Katherine Turns Fifteen
(Yes, I seem to only be writing blog LETTERS these days. I don't know either. But I kind of like it.)
Today you turn fifteen years old.
This past year has been something of a struggle for you. I guess I had hoped somehow that you'd bypass all of that teenage angst and stress--but now I see that it's a rite of passage we all must go through in order to become the adults we want to be. You are such an amazing person, though, and you've weathered it as gracefully as anyone could have. I think things will continue to get better from here on out.
It's just that this is a hard, hard world in which to grow up. You're bombarded by negativity unceasingly-- it's really relentless these days. Your peers get bored and resort to creating drama (as if there wasn't enough drama inherent in trying to figure out your place in the world.) There is a lot of pressure on you to perform in school. There is pressure to conform to societal standards, but not TOO much conformity. Be an individual! But not so much of one that people can't understand you! Come to terms with your sexuality--but don't have sex! Make a statement--but not so much of one that it impedes your chances of getting into a good college!
The whole world is schizophrenic.
If I could sum up the world of hope and love I have for you, it's this: all I've ever wanted for you is for you to be happy and well-adjusted. I'm not invested in what you do for a living, nor how you dress, nor what music you listen to, nor the color of your hair. I'm willing to support your passions, knowing that they may change over time. I find YOU endlessly fascinating, so I'm interested in YOU. But I'm not interested in controlling you, or forcing you on some life path that I deem good for you. I know sometimes it looks like I have a vested interest in your performance in school, but I think that's really because I don't want you to place limitations on yourself and I know that a little effort now will save you heartache later. Plus, in all honestly, you're one of the smartest people I've ever met and I can't wait to see what happens. I can't wait to see what you do.
I've given you a lot of advice over the years, some solicited and some unsolicited. Now I just want to remind you that I am here for you --that I will ALWAYS be here for you-- in any way you need me to be. You're good to go, Kath. Listen to your still small voice--all of the values and guidance you need are already inside of you. There will always be people who want you to conform to their agenda, who are threatened when you take a different path. It's up to you to decide if those people should have a voice in your life.
I read a great quote yesterday by Chris Hadfield, who just happens to be an astronaut, which made me laugh given your obsession with space in your earliest years. He said:
"Decide in your heart what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that."
"Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you'd be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in.
"Don't let life randomly kick you into the adult you don't want to become."
I'm taking this advice myself. It's never too late to become the adult you want to be. And I guess that's my final reassurance for you: although the decisions you are faced with now seem overwhelmingly huge, really, most people reinvent themselves several times over. If you can beat back the pressure long enough to find what you enjoy and then pursue THAT, the world is yours for the taking.
Happy birthday, Katherine. I love you more than I can say.