It’s official! I’m an empty-nester. In the wee hours of the morning, I saw my 20 year-old off on her first solo journey. All week long, I experienced a high level of anxiety as I worried about how she will navigate not just this journey, but life, all by herself. But now that she is in flight, on her way to a new job and home in the Grand Canyon, I am feeling excited for her. And excited for me too! But before we close this chapter, I just had to write this open letter to my child.
Fortitude – Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.
On July 12, 2004, I met you for the very first time. You were almost seven years old and had already witnessed a harsh life. We communicated with our eyes and gestures, as we could not speak each other’s language. That wonderful orphanage in Ukraine gave you a new beginning, though you lost your family in the process. I was ecstatic when you chose to become my daughter and travel to the United States to your new home. Well kiddo, we did okay!
You lost much of your childhood, and I know you’ve tried to extend it into adulthood. I understand. But you have so much more going for you than you know. It’s a crazy unpredictable world out there, and while things won’t always go your way, you have an inner strength that will see you through dark days. You are resilient. A survivor. Have confidence in yourself, because nothing will be as bad as the tragedies you’ve already endured. Be strong, child!
If you look around and pay attention, you’ll find that each new day brings an abundance of gifts. Listen to the birds sing in the morning. Celebrate the rain as it brings life to the earth. Marvel at the dancing shadows as the sun dips under the horizon. Feel the cool breeze as it floats through the canyon. Claim each day as your own.
You carry your past with you wherever you go. That past can fit into a wallet or a suitcase, and does not determine your future – unless you want it to! Only you have the power to change your own life. Welcome new friends and experiences. Look within and find the answers you need to build the life of your dreams. But be patient. You will make many mistakes in your 20s, and for that matter, throughout your life. Learn from them!
In your heart, you are a kind and generous person who protects others. You care about people who are less fortunate. So while you sometimes wonder who you are, and you aren’t sure of your own identify, never forget the warm heart that lies at the core of your soul. That’s who you are! You’ll figure out the rest over time. Don’t worry about it!
Perhaps my biggest desire for you, is that you learn to love yourself. It doesn’t help that we live in a country that places a premium on the way we look and how much money we have. Don’t measure yourself against anyone else. Just take care of yourself. Learn to value your own health and make the best decisions you can. Learn what makes you happy and do it! Learn who are your true friends and hang with them. Keep expressing yourself through your writings and sketches. Love yourself, baby!
It wasn’t easy for me to say “goodbye” to you this morning, despite the years of complaints and arguments! And I sure hope you become an independent young adult who makes her own way in the world. There will be days when you want to give up and come home. Stick it out another day. Just know this – my love for you is eternal and I will never abandon you! I keep you in my heart each and every day. Now go out there and have a fantastic adventure!