A letter to us

With currently working at a college and the semester coming to an end, it got me thinking about myself senior year.  My arms wide open and ready, but also trembling.  I couldn't help but write a letter. To the person I was then, who some days feels so far and different from the woman I am now and while others, feels exactly the same.

So this letter is to you college grad, but really, it's to all of us, it's to me, because we're all students - we're all learning how to patch up skinned knees when we fall and ask for forgiveness.  

We're all just trying to find our way.

Dear you,

You're okay.  You know that?  Yeah, you are okay.

All those answers you think you need to figure out - the answers to life's big, big questions - what I want to do, where I should go - you don't need to have those answers right now.

And if I am being really honest, you might still be asking those questions five years later at age 26. And, if I am being really, really honest, we might not ever have the answers to those questions.

Because life isn't one big question to figure out. It's a constant unfolding and folding of experiences, of heartbreak and job offers and coffee dates and choosing to wake up early to see the sunrise.

It's a mosaic portrait, the one where you stand real close and see lots of shiny, colorful tiles - blues, reds and yellows. And inch by inch, as you step back, a picture unfolds. And suddenly, you don't see each individual tile anymore.

You barely see them at all.

I know that seems crazy.  What, with everyone around you finding and landings jobs. With some folks having a great big plan already.

You don't have to have a great big plan.

Celebrate that the next step you take, might look different than everybody else. And you know what? That's a good thing.

Ask yourself, what is it you want, right now? Not what do your parents want or your best friend or even your significant other.  What do you want dear one? Because this is the time for that.

And to ask yourself that question doesn't make you selfish. Oh no, it's so far from that.

I wanted new community, a place to start fresh, a brand new beginning. I was tired of the person I was in college. I wasn't a bad person, I just grew tired of the charade I kept on. I felt like there were parts of me, way down deep, aching to break through and shatter whatever shell I was wearing and be free.

And I just couldn't do that somewhere folks knew me by name.

So I moved to a new state, to pour my heart into service I believed in. And I couldn't have asked for a better year.

Was it hard? Heck yes.

Did some days I want to be back in college, laughing in the dining hall, taking naps on the quad, living only a dorm room away from my dearest friends? Of course.

Heck, some days I still want that.

But you are brave and bold and courageous. You know that right?

There isn't a wrong choice here. This isn't a multiple choice test with one right answer. I know you've been taught that for a long, long time. But this time, there are many doors to walk through.

And for me, that was the hardest part of all.

And it still remains the hardest part.

Because for the first time, in forever, you don't have to do - anything at all. For so long, you had to take this class, pass this test, follow this procedure.

But you don't have to do that anymore.

I had a hard time swallowing, "you can do anything."  I know, that sounds awful. Shouldn't those words be sweet and romantic and hopeful?

But to me they were completely overwhelming. For me, a gal who can barely pick two at Panera without having a nervous breakdown, it felt like a test I couldn't pass.

A mistake I made, even before making a choice.

So I'm not going to say that to you. Even though you can. What I am going to say is pick a direction, just one, and start walking in it.

Don't remain motionless. Don't wait to do the thing you really want to do. Don't wait for the right person to do it with.

And be patient with yourself as you think things through, be kind to yourself, be gentle on your heart. It's not a race. It's not a race. 

There is never the perfect time to do the things you love. There will always be walls and discouraging words and barriers to hop over, to push through.There will always be bills, family gatherings to attend, weddings to be in, grandparents passing away.

You might not make it to everything.

I remember getting the call that my sweet, Irish grandmother passed away while I was working on a farm in Nicaragua. And that broke my heart y'all. I hated that I couldn't be there to hug my Dad, cry at her funeral, eat cake and drink tea to celebrate her beautiful life.

I wasn't there for any of it. I was on an island in another country that took a bus, a boat, two taxis and two plane rides to get too.

But God shows up in those moments, you know? A sweet man from Ireland and his wife came to work on the farm during that same season and I'll tell you, his voice and jokes and energy made being away not so hard. It made being away bearable. And that man helped me heal.

I hope you don't get sucked into making lots of money and working your way to the top. Because some days you're just going to have to do the dirty work that no one else really wants to do. And it's important work you know, really important. It counts. It matters. It plays a big role. I know it's hard to see that.

I can hear my Dad saying, "You aren't above any work. You just do it. You clean toilets and take out the trash, not because it's noble and good, but because it's the right thing to do. You aren't bigger or better than any of that."

I can also hear my Dad saying, as he reads this, "I said that?"

I hope you don't spend every hour scrolling through facebook and instagram wishing you were doing what she or he or they are doing.

It'll rob your joy, it'll suck you dry. Trust me on this one.

Pick a path and walk in it, with your chin up, choosing gratitude and joy and intention each and everyday. Because pretty soon, little miracles will start to unfold. Little moments of grace and new friendships and finding that you aren't awful at running will start to unfold.

Little moments of breaking bread with strangers (who are just one meal away from being friends), picking and tasting fresh strawberries, finding that passion and character can land you a job, instead of a fancy resume.

Build who you are. Build all the many parts that make you whole. Become the best version of you in anyway you can. Be bright eyed and bushy tailed and don't apologize for that.

Try new things. Make a meal from start to finish from scratch. Go on a walk and write down every little thing you hear. Play on an intramural team even when you're downright awful at sports. Say yes when a really nice guy asks you to dinner.

Hug the people around you and rest easy in knowing that the friends you're meant to keep, they'll stay close, no amount of miles or time will take that away. You'll be surprised that some friends, who you barely knew in college, will become family as you part ways.

Write letters and schedule Monday morning chats before work. Because we're all busy, but we can always make time for others - if it's something we really want.

But don't hold on too tight.

Make room for the folks who should join this new chapter too. Welcome friends whose story you're hearing halfway through because I tell you - it's such a good story. Make friends with people who think differently, act differently, believe differently. Surround yourself with people who push and challenge you to be authentic and raw. Who push you to answer more questions, instead of merely asking them.

And when you think you have this whole life thing backwards, when it feels like everything is falling apart and nothing is working out just as it should -  run to the ones who think you're gold.

Find your tribe who'll remind you, "You're okay."

I'm rooting for you dear one.