Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Letter to Bella on Her Graduation

Dear Bella,

You are graduating this week!  Graduation.  The whole concept is just a little silly, isn't it?  Let's go to school for 13 years and then hold a big, goofy ceremony where everyone buys fancy clothes, covers up the clothes with long robes, wears a cardboard hat and walks across a big stage.  You, more than most, can appreciate the subtle humor in the whole process.  Because you, more than most, are an independent thinker and a girl who does things on her own terms. 

I'm gonna warn you, graduation is a sappy time for parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  It makes us old people nostalgic for the days when you were little.  It makes us reminisce about years we've spent watching you learn and grow.  It makes us hopeful about the path of your future. At graduation, we forget every argument, every disappointment, every eye roll and every forgotten assignment of your entire academic career.  Instead, we focus on the here, the now, and the good. 

For you, the good we see is in your heart.  You are kind and thoughtful and compassionate.  You like baking for the pleasure of creating sugary treats, but also for the joy of sharing them with your friends.  Homework is not your favorite time of day but you'll gladly take time out to help your younger sister with her assignments. I love watching you open gifts on your birthday because you are so good at expressing sincere appreciation for each giver, and each gift, even when it's a tacky shirt that is three sizes too small. 

The good we see is in your independent thinking.  You aren't one to stress over fashion or designer clothes.  Some might think it's geeky but you're all about Lord of the Rings and anything Sci-fi. Most girls went dress shopping for graduation, you went looking for slacks.  You proudly claim both Black Veil Brides and One Direction on your list of favorite bands even if it doesn't make sense to anyone else.  You embrace your heritage, your family, and your church even if it isn't always cool to do that. 

The good we see is in your strength of character.  You have a strong sense of right and wrong and are easily upset by those that don't. You have had your fair share of challenges and roadblocks but haven't allowed them to consume you.  You have a quiet resolve about your values and you aren't easily swayed.

All of this good will serve you well in college and beyond.  Being a successful human requires all of this stuff.  Although the future might seem unknown, scary, confusing or overwhelming, know that you are equipped with life tools.  You have been busy playing, daydreaming, listening to music and texting your friends for the past 17 years, but you've also been busy collecting knowledge and learning lessons.  Perhaps without even realizing it, you've acquired some useful skills that will ease your transition into the real world. 

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but your learning is far from done. College, work, and the school of life have lots more lessons to give.  When you're about 21 you'll think you know it all.  At 25 you'll be convinced you really know it all.  And then at 40 you'll realize you don't really know a damn thing.  Life is funny that way.  No matter how old you get, there's always more to learn.  I think that is maybe the most magical part of graduation.  This ceremony that frees you from the chains of high school classrooms and textbooks, also opens the door to the school of life experiences.  You have been programmed to have your nose buried in a book or be sitting in a straight row of desks with 30 of your peers to soak up some wisdom.  But now, knowledge comes in all shapes and sizes. And the lessons that are most important will not even be listed as a course requirement for any college degree program.  Trust me on that one. 

No matter where life takes you, know that the learning will continue. Know that the world can be harsh, beautiful, painful, exciting, difficult, and wonderful depending on the day.  Remember that you have a family that loves you.  Trust that God has a beautiful and unique plan for your life, though the road map for that plan won't always seem clear.   Don't let the bad days rob you of your hope and optimism. Don't let the good days make you complacent.  The school of life is beautiful, non-traditional, and raw, kind of like you.

Get out there and get busy learning.