“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
― Nora Ephron
You walked into my life wearing the most preposterous shoes. The heels were taller than any I’ve attempted to wear as an adult, the gap between your foot and the back of the shoe just noticeable enough to be reminiscent of a child wearing her mother’s pumps during a game of dress-up. Your eyes were wider than a newborn’s. I could see you thought yourself sophisticated and worldly – yet I thought you were terminally young.
And because of this first impression, I initially made the mistake that I think people often do with you: I assumed your youthful demeanor and optimistic naiveté signaled innocence, softness, inexperience. I could not have been more wrong.
Sometimes in life we are lucky enough to have golden moments – times when the stars seem to align and all is right with the world. In my life, the family of colleagues and friends we created – complete with love and respect and occasional bickering – was one such golden moment. In that family, I know you sometimes felt like the second child: a little less love, a little less attention, and little less appreciation of your gifts.
There are a lot of us out here who know what that feels like. So, while what I want to say is definitely meant for you, it is also meant for all of us who have felt as if we don’t come in first; who feel like our best efforts, our best offerings, our best selves, are somehow not lauded or welcomed as quite enough.
I want you to know that your character and integrity are loved. These are not shiny things that immediately draw the world’s attention. But they are strong and lovely, and they draw forth the kind of lasting respect that comes quietly and without fanfare.
I want you to know that the things that are unique to you (the way you tell stories, the tiny bites you take when you eat, the way your eyes grow large but your mouth stays closed when something upsets or infuriates you) may bring some teasing or comment from others. But they are also the things that endear you to others because they are yours alone. Don’t ever give them up because others are thoughtless enough to make you feel self-conscious about them.
I want you to know that words like loyal, dependable, thoughtful are mostly considered boring by those who easily lose concentration, whose promises are not always to be trusted. Wear these labels proudly, because you’ve earned them for being exactly those things at times when others shrugged, quit, or stopped caring.
I want you to know that it’s o.k. to ask for what you want from life and from the people in your life. Ask that the respect and the kindness and the generosity that you so freely give to others to be given to you in turn. You deserve that. And while life has taught you to accept that you won’t always get what you want, this does not mean that people who seem to are more deserving than you. If life were fair, you’d be beyond wealthy in attention and love!
What I hope for you is everything your heart truly desires.
May your dimpled smile be seen more frequently than not.
May your voice be loved and appreciated for its wisdom.
Regardless of what anyone else thinks, or how anyone else behaves toward you, may you never think of yourself as second-best. There are bound to be others who, like me, need time to appreciate the fullness of your gifts. But don’t let that stop you from knowing how gifted you are. Or cause you to hide your light in deference to anyone else. People can be slow, but the important ones will figure it out, will treasure your presence in their lives.
For my part, I miss having your beautiful light and energy in my life every day. But I believe in all the things you can do and are doing, all the love you can (and are) expressing, and the many ways you being here makes the world a better place.