18 years. 18 years of always being together, always coming home and shouting "Hey mom, I'm home!" and rambling on to tell you about my day and all of the semi-exciting things that happened. You've been my ranting buddy, my favorite shotgun rider, and my shoulder to cry on. We've gotten so used to being together that it seems crazy that I'm moving seven hours away in less than five months. Whenever I ask you if you're excited for me, you always try to smile and say, "Yes, I just want you to be safe and happy." I know you're worried about me going out into this big, scary world alone and you're sad to see me go, but it's time to let go. You've raised me to be ready for this moment, to venture out into the world and follow my dreams. It's scary for both of us to see me go off into the unknown, but with you in my heart, we'll always be together.

You've raised me to be strong, courageous, independent and motivated to succeed, and I will always carry these things with me wherever I go.

While you're letting me go, this isn't goodbye forever. I'll be home for the holidays, and I promise that if something even minorly important happens in my life, you'll know. Just because 500 miles separates us doesn't mean you won't be with me wherever I go.

I promise that my first and sole priority will be my education, as I've worked incredibly hard to be ready for this next phase of my education and chapter of my life.

I promise to protect myself and my heart and to watch out for my best interests in every situation.

I promise to eat a vegetable sometimes and to keep my dorm clean.

I promise to call home at least once a week (probably more, let's be real here) and to Facetime often.

This time is exciting and scary for both of us (change always is), but you've been preparing me my whole life for this, and I'm going to be just fine. Take heart knowing that I'm going to thrive in the unknown, taking new risks and working hard to succeed while exploring the world that I've been longing to see for so long. While 500 miles will separate us, I'll always remember everything you've instilled in me over the years, and you'll always be in my heart. It's time to let go.