First of all: CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Second: I’ve been thinking about what to give you for your college graduation for over six months now. (I tried to gather some advice for you — I wish there was more, but I hope you find what’s there to be helpful!)
I want to give you something that offers you clarity and comfort in the months ahead.
Something that symbolizes our relationship, something you can tuck into your pocket or wear around your neck and pull out when you’re feeling lonely and uncertain or like you need the reassurance that others have been through a similar journey before you.
I don’t presume to know the exact journey that lies ahead of you, but I do know what it feels like to be an intelligent, thoughtful, capable, bursting-with-creativity-and-desire recent college graduate who has so many hopes for the world, and so many questions. I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, the 21-year-old girl who felt those things is still there inside of me.
But this isn’t an essay about me, it’s a letter to you.
This is a letter to the phenomenal young woman who blew into my world at the age of what, 16? When you, the baby sister of one of my best friends, was in town visiting, and you came to my improv show and were ballsier than most of the 20- and 30-somethings in the crowd, jumping up onstage to play with me during the jam at the end. I said to Christina then, “My god, your sister is amazing.”
“I know,” she said.
I think we’ve had that exchange about a million times since.
You are amazing, Lindsay. Amazing for your strength and courage, your boldness, your softness, your warmth, your capacity and the hope that charges through you that’s stronger than any electric current. For the music inside you that bursts into dance, for the love you show, for your keen and incredible mind.
For the love you’ve shown my daughter.
For the way that you see people.
Never stop seeing.
I wish I could take you by the hand and make any hardship that lies ahead melt into butterscotch. I wish I could fill your life with ooey-gooey goodness the way you fill so many others’, the way you will fill the lives of the children you teach this fall. I wish that being a good friend to a 21-year-old woman was like parenting a 3-year-old girl, when so much is solved with a colorful band-aid. But actually, there’s a lot that’s the same: Being present. Encouraging. Listening. And so I want you to know, you have my lifelong promise to do all of those things for you. You already have an incredible sister, and mother, and partner (heyyy, L-dawg), but (and) if they all neglect to answer their cell phones at the exact same time, or you ever want a special breed of advice or listening that you think I’m best suited to provide, please call. Please ask.
I’ll always answer.
Something I’m learning as a mother and human being is that there’s no substitute for letting someone learn things for themselves. I can’t package up all the wisdom that I’ve gained over the years and give it to you in pill-form to make your journey more joyful or less painful. You need to live your way into the answers. Thank goodness, really, that there are no short-cuts to rob you of the opportunity to experience for yourself the exquisiteness of it all, the joy AND the pain, and to emerge stronger and deeper from every hardship or challenge. Thank goodness, because going through that journey, i.e. LIVING, will make you even more beautiful, and that is something the world does not want to miss.
Happy graduation, Lindsay. Onto the next chapter.
I am always, always here for you.
That’s my gift to you.
…Well, that, and a big, fat cocktail.
Photo of letter writing by Ryan Blanding