After living in the same house for most of our lives, I know a lot about you.
I know you have a good memory and that you love to laugh. I know that story and character are important to you. I know you are a loyal and sensitive person. I know you are artsy and crafty and all kinds of out-of-the-box creative. And I know that you hide behind a mask so much less than you used to.
But there’s still a lot I’m learning, and I think there’s a lot you’re learning too, about who you are.
I want to spend more time with you. Not tell you what to do, not tsk, tsk at your decisions, not judge or compare or criticize. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes, I get all Older Sister Knows Best and that strains things. I’m broken in so many ways, and sometimes my brokenness has spilled over and knocked you down. I’m so sorry for all the ways I’ve hurt you over the years, and for the ways I still frustrate. I know we will never be carbon copies of each other, with the exact same interests and temperaments and goals. We are different. We are similar. We are sisters.
As you celebrate your 23rd birthday on Friday and then, two days later, move your bedroom 30 miles west of here and start anew at college, these are the words of encouragement I want to leave with you:
- You’re not set in stone. Don’t look at your age or your experiences and feel worried that you haven’t arrived or that all the pieces that should be in place aren’t. There is no should be. We all have different personalities, dreams, journeys. And life is always in flux. As long as you live, you will be moving and shifting and growing. Sometimes that’s a relief, and sometimes you’ll wonder, Am I there yet?! But the truth is, you’ll never be there, where it completely levels out for the rest of your life and it’s all flat and sloping downward and easy. Not in this life. As someone wise once said, “Don’t despise the journey.”
- The world isn’t as scary as it looks. I know that protective bubble you keep with you is meant to keep out the bad, but it also keeps out some of the good. You don’t have to force yourself out into the world just for the sake of doing so, or to keep up appearances. I understand; I’m an introvert too. There are more of us out there than it seems. Be yourself. Take life one day at a time. But when there’s something you want to do, or a person you think could become a good friend, or a new something that intrigues, but is just outside of your comfort zone, don’t drown it out or run from it. Consider the idea longer than you normally would. Pray about it. Those are the first action steps you can take, and they count.
- Don’t view yourself as a failure. Remember when I said that you’re only stuck when you lose hope that you can get out? I know it sounds like one of those pithy statements that’s easier said than done — and maybe it is — but it reminds me of the power of hope, even in dark days. Let hope win, even when it’s speaking to you in a still, small Voice. Listen to that Voice, and not the one that’s pulling you down. Remember that you’re not alone, even when the loud, wrong voice says you are. The wrong voice can’t win when you listen to the right Voice of hope and truth, because that Voice is based on what is solid and true and God.
There’s more I could say, but I think I’ll let Emily Freeman say it for me. She’s one of my favorite bloggers, and a couple weeks ago she wrote a sending prayer for college freshmen. I know you’re not a freshman, but you’re off to a new place with a new major and new people. Her words are gentle, and I think they’ll encourage you. (They encouraged me, and I’m not even in school.)
Happy birthday, Kid! Here’s to more years getting to know God, ourselves, and each other better. We’re pretty close now, but I know we’re on the path to growing even closer. I love you.