Dear Mom and Dad,
I look back onto the last four years of my life, and I can’t help but feel a sense of guilt and gratitude for all the things you have helped me succeed in. The morning swim practices, the hour phone calls, the surgeries, the major changes, the moves. These are things I take for granted sometimes, things that I forget are the reason I am where I am today, things that have caused you both to sacrifice for me, things I fail to realize their importance in my life and career, and these are things I know I may never be able to repay you for, but these are also the things that have made me realize the importance of doing what you love, of chasing the dream, and of listening to that calling.
From when I was still a little kid till now as a 22 year old, I cannot remember a day when either of you complained about going to work. This is something I thought was normal in our society, but coming to college I realized it was a rarity. Many of my friends were raised in homes where their parents lived to work, where their job and career left no time to do anything they loved, where they were raised to realize money brings happiness. I knew this was wrong. I was raised to chase what makes me happy and to know that success will come later. I was raised to stay determined and fight for what I believed in and was passionate about, even if that meant standing alone. I was raised to understand that success is not a solo climb, but a web of connections with likeminded individuals. I strive to be like that, to lead a life where I feel like I am making a difference, where my job, career, and calling are all one, where what I do is what I am. I feel as though it would be an injustice to you both for me to follow something half-heartedly, to do something merely for the money and financial stability, to do something because it will give me an easy comfortable life.
So to you both I say I have a dream, I have a passion, I have a calling, but I do not have a clear path of what it will take to get there, what will come my way, and what it is I need to do to attain my dreams. I am unsure what tomorrow or a week, or a month, or a year will bring me, but I am excited and I am hungry. I want you to think back to when you were 22, when the whole world was open to your ideas, dreams, passions, and musts, and to think about what your calling was. What was it that made you become a teacher? What was it that made you quit your first job because you hated it? What was it that made you realize being happy was more important than pay? I am there right now. I am at the crossroads of deciding between a life of stability, okayness, wheat toast, and a life of possibilities, color, and cinnamon raisin bread. Of course I am not really talking about toast, but the blandness that I will be having, the loss of taste due to a pre-conceived life. I do not want that, you did not want that, and you raised me to want more, to be more, to make more of myself. To you both, this may seem childish, irresponsible, and illogical for a college graduate, someone who has an education and all the tools to succeed to be at a place in my life where I don’t know what to do next, where I am vulnerable, but let me reassure you, at least I know what I want. At least I know at this age what I would sacrifice for, what I would do regardless of pay, what I want to do for the rest of my life. I believe this in itself is also a rarity.
It may be scary for you both to try and understand that I am okay with failing, that becoming a writer will not be an easy route, that I don’t have all the answers right now, but then again part of growing up is figuring things out for myself. Part of growing up is learning from mistakes, reaching rock bottom and picking yourself up again, going after what you want at full speed. You may both think I am going into this with my head in the clouds and no feet on the ground, but if I have learned anything from watching you two as I grow up, it is that success revolves around happiness, not the other way around.
There was an exercise I did recently this year, and though it may sound morbid, it put my life into perspective, and it made it easier for me to tell you both why I wanted to try going after what I love. I sat down and wrote two obituaries, the first of the life I knew I was headed towards- becoming a teacher, teaching for my whole life, traveling on breaks, writing for fun, raising a family, and being remembered as a loving, caring, person. Now this is a respectable life, one that I would not be embarrassed to live, one that no one should be embarrassed to live, but it would not be one I want to be remembered for. I do not want to be remembered as not following what I write about, not walking in the footsteps of what I knew I was capable of, not living up to my full potential, and because of this I wrote my second one. The second was the life I wanted to live, the life I wanted to be remembered for, the life I knew I must have, and that was a life full of traveling, writing, being published, speaking to people about my ideas, living abroad, raising a family, and ultimately living a life where I was unable to summarize it because I was unsure where it would take me. This is being uncomfortable with being comfortable. This was taking advantage of that “must” inside me, that calling that I would do regardless of pay, that passion I was born with and want to, need to, go after. This was the life you raised me to chase.
As I said before I do not have all the answers, finances, or knowledge to attain my dream instantly, and I may never have all the answers or knowledge, but at least I have the will and determination to try. I do have the assurance that failure will come, that this road will not be easy, and that stability may take a while, but who am I, if I don’t try, if I settle, if I don’t put my head below the water and fight to touch the wall. If I have learned anything from coming into this family, from being surrounded by your brothers and sisters, it is that life is too short to wait for what you want to come to you, that nothing will come easily, and that not having to reassure yourself every morning what you are doing is what you actually like/maybe love to do is success within itself. I recently read that sequoia trees can grow to be 310 feet tall, yet only have a root system that is about 10 feet deep. Their roots stretch from tree to tree, using each other’s interconnectedness to help stabilize themselves above ground, and in the same sense, I too am coming to understand that it is through connections that ideas become reality and dreams become a way of life. Just as you have watched me grow my whole life, I need you to watch me now, to help support me, and to remind me why you chose to do what you do, because no one achieves his or her dreams alone, yes no one. By choosing to be happy, to make a change, and to follow your calling, you in turn inspired me to do the same. You may be unsure as to what I am doing, you may have fears that I will fail, and you may question my path at times, but it is my own and know throughout it all I am carrying parts of you both with me. Remember that I am young, remember who you were at 22, and remember that I am just beginning. Just as you watched me a few years ago in swim, I am still training and my race has yet to begin, but what is anyone without fans to support them along the way, to cheer them on, and ultimately to share in the small bouts of success along the way?