This semester has had some pretty heavy moments that happened mostly second hand. What I mean is, I've watched other people go through stuff and felt terrible for them. When you're me, you spend a lot of time pretending you don't have emotions when actually you feel so much empathy for the people around you. As a fixer, I just want get their attention and tell them exactly what they should do to solve their problem. But even when I'm right, that's not how the world works. They don't listen and I watch them bumble through their bad choices bouncing off problem after problem and suffering more and more emotional damage as a result. I want to be cold and say, "See? Should've listened" but instead it hurts to have to watch it all play out.
So many of the people I'm talking about are my students - past and present. But it's not just them. It's family and friends and sometimes even complete strangers I know through the weirdness of the internet. I also understand that at some point this may even make it's way to the eyes of my own kids at a time when they need it.
Well, there are some things I'd like to say to all of you. Here goes...
You are cool. I don't care what your clique was or what music you like or how often you go out. You are cool. It's not what you do that makes you cool. It's who you are. You're interesting and complex and multidimensional and that's cool as heck.
I like you. I don't mess around. If you're connected to me in any way, it's on purpose. I have chosen to not Exacto knife you out of my life. That means something. I like you. There's something about you that interests me. You have good energy, you make me laugh, you intrigue me, you pour your soul into me, you light up your surroundings or you're awesome in some super-cool way. And I'm not the only one who likes you.
You don't have to do anything in order to be loved. There's no thing you do or magic button you can push to make someone love you. If you feel that way in whatever relationship you're in, get out of it right this second. There's a person, there are people who will love you without question, without hesitation and they'll do so while feeling privileged and honored to get to love you. You should never feel like you have to do more to make someone love you. We've established that you're cool and that I like you and I'm an excellent judge of character. The people in your life are lucky as heck to get the opportunity to love you. If you're not with those people right now - that sucks. And it hurts. But you will find those people and you will not have to perform any tricks to get them to love you. Be patient.
You're not the only one who feels anxious or awkward. We all have it. We all feel it. You may have a particularly tough case of it and you may feel really hard, but you're not alone. Every other person at that social event feels it to some degree. Every other person is freaking out on the inside about the same future event. Some of them hide it better than we do, but it's still there. There's nothing wrong with you. You're not broken or flawed. You're human. And you're in good company.
You don't deserve it. This is true in both directions. Whatever crappy thing has happened to you, you didn't deserve that. You didn't do anything to bring it on. It wasn't your fault and it wasn't because you did that thing way back when. The planet is messed up. We messed it up. We're all walking around every day making mistakes to varying degrees and some of those mistakes will fall on innocent people. That doesn't mean you deserve that bad things that happened to you. You also don't deserve the good things. You don't deserve that success or promotion or award. There's a whole laundry list of things that happened before you even became an adult that allowed you to be in the country, society, family, school district, college and job that put you in a position to be successful. Congratulations, but your posture upon winning should be that of a very surprised and very grateful early career Taylor Swift who just can't believe her good fortune. You did nothing to deserve it. Be hopeful and be grateful.
You don't know as much as you think you do. Oh man, you have no idea at this point in your life just how wrong you are. The things you know to be true will change drastically in the next 10 years. Knowledge isn't the same thing as truth. I know you're smart and quick witted, that's part of why I keep you in my life, but there's so much you don't know. Keep your mouth closed and your mind open. The fool tells everyone how smart they are. The wise let everyone figure it out for themselves. Trust your teachers and you may want to sit down for this one: trust your parents. They know stuff. They're all trying to help you avoid some horrible pitfalls. Listen to them. Mind open, mouth shut.
Stop thinking so freakin' small. Dream big. Dare to fail! When you graduate, don't just let that part time job become full time and keep all your dreams in a box under your bed. Don't go to work for the retail place thinking you'll get that dream job eventually. Print that resume and put your butt inside the lobby of your dream job. And don't think that once will do it. Do it every week, every month, every year until that dream job is just your job. These opportunities do not come to your house looking for you. Take the initiative to go after your dream. Call that company, start your own business, make people tell you no a thousand times. Stop looking for what you think is possible right now and go get your dream job.
Your family is not dysfunctional. Your family is just your family. We are all a screwed up bunch of people spinning around the sun. Within the bounds of safety and reason, cling to your family and love them hard even when they are unlovable. Yes, your brother is an idiot and your mom is overbearing and your dad may be incarcerated but you know what? That's your family, like it or not. They need you as much as you need them. You have so much to offer them and they have so much to offer you. Make them a part of your life as long as you have breath. Trust me, everyone's family is just as bad.
Be yourself. Don't dress like that person. Don't listen to that because someone else says to. Don't change how you talk, what you think or what you do to please anyone else. There's a reason we are all different. Whatever you think makes you a freak is the thing that we so desperately love about you. You are exactly the type of person you were created to be. Be that and enjoy it.
Don't try to change people. Yes, they are different from you in so many ways. They have a different religion, different morals, different hobbies. It's not your job to change them. Love them for who they are and if you can't, then love them enough to leave them and let them be themselves.
Love more. As I said, this planet is messed up. I'm convinced that our messed up state comes from a lack of love. We've failed to love each other as we should. That void causes humans to search for something to fill it, leading to violence, hatred and every kind of terrible thing. I'm also convinced that the solution is love. Love your family and friends fully and without holding back. But also love the people in line at Walmart and the ones driving slow in the fast lane and the ones who do terrible things to you. Love everything and everyone with all your heart. And then love even more.
And last, you are loved. Right now, this second. You didn't do anything or even ask for it but you are loved. Why else would I be writing this to you?
We'll get back to photos and ridiculousness soon. But maybe read that all again and let it soak in. And if you want, send it to someone else who needs it. You can say it's from you.