My Dearest Darling Baby Brother –
I can’t quite believe that you are graduating from high school! This makes you a bona fide adult; it makes me very old. I have been writing this letter in my head for the last six months. What to say to the new grad? So here it is: as your older (questionably) wiser, sister, I wanted to offer you some pieces of sound advice for your beautiful, magnificent future:
Be open-minded. Really, this is pretty much all I got. I know we kid about how you were born a little old man, but there is some truth in that. You were born with opinions on everything. Now that you are an adult, you’re still pretty rigid in your beliefs, which is often a good thing: hey, you’ve got convictions! But I think, as you go through life, you will find that opening up your mind to new people, places, and experiences will make you that much more of a person. You’ll become more empathetic; you’ll learn how to relate to different people, and you’ll be able to build a fuller picture of this world, and where you want your place to be in it. I am still doing this, every day. It’s a lifelong process. But I do try (and sometimes fail) to wake up every day very grateful. We are blessed to have all of the things we do at this point in time; and the wonderful thing is, the future is ours to do with what we make it. Never let anyone tell you who you are or where you fit or what you can’t do. Decide who you are; decide what you want to be, and go for it. Realize now that anything you want in this life, you can have; you just have to work hard and take chances and be good to other people.
Which brings me to my next point: Be good to other people. This can be difficult. The world is chock-full of douchebags. Some days you may feel superior. Don’t. Just try to be nice; remember that not everyone has been afforded the opportunities you have had. Everyone has a story; a reason for why they are the way they are. Try to be kind; try to get to know people. You’ll decide who you like and who isn’t your cup of tea. Just don’t make snap judgments about people because of race, age, social class, or the like. You could end up missing something or someone fantastic that way.
And also: travel. I know you don’t want to hear it now; hell, I didn’t do much travel in college. But take it from me; this is how you learn about yourself. This is how you see what you are made of; whether at the swim-up bar in DR, drinking Sammy Sosas, or driving through the Jordanian desert at night, scared shitless. Travel is beautiful, exhilarating, and sometimes terrifying, but always worth the trouble. And hey, if you need a travel buddy, you know J and I are always up for an adventure.
When I was graduating high school, a cheesy song was popular based on a college commencement address (“Wear sunscreen” ring a bell?). In it, one piece of advice was: Do one thing every day that scares you. Ever since I first heard it, I haven’t been able to shake that one. I live by it. Whether I am giving a presentation, flying on a plane, traveling to the Middle East, or getting married, I always try to step out of my comfort zone. I believe it’s how we grow and become more self-aware. Disclaimer: please don’t do anything stupid, like chug 20 beers or base jump. As your older sister, I have to draw the line somewhere.
The day you came home from the hospital nearly 19 years ago, I knew we’d be fast friends. We had a very special bond from the start; I always felt I had to protect you. I hope, in your estimation, I’ve done a good job; I hope you’ll look after my babies someday as I looked after you.
I want you to know how sincerely proud I am of you. You are a wonderful person with a big heart. You have had to withstand great pain in your young life, and I know that has shaped you. I hope that you are able to move forward in your life and be happy. I hope you feel your dad’s presence in your life everyday in the best possible way. He is looking after you; and I know how immensely proud he would be of you as well. He loved you with every fiber of his being, as all of those who know you do. I know you will continue to do him proud.
I love you more than I could possibly say in a Word doc. Know that I - along with J - am always here for you. And have fun! You are about to embark upon the best days of your life. Enjoy every single moment, and study every so often.
I know you’ll go far.