To My Niece on Her 18th Birthday

Hi Teenager,

(Because even though you’re now officially an adult, you still have teen at the end of your age for the next two years.)

18 years ago today…

Just kidding. We went down that rabbit hole already. 😜

Back in May, we went to Wonderspaces in Arizona and as we sat in the Mt. Fuji exhibit I watched you watch the images as they spread across the wall and I wondered what you were thinking. Your eighteenth birthday was looming ahead, with your study abroad coming shortly after that. I wasn’t sure if you were just taking in the images or if you were thinking ahead, already hoping, dreaming, planning. Were you just excited or did you have any anxiety bubbling up?

The world is at your fingertips.

As someone who usually looks ahead, lately, I’ve been thinking back. I’ve been thinking back to that little baby I held shortly after you were born. I knew I wanted to be an aunt who was involved in your life and I’m so glad I did. It’s been such a joy to watch you grow up over the years; to see how your passions have come and changed. To watch new ones emerge. To listen to your stories. Life with you is never dull and I’ve often wondered where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Where will life take you?

This question makes me smile even more, as I think back to looking through your baby book. When I saw it open on the coffee table, it was open to the page where you had first discovered your hands. Your mom wrote down, “I can’t help but wonder what you’ll do with those hands.” And it didn’t take long in your life before you put them to work at the piano and now with your art. You do amazing with those hands. And I know you’ll do amazing things as you continue to go through life.

So as you turn eighteen and you gain more independence and you continue this adventure in life, here are some things I hope you remember:

1 // You have people in your corner. Forever. We’ve talked about this a lot recently: your assurance that you always have people who are there for you and how helpful that is as you take your next steps in life. Just remember that: we’re always here for you. So if you need help or you need direction or you’re going through a rough time, you have people to turn to. You don’t have to go through life alone.

2 // Perfection is a myth. Repeat that to yourself as needed. I’ll repeat it to you, too: perfection is a myth. I know you want things to be perfect and I totally get that. But I hope one day you’ll find freedom in the knowledge that perfection is a myth. Even as you strive for perfection, I hope you give yourself grace when you’re not.

3 // You don’t have to have everything figured out anytime soon. I don’t know if we ever actually have our lives figured out. In fact, most people my age are now starting to realize we thought we’d have life figured out by now and we don’t. And even though sometimes I think we’d like to, it also means it’s never too late to dream or try something new.

4 // Make your life domination plan. But be open to changes. Fun fact: I had my education, career, and RETIREMENT planned out when I was in 9th grade. I was going to go to med school, become a pediatric oncologist, and work on a medical boat to help people in different countries when I retired. And obviously, none of that has actually happened. So make your life domination plan but be open to new possibilities and follow God’s lead. And be open to God’s timing. You’ve had a little taste of that this year with your study abroad program. I know it can be hard and annoying sometimes. But there are good things that happen in what feels like a delay. (I need this reminder sometimes, too.)

5 // Life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. There have been times I’ve wished that the kids I love (like you and your brother) wouldn’t have to go through hard times in life, but some of those hard times are times that shape us and help us grow. If we let them, they’ll help us become better versions of ourselves. When you find yourself in these times, please talk to someone, but talk to someone who’s going to walk alongside you through it, not someone who’s going to try to fix it/you. You don’t need to be fixed. The twists and turns don’t need to be fixed. You just need someone by your side who will be a light, who will support you, who will help you navigate it, and who will remind you to choose joy as they walk alongside you through it.

I love you a lot. I can’t believe you’re 18. It feels like just yesterday…

I’m kidding. We don’t have to go through that again. 😂

But really, it does feel like just yesterday. I can’t believe you’re 18 already.

Happy birthday!

Auntie C

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