To my lovely friends --
You are about to embark on a journey; one full of highs and lows, good and bad, triumphs and failures. There is a lot to joyfully anticipate: new experiences, new people and new ideas. However, I know that there is a great amount of fear in the unknown.
What if you don't get along with others? What if you don't end up where you want to be?
What if you fail?
So, before I have to say goodbye, I'm going to give you the only thing I think is appropriate for this time in our lives: a bit of wisdom.
Whether I've known you for a decade or we just met this year, I've witnessed each of you struggle with something. From illness to divorce to death in the family, you have battled with and overcome your challenges with dignity and poise. Though you may not think of your difficulties as a big deal or consequential, these problems you've faced have shaped you into the strong, capable individual that you are today, and I am forever proud of you and your fortitude. But there is much more about you that I am proud of: your generosity, your spirit, your joy, and your drive to never ever let these wonderful qualities be taken from you or compromised. It takes a strong person to stand in the face adversity, but it arguably takes an even stronger person to stand firmly in who they are and what they believe in. You have never lost sight of your incredible self, not for popularity, nor a romantic interest, nor a bully. I am so very proud of you and all that you've accomplished and overcome thus far, and you too should be proud of yourself.
I do have a point in all this talk about your strength in personhood; it's honestly incredibly rare to find a person like yourself. Because despite all the things you have suffered through up to this point, you have never let the world rob you of who you are. Whereas others fall to group think or a current trend, you are unabashed in yourself, your personality and your interests. Many of you comment on how it appears I don't too much care for the opinions of others, and it's true that I don't. But all in all, you too have never changed your core values for the sake of pleasing others. In the same way you admire my lack of concern for others' judgements, you should admire your own steadfastness in character. Please, promise me you'll never change for anyone but yourself. Because at the end of the day, as you fall asleep, it's you that you are left with. People and concepts may not be with you forever, but you are with yourself from the moment you are born until the moment you die. Plus, it would be so very foolish to change someone as lovely as yourself.
Now, this reflection on your past and reminder of your strength brings us to the reality of your future. You are headed off on a new adventure, and though things may look uncertain or terrifying now, I can promise you that you are completely fine. Though this step is a big one, you are well prepared to take it. In the same way I am here writing this letter after years of learning the alphabet and vocabulary and grammar, you are here moving into this next phase of life after years of accruing strength and skills and a personhood unlike any other. You are ready. I know you are. I've watched you grow like a flower in the rays of the sun, be watered by the love and joy of others, and get dragged down by weeds and thorns and come up yet again. It's time for you to bloom.
Though I may not be there with you as you enter this chapter of life, please know that I carry each of you in my heart and love you very deeply. Though this may sound banal, you are so special to me and you truly make me a happier, better person. You have taught me so much about myself and kept me on my toes, and for that I am forever grateful. I wish I could tell you what your future holds, but I know you will find success in whatever you do and wherever you go, as you are an amazing, brilliant person with so much to offer. So, take chances, live it up and enjoy every moment of what's to come!
Now, I'd like to end with one of my favorite quotes:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails." - Mark Twain
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