart, call me. If that doesn’t help or isn’t an option in the moment, look at your painting you created last Sunday:
Because it’s not. I don’t want you to take it too lightly either, but I doubt you will. So, I remind you what Maemae would say, “It’s all for the fun of it.”
Finally, if you find yourself doubting you can do this or if you are ready, remember what Maemae said, “It’s time. You are ready for this.” And as our Princess reminded us the other day:
“Maemae said you can do it, and she was always usually wise, so I know you can.”
Love you, forever and always, to the moon and back,
ps–just for the fun of it–
“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a Pirate. Then be a Pirate.” 🙂
And from the lyrics of your new favorite song–“Keep yo’ business off of Facebook!” (For those who haven’t heard the song, click here.) Just really good advice. Love you.