Dear The Girl,
Every year I’ve written you a letter telling you how incredible I think you are. Some years, I even try to teach you a few lessons that I hope will help you as you grow into an adult.
This year, I can’t help but think of all the things I’ve learned from you. There is a reason I cry at the same exact line of that Brandi Carlile song every single time.
“I’ll never hit the big time without you.”
Truthfully, every line of that song rings true, but this one, it hits me right in the heart.
I had so many dreams. When I was seventeen, I thought I’d make the big time. Theater or fashion, journalism or civil rights attorney; I hadn’t figured it out yet, but I just knew I had big things ahead.
Then, I got older and scared. Scared to fail, scared to put myself out there. Scared I’d lose people I loved if I tried to be big. So, I shrunk and shrunk and shrunk until I felt safe and secure.
Then, you were born. One year after the biggest tragedy I hope to ever live through. We brought you home to this big house that dad and I felt way too young and dumb to own. We brought you home and you challenged me in ways I never knew to be possible.
I was so, so sad for those first many months. I trudged through and simply hoped to do right by you. Then the fog lifted, and I experienced you in a whole new way. Your indomitable spirit. Your curiosity and awe of everything around you. Your giant, generous, heart that you freely give to those you love. These were gifts to me, the worth of which you’ll never know.
I learned when you were little to slow down and soak in the wonder of life’s every-day experiences. I learned the only thing to be afraid of was missing out on something great because of your fear. I grew as a mother and as a woman because of you. Suddenly I was filled with this deep desire to do right by you, so that you never lost this magic, never shrunk in order to feel safe and secure, no matter what the world did to try to make it happen.
Here is the beauty of seventeen, I am learning more from you now than I ever have because nothing has changed. You throw your heart over the line for everything, whether it’s an audition, an interview with a Broadway star or a cute boy at the ice-cream stand. Your enthusiasm is big and loud and contagious. You have a firm sense of what is right, and you will share that (often loudly) with anyone in the vicinity.
Sure, you have grown into some fears, but they never stop you. Maybe you pause more. Maybe you worry more. Maybe you come to me at midnight to have deep conversations about life’s decisions. But you never sway from your path for long.
And perhaps this is the most courageous thing I’ve learned from you. It has happened as you’ve grown into yourself and life challenges you and your confidence. You’re never afraid of the truth. I’ve learned from you to be open about what scares me. You aren’t afraid to share what you need help with, and then listen and take the help with grace.
I’ve watched you do it and it is a marvelous thing to witness. You trust that doing the next right thing and doing it well will get you where you want to go. You know that if you don’t end up later where you think you’re going to end up now, it will be fine. You’ll figure it out. I have seen you demonstrate that love and connection are the things that matter most. Everything else is just gravy.
I would say I wish I could have remembered these things when I was seventeen. Maybe I would have pursued theater, or fashion or studied to be Christiane or Amal.
The thing is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so honored to have learned from you. I’m so humbled to be where I am now, pursuing my dreams as they are at 45 instead of 25. You’re like the ocean waves to my sea glass. Raising you has softened my edges while also making me more resilient. You’ve added shine to my life.
I know I say it to you all the time, but the truth is, your actions over the last 17 years have taught me that there is no reason to shrink. The people who love you will love you for the sparkle and the ones who don’t aren’t worth your time. I say it to you. You taught it to me.
Being your mom has been my privilege and I thank you for being the best teacher for whom I could have ever asked. I may yet still hit the big time and while I’ll take some credit for my part in it, I couldn’t have done it without you.
When we chose your name, we knew you’d fight the power too.
You’re nothing short of magical and beautiful to me. So they can keep their treasure and their ties to the machine.
Because, I am the mother of Faith Angeline.
(adapted-Brandi Carlile, The Mother)
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