A few short weeks from now, you’ll be double-checking suitcases, backpacks and new student lists as you prepare to leave your home and enter the world of higher education. As I look at the excitement, anticipation and impatience on your face and see the amazing person you’ve become, my heart swells more than I ever thought it could.
I know the last thing you want to hear right now is yet more advice from a woman who’s been offering it, wanted or not, your entire life. But there’s something I’ve tried to teach you, maybe more by example than anything else, and I need to say it—to know that you know.
As you move out into the world with your mind hungry to learn new things and find new experiences, know that not all of the lessons are going to be good ones. That’s OK. I believe in my heart that the world is good and beautiful, but there are places, situations and sometimes even people who are not.
That’s why it’s important to never become too busy to soak in the beauty around you, to look for it and to celebrate it. But when you find those who have had it taken from them or were never taught to look, don’t flinch. Don’t let yourself become callous or hard. Instead, look for ways to share some part of your joy with them.
When you meet people, make sure you look them in the eye and never judge someone based on appearances. The true measure of a person is taken over time and should be based more on their deeds than looks or words alone.
Hopefully you’ll always find more kindness and compassion on the ledger than anything else. But if you’re faced with something otherwise, don’t flinch. Turning a blind eye to the ugliness in life is how apathy is born.
I have done my best to teach you how to be strong, to know who you are and to never compromise that part of yourself. As you leave the known comfort of your home, you’re going to meet those who aren’t able to be strong for themselves. Age and circumstance may have brought them to a place where they just don’t have anything left. Don’t flinch. These are the people who will need your strength most. Stand firm in what you know is right, even if you find yourself standing alone. It won’t always be the easy or popular road to take, but it should be the only one.
I pray that you never find yourself face-to-face with true evil, because it does exist. I’m not talking about the creatures from horror movies, but the senseless pain, emotional and physical, that we humans are capable of inflicting on each other. If you one day find yourself standing in such a dark shadow, don’t flinch.
Ignoring the areas where the light is dimmest is where true darkness begins. It never descends in one fell swoop, but creeps in a little at a time until the day something unimaginable becomes acceptable. Evil, no matter how well lit your world may seem, is never acceptable.
I know you’ve grown up surrounded by family and friends who love you. The knowledge that what touches one member of your circle affects all of it is something you’ve always understood. There’s a bigger part of that picture I hope you never flinch away from; every last man, woman and child is part of that circle. When tragedy strikes one, those ripples will affect each and every person in some small way. In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be an “us” or a “them,” only an “all.”
Please try to understand that it’s not all bad, since we don’t just share in the burdens, but also in the joys and happiness. I hope you never flinch away from those either.
This all sounds overwhelming, right? I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it can be. The hardest part is learning how to open your heart and your mind without losing yourself. Sometimes it hurts like hell, especially when you want to help, yet there’s seemingly nothing you can do.
The only wisdom I have to offer for that is, try to put more good into this life than what you take out of it. Because I know, just as surely as the sun will rise, those things will send their own ripples into every other life as well.
Know that you’re not always going to be successful, but you won’t always fail either. Each of us ultimately sets our own goals and determines how we go about achieving them, so never let someone else’s definition weigh you down or bolster you up.
Lastly, remember that life is meant to be lived. Whenever you see the possibility for love, laughter and happiness, grab onto it, hold on tight, and don’t ever flinch.
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