To Mom And Dad At High School Graduation: Thank You

To Mom And Dad At High School Graduation: Thank You

My parents aren't perfect, and that's what makes them incredible.
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Dear Mom and Dad,

Everyone is congratulating me for graduating high school, but it’s you who should be getting balloons and cards. I wouldn’t have made it to this point without your love, dedication, and occasional screams of frustration. Let’s be honest: I probably wouldn’t even wake up every morning without you yelling at me to get my butt out of bed OR ELSE.

Yep, I better make some major life adjustments before college or I’m screwed.

I know you’ll miss me as much as I’ll miss you. At least your water bill will be much lower without my hour-long showers -- but then again, any money you save on the water bill will just go towards my tuition (feeling the Bern yet?). If I forget to call, I’m sorry. You are the most important people in my life, and I’ll try to remember that when I’m intoxicated with first-semester freedom. If I do really stupid stuff, I’ll make sure it doesn’t show up on Facebook. I’ll probably stress you out at least once or twice over the next four years by switching my major to peace studies or art history, but don’t worry. I’ll switch it back.

We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything (and by “everything” I mean rap music), and no, you still haven’t convinced me that seven agonizing years of orchestra were necessary for the development of a decidedly unmusical person. But you’ve turned out to be right about pretty much everything else ever, so I’ll take your word for it.

I used to get angry at you for not being perfect, but now I know that this is exactly what makes you amazing. If you were incapable of doing wrong, parenting would be easy for you. But you are humans. Like the rest of humanity, you are constantly attacked with fear, doubt, worry, and confusion. And you have been selfless enough to hide that from me. You have put my interests before your own for the last seventeen years and counting.

I hope someday I can raise my own children as bravely and selflessly as you have raised me, but if I fail, at least they will have amazing grandparents to fall back on.

I am especially grateful that you taught me not only to love and honor God from a young age, but also to reasonably support my faith. We all reach a point where we must stop believing things because our parents tell us they are true, and start believing them because we are convinced of them ourselves. You gave me the tools I needed to do that.

I can never repay you for all of this. But you can be proud of who I’ve become. I know what is right and good and true, and I know that it is my duty to fight for those things. Everything you’ve poured into me is the fuel that will allow me to spread light over the darkness of this big, bad world.

Dad, Mom, thank you for everything. Thank you for the worry and schedules and budgeting that went into the opportunities I took for granted. Thank you for sticking to the rules you made even when I pushed back against them. Thank you for the 5-hour Calculus lessons that I didn’t appreciate at the time. Thank you for sheltering me from evil until I was ready to fight it. Thank you for the family writing contests, daily home-cooked meals, weekly hour-long drive to church, and everything else that has made being your daughter a privilege.

Can I make up for seventeen years of not saying “thank you” enough by repeating it over and over again now? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I love you both so much.

Love,

Your daughter

Cover Image Credit: http://lovebeingretired.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Graduation-hats-flying1.jpg

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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No Offense, Swifties, But We Shouldn't Need Celebrities Coaxing Us To Vote

Honestly, why did you wait for your favorite singer to tell you to register?

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The midterm election will be taking place this November and many people have been trying to encourage others to register to vote. Unfortunately, not many young people take advantage of their voting rights. According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly only 12% of people who range from 18- to 24-years-old voted in the 2016 Presidential Election. These previously low numbers have been inspiring campaign ads to push the youth to vote for the upcoming election. Celebrities are also taking the matter into their hands and are speaking out about voting. Icons like Taylor Swift and Rihanna have recently used their platform to encourage their young audience to vote.

But honestly, why did you wait for your favorite singer to tell you to register?

As much as I admire these celebrities for taking the initiative to persuade fans to vote, I'm a bit bothered at the fact that people are only voting because their idols told them to. Why are people suddenly realizing voting is important once their favorite stars open their mouths about the matter? As young adults, we should already be paying attention to national news and wanting to make a difference.

Buzzfeed News reported the number of voters who registered after Swift urged her audience. A statement from Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for Vote.org, quotes, "... 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift's post." While this appears to be great news, it's concerning knowing that those 65,000 citizens only registered after Swift's public announcement.

There are more important reasons why you should practice your right to vote.

Voting should be taken seriously. It's a privilege and a responsibility that all American citizens have. Our ballots direct us to what our future will look like, so it's imperative to consider your choice wisely. Our decisions will impact issues revolving healthcare, education, unemployment, foreign policies, etc.

These are huge subjects that can't be taken lightly. In order to fully grasp what each problem entails and what each party wants to do regarding them, we need to do heavy research. Sure, maybe it's not fun. But you know what's not fun? Letting other voices control your future.

People assume that our voices won't be heard because of the electoral college or that their one vote won't make a difference. That's not true. And it's that type of mindset that puts poor leaders into office. We need you guys at the polls in November. I know you vent on Twitter or complain to your friends about what's happening in the world right now, so why don't we start making the change?

YOUR VOICE MATTERS! Remember that.

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