Thursday, June 2, 2011

to my baby sister

Happy birthday.

Eighteen years ago today you came into this world and into my life. I have so many memories of your big baby blues looking up at me full of wonder, and while I knew you were a beautiful little girl back then, I had no idea what a beautiful person you would grow up to be.

Last night as we laughed and talked at your birthday dinner, I kept going back to a distinct memory I have of you from when we were young. We were on our family trip up to Stone Mountain and you were striking poses in your "baby suit" (aka bathing suit) as someone was snapping pictures of you. What a ham. You couldn't have been more than four but even then you had this fearless confidence about you. You were so full of life and personality, and years and years later you're still striking poses just as effortlessly.

As you sat across from me last night, it sounds cliche but for the first time I no longer saw you as just my little sister - I saw you first as a peer. An equal. A friend. It feels as if it happened in an instant, but I know truthfully it's been happening for some time. You have grown up to be such a strong, fun-loving, creative lady and someone I am glad to call family. Wish I could take credit for all that and say that I paved the way for you growing up, but we both know you've been forging your own path from the very beginning (and it's a good thing because lord knows if you followed my footsteps your fashion sense certainly wouldn't be as fabulous as it is now...)

I am so unbelievably excited to see where life takes you these next few years, and I'm looking forward to being there every step of the way.

One of the greatest gifts I feel I could give you as a sister is a five year head start to the new chapter you're about to enter in life - a compilation of foresight carefully curated by someone who has walked before you. Here's what I learned in the (almost) five years since my eighteenth birthday, and it's advice (whether good or bad) that you can take with you to college.


First and foremost, have ridiculous amounts of fun. You will never have another time in your life when the balance between gaining independence and lacking responsibility is more favorable, so live it up. Do silly things and laugh until you think you're going to pee yourself. (But don't actually pee yourself 'cuz, let's be honest, that's awkward and leads to nicknames that won't be easily forgotten thanks to a little friend named Facebook.) Find friends that bring you happiness and joy and comfort, but build relationships that are based on more than drinking at a bar or laying out by the pool. Find people that you can be yourself around and hold on to them as tightly as you can.

Sleep in. Enjoy every second of glorious, gluttonous sleep you're able to soak up in college (dear god I miss it.) Apparently staying in bed until noon is frowned upon in the "adult world," so go ahead and get it out of your system now.

But not always. Somedays, wake up earlier than you ever thought you could for no reason at all because I promise, you'll be glad you taught yourself what it means to be self-disciplined.

Take roadtrips with your friends and make way-too-carefully crafted playlists. Years later you'll be driving home from work and one of those songs will find its way to your shuffle. You'll be instantly transported back to that simple time in your life and you'll smile because the comfort of the memory will make whatever frustrations you might have from work or bills or responsibility simply melt away.

Study hard. Develop a standard of excellence for yourself, but remember, ultimately it's just that - a standard for yourself. So do it for you and not for the rope at graduation. Do it because you take pride in your accomplishments and not because you take pride in doing better than others or in making Dad happy (sorry Lamar.)

Don't ever settle for less than you're capable of. And I know how much you're capable of.

I realize now that college is less about what you learn while you're there and more about what you're able to teach yourself, so whenever possible work on you. It is the greatest assignment you'll ever have, and it won't stop when you graduate. It will only really begin.

Head's up, this one is important. Learn what it really means to be independent. When you run out of money, work more hours. When your car breaks down, take it to the shop yourself. When you realize you have an assignment due the next morning and you haven't started yet, don't borrow a friend's or take the easy route - power through and do it right. I promise you that entering the working world will be a lot less painful if you're confident in your abilities and comfortable depending on yourself.

And for pete's sake, try to remember that drunk girls are not sexy. Really. They're not. Having fun is a part of being young and knowing your limits will be a lesson you have to learn, but know this: drinking too little will never lead to regret, while drinking too much will almost certainly lead to regret. And when your friend calls at 2am because she needs to be picked up from a bar, answer. Be the friend that always answers, mindful of the fact that you really could be saving someone's life.

And finally, regarding love. Don't go looking for love. Go looking for the things you love to do and develop those passions. The women that have a strong sense of themselves are the ones that attract the right men. There is no such thing as a man that completes you, only a man that complements the you that is already whole.


There are probably a million more "nuggets of wisdom" that I could impart on you, but we both know I'm not that wise. You'll figure out all of life's lessons in your own way, in your own time. And just know, when it comes to the tough ones, I mean the really hard lessons you'll have to learn (and I promise they'll happen), just know that I'll be there every step of the way. I love you, I'm proud of you, and I hope you celebrate your pants off for your birthday (not literally) because you deserve it.

All my love,


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