My Sweet Bear,
I’ve been having difficulty starting this. How can I presume to have knowledge enough to advise you? But as your sister, as your sponsor, as one who loves you so incredibly much, I want to try.
Sometimes I cannot believe you are sixteen. It thrills me and terrifies me at the same time. I am thrilled to see the woman you are becoming – you are beautiful, smart, a leader. Every day I amazed at your poise, your demeanor, your ability to carry on with a smile despite your illness.
But I am terrified. Terrified of what the world may have in store for you. I am scared because I remember when I was sixteen. I remember the trials, obstacles and heartbreak. High school was full of pressure and temptation. I made mistakes and had many regrets. IF I could spare you from these mistakes and just provide you with the lessons I would. But you may not make the same mistakes. No, you won’t. You are smarter than that. You have seen what it did to me. Unfortunately, you will make your own mistakes. You will cry. You will hurt. But you will learn.
Of course there will be millions of wonderful experiences as well. You will discover new things, you will live new experience, and you will find love.
You will find love in true friendships, love in a boy who makes your belly erupt with butterflies. Love in a mother who is always there no matter what you do, who seems to understand your deepest fears, your deepest desires; love in a your father who you will begin to understand as you grow older, who at the perfect moment will show his love and support though he may falter in his understanding of the vast emotions you are experiencing. Love in your brothers who will always strive to protect you, who will always support you but expect you to try your hardest and do your best. Love in your sisters who have been there from the beginning, who no matter how much you change, will always be the same. They – we – will be the constants in your life.
Most important, you will find the love of God. It is the most complex, most difficult love to understand and occasionally, to accept. But it is the most rewarding love, the most fulfilling. This love fills you, guides you, comforts you. This love makes you; it makes all the other loves in your life. All of these loves carry you through the difficult times, the wonderful times, even the plain-old, nothing special times.
Remember that love.
So, my pretty little sister, what advice can I give you?
1. Always be yourself. Do not be embarrassed by who you are. Do not change to please others – you will regret it later and it will cause lasting damage. This is not uncommon, especially as you near college. So hold on to yourself. Love who you are. (I do!)
2. Do not give in to pressure. This may be the most difficult piece of advice to follow because you may not notice the pressure. It could come in the form of friends talking, your friends beginning to change, beginning to have new experiences. You may feel left out, you may feel embarrassed for not joining them. But again, be true to who you are. Hold out. I promise you, looking back you’ll never think you were old enough.
3. Take advantage of opportunities. Travel, be spontaneous, love. Take chances.
4. Volunteer – give back, immerse yourself in a life you have never experienced and make it better.
5. Do not worry about what others expect you. Do not worry about following the social norm.
6. Make sure you are happy. Do not settle with simply content.
7. Live life completely. Laugh often. Sing and dance every day, even if it is just in the kitchen.
8. Work hard, commit to your dreams and fulfill them.
9. Exercise. Seriously, it’s good for the body and the soul.
10. No matter what – this is so important that I am saying it again – know that God loves you. He does. He needs you and you need him. Catholicism may be difficult at times, you may doubt, you may fall away. But you must never turn away from God. Without him life is empty. I have turned away and this is a lesson I do not want you to have to experience to learn from. It was the most difficult, empty time in my life. You need God, Bear. His miracles are always surrounding us. His love showers us. Love him.
There is my little bit of knowledge. It’s not nearly enough but it is all I have. Together we will learn more. You are a beautiful person Bear, you have a beautiful soul, and I am so blessed to be your sister. I love you a ridiculous amount.
With faith and love,