Letter: An uncle ponders advice for his niece at her high school graduation

Special to the Nelson County Gazette

To my niece

There’s a photo, recently posted on my social media. Well, technically, its two photos side by side. On the left is a photo of a young man, circa 2009, cloaked in his graduation gown and hell bent on taking the next steps of life and running as far away from home as possible. In his right arm is a little girl, his niece. They’ve taken many pictures like this, from his football games to family get togethers to this very moment.

The photo on the right is 15 years later, and it’s the same man…just different. And in his left arm he now carries a young woman, cloaked in her graduation gown and hell bent on taking the next steps of life and running as far away from home as possible.

That’s me and my niece. And to say I’m proud of this young lady is among the greatest of understatements in my life. She has been through more in her few years than most will ever see in twice as many. Yet still, she continues to claim victory over this fickle life day, after day, after day. She’s embarking on her next adventure with top honors, multiple professional certifications in the pharmacy and medical fields, and a scholarship to a school of utmost prestige. But more important than any of that, she leaves us with an attitude that rivals those of the greatest people I’ve encountered on my life’s journey. She knows no quit. She can’t be stopped. And all the while carrying the most honest smile, I’ve ever seen on a young adult’s face.

As I sat there, watching her graduation ceremony, I had many thoughts rolling over my mind and my observations shifted from her quietly sitting there, perhaps contemplating life or future or past, to my own time in that seat 15 years ago. I noticed young kids, laughing and smiling, seemingly oblivious to the monumental moment in which they stood. I read the top of a cap which read NCHS INMATE. I watched the practical jokes played out by adolescent exuberance. I saw a teacher with whom I, myself had graduated with.

While soaking in this scene of electric excitement, I reflected on my own life. My own dash between the dates of my graduation and hers. I reflect on my impatience to leave. My short time in college. My time in the service. My time away from home. I think about all the time away from the very person whose young achievements we were currently celebrating. The emotions I feel are as broad and tumultuous as a sea battered coast. I’m happy and proud of her. I’m regretful of the life, the moments, and the opportunities I missed having with her yet grateful for the ones I did receive. I’m amazed and slightly put off by the speed with which this life races past us. And I’m excited, to see the next chapter as she embarks into this big world, and to see everything this brilliant young mind will accomplish.

And now I wonder, what advice do I have to offer this sweet young lady. What guidance can I provide, what insight can I give her. I struggle to find impactful sentiments, or philosophical statements as I, myself am still trying to figure it all out. But what I can say is this, Moose… Let it flow. Let life roll off your back like rain. The sun will come out again and we will dry soon enough. There is a prayer I’ve heard in different variations, but it goes along the lines of this, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We do not know what this life has in store for us, what great plans the Lord carries for us but rest assured, life will happen. And if you keep that bright and shining attitude, you’ll always see the blessings at your feet. Try not to get entangled with what you thought would come in life. Many times, I’ve found myself enveloped in anger over failed dreams, only to realize the path they would have led me down would have taken me from the most important things I have in life. It will all work out. Keep your faith always. But life is about balance, and as such you will also need the strength and courage to reach out and take what is yours. We can find wisdom in water. It is hard and relentless, shaping the largest and greatest features of the earth. But it is soft and forgiving as well. It can cushion our falls and without it, life cannot exist.

In the end I have learned that in spite of the troubles we have had, we were never running away from, but running towards. Towards the next adventure. Towards the next chapter. Towards the next wonderful and exciting thing.

Adiós, Love you

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