An Open Letter to My Cousin Going to FSU

This is a letter I gave to my cousin before he departed for his first year at FSU:

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When I was 14, your dad wrote me a coming-of-age letter that I have kept near to my heart to this day. In fact, I keep it at my desk as a reminder of time, love, respect, and determination. He gave me great advice, "As you get older, balance within yourself will become more important. I believe if you keep everything in moderation, you will overcome any difficult obstacles." These words still ring true to this day, and my life experience has taught me that moderation takes wisdom, resilience, and humility – characteristics I'm still striving to possess. Fortunately, you are not me and possess these in abundance.

You have been a caring, thoughtful guy since the day you were born. You care, and I implore you to never lose that. Caring is cool, and don't let anyone tell you different. Compassion is rare and beautiful, already making you an invaluable piece of this world. If you're unsure and think, "what's Wiley talking about?", then let's look at the synonyms. You're tenacious, dedicated, invested. You set your sights on becoming better; competing against yourself while maintaining a strong code of honor.

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Humor might be your true native language. You have a clear sense of what's funny and seem to live with a smile. I'm sure you've been through struggles and calamity, but – from my perspective – you make it through with a good attitude. There isn't much we can control in this world, but our attitudes and relationships are our responsibility. They will define who you are as a man, and you've already begun that process. So far, I see a man with a positive, can-do attitude who respects those around him.

You have earned where you are in life. Your parents and sister have been there to support and inspire you, and for that you should be eternally grateful (be grateful!). Actually, over the next four years you should keep what they have done, do, and will do in mind. Like, really appreciate their love, gifts, sacrifices, and do NOT be afraid to show it (I may have underappreciated my family in the past, so I'm projecting. Pay no attention to the man behind the keyboard). It's easy to lose yourself in Tallahassee. Having said that, don't sell your accomplishments and growth short. You have done the work and become who you are, and that's no easy feat. I would say I can't wait to see you grow into a successful man, but I missed the boat because here you are.

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Your dad promised me in a P.S. that he was saving his girl speech for my 15th birthday. My memory, being what it is, falters and I have no idea if we got into that topic. AND I'm pretty sure I missed THAT boat as well with you, so I will refrain from introducing you to the birds and the bees. I will, however, say this: treat the girls you will meet over the next couple of years with respect and kindness (treat everybody with respect, but we are clearly delving into a focused topic). They will be flirty, tricksy, confusing, random, mysterious, provoking, erratic, beautiful, incorrigible, insatiable, insane… and it's your responsibility and privilege to know them and be a gentleman. While I personally cringe at the, "that's someone's daughter/treat them like you want your sister or mom to be treated" advice due to its scarring undertones, it's true. I'm not saying this as a warning, but a reminder that every guy needs. Charm and court them, you're a handsome devil!

College will introduce you to a brand new set of experiences, people, knowledge, issues, and the like. You are eons ahead of me when I went to college. You are mature, thoughtful, and calm – the perfect trinity for defending against the college lifestyle. Have fun, and I know I'd like to come visit so you can show an old cousin the ropes. I'm not worried about your next couple of years because I can't think of anyone else more ready for this responsibility.

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Your mother is amazing, and I wish I spoke more about her in this letter. I wanted this to focus on the tropes of being a man and your next steps into the world, but never forget her love and support. Our moms are our number one fans; they will love you forever, like you for always, and as long as you're living, your mother they'll be. My mom would sing that to me when I was a kid, and I sing it quietly from time to time when I think of her. You might get into spats as you grow which is natural, but remember where she is coming from. Everything she thinks and does is for her kids.

You are a strong man with a good head on your shoulders, a strong heart in your chest, two sturdy legs that keep you grounded, and a huuuuugggeeee personality. At the end of your dad's letter to me was his hope to describe his son as respectful, honorable, courageous, humble, proud, and charismatic as he grew up. Dude, I don't think he could be prouder because that is who you are.

I love you, and congratulations. I wish you the best of luck in the coming years and will be here as a resource, friend, and example of what not to do. Go 'Noles

Your cousin.

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