My dearest daughter,
As you get ready to embark on the next chapter of your life, I want to be sure that I share some advice with you. I’m sure we will both be too busy and too emotional for me to remember all the little things I have not yet taught you. So as you transition from living at home to living at college, let me share some thoughts:
First, know that I am so very proud of the young woman you are and will become. I am honored that you are my daughter and humbled by your wisdom, kind heart, tenacity, and perseverance. Simply, you amaze me. I know you will thrive in college and that you will make a mark on campus as a leader because that is who you are.
I am excited for you and worried about the world I am sending you out into. I know you are strong and well prepared for this next chapter. We have been together almost every single day of your life, every moment of every day, for 18-1/2 years. My goal has always been to protect you and shield you from some of the worst things in society while showing you enough so that these things don’t blindside you when you encounter them – drug addiction/alcoholism, domestic violence, racial violence, general dysfunction, etc…However, you have still led a fairly sheltered life in our little highly educated college community where people have evidence based discussions grounded in scholarship and reason. Sadly, that is not the world you are inheriting.
I have always believed that people are inherently good and want to do the right thing. Lately, this core belief of mine is being challenged. Every day there is some new level of depravity that humanity is sinking into, that some politician is exhorting, that some policeman is subjecting a person of color to. Because of the way our world is changing, I now approach people with suspicion, assuming the worst to protect myself from what might happen in any given situation. I don’t want you to live in constant suspicion of others but I want you to be aware, wary, and ready. Humans are capable of evil and horrible things, especially when they are part of a group. Don’t let this stop you from doing good or living your life, just be alert to the possible ways any situation can change in a millisecond and be prepared to act – leave or fight. Sometimes it is a matter of survival.
You are the person who has always stood up for others more vulnerable than you. I remember in elementary school you stood up to older kids harassing younger kids on the bus or kids bullying other kids with disabilities. The way you have embraced a wide diversity of people has made me so proud of you, of who you are at the very core of your being. Keep standing up and speaking out, keep standing against intolerance and hate, keep standing with and for those who are more vulnerable. The reality of our country right now is that there are more and more instances of these things – adults harassing children; people being singled out because of gender, race, sexual orientation/identity, disability; people generally behaving badly. Sometimes these things come from friends or family, those closest to us. We all have to call this out when we see it. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying, “hey, that was uncalled for” or as extreme as standing between the person being harassed or bullied and the one causing harm. If the latter, I hope you find a way to diffuse the situation and help the more vulnerable person put distance between themselves and the harasser. Try to find safe ways of intervening.
Know who your allies are. There are so many good people on campus. I have some friends there that you can turn to and you will make your own connections. Learn who is an ally that you can turn to when you are in need. Different people have different skills sets and can leverage power in different ways. Be thoughtful and strategic. Some people will help you recharge your energy stores so that you can face new challenges, some can connect you with important opportunities that will carry you to the next level, some will help you strategize. Find the people who contribute to your life and journey, that fill you up, and bring out the best in you. The best relationships are those that are mutually beneficial where both parties bring out the best in each other. Surround yourself with people who are doing good, making good choices, and moving forward – people who are motivated.
Find the spaces and opportunities for yourself that challenge you and push you to new thinking, that open new doors, that may chart a new course for your life. Greet these new things with excitement and energy. You have a wonderful privilege and opportunity and are attending an amazing school. So many times in my life, I have let fear of the unknown hold me back. I was afraid to go too far without knowing how things might work out for me on the other end. Know that I am always here for you every single day. I will do all I can to help prevent full-on disaster. So go experience the world, see things, meet people, explore new possibilities and know if you find yourself in a huge jam, I got you. That doesn’t mean I will jump in to save you every time you stumble or that I will save you from every bad choice. It means that if you are chasing some dream because it is in your heart and it doesn’t work out, I will always have time, food, and a roof for you.
Immerse yourself in learning as much as you can while you are in college. This is the one time of your life that is set aside for you to learn and explore new ideas, new theories, history, literature, disciplines. Explore deeply. Dedicate yourself to learning. That includes attending classes, reading the assigned readings, studying, and often times going outside of class materials to learn more. Ask for help when you need it, when you struggle with a class or a concept, advocate for yourself. After college, when you are in the work world, you will not have the time to devote to full-time study. This is your opportunity to really get into the subjects that interest you and learn something about those that do not. You get to spend this time learning about and shaping your world view, the thing that will guide so much of your life and how you choose to live. Embrace the moment and take advantage of everything these college years have to offer.
Finally, hold on to the core of who you are. You have always been a strong willed person, you have known your own mind, and have been stubbornly focused. You have a strong moral compass that guides the decisions you make and the ways in which you interact with others. You have a huge and kind heart but a no nonsense kind of attitude, you put up with far less from people than I have. You refuse to lie down and be a doormat for others. You are strong, powerful, and knowledgeable. You are thoughtful and considerate of others. You are tenacious and go after what you want with full steam. Don’t ever let anyone make you doubt yourself or make you feel small. Stand tall, firm, and hold your head up. You, my dear daughter, are a force to be reckoned with. I know you will make good decisions, I have faith in that and in you. I know you will continue to rise and do amazing things in your communities and the world. I am proud of you, honored to know you, and privileged to be your mom.