Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Letter to the Graduate

I have been spending some time recently wondering what to write to the graduate. I thought about sharing advice and words of wisdom, but I realized that after all that has been said at all of the many graduation ceremonies, I would have very little to share that would be original. Besides, this advice would mostly be directed towards one graduate in particular, and what can I tell someone whose closing on her email is the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

It seems like she is already one step ahead of me (at least). So instead of assuming she can learn from me, I thought I would say what I have learned from her.

I have learned the value of travel. Before she went away to the Emerald Isle, I didn’t fully understand how powerful a learning experience travel abroad can be. But she came back from a semester in Ireland much smarter, more confident, and more mature. Instead of running my mouth all the time about politics (although I still probably run my mouth a lot), I can listen to her and learn – especially about politics in Ireland and Northern Ireland. And hearing of her experiences in Dublin, London and Prague were very exciting. It is because of these stories that I am cannot wait until next summer when I finally make my trip to Ireland. And I am especially excited to have her show me all there is to see.

I also learned to trust that a younger sibling can take care of herself. I used to think it was my responsibility to intimidate boyfriends, be ultra-protective, and act super-mature around her (which was very difficult indeed). But she taught me early on that she is much tougher than I am and she doesn’t need my protection in her personal life (especially since I am not that intimidating anyway). I learned to trust that she is smart, and I should believe in her decisions. And hopefully it shows that I have learned to be more of a friend and less of an authority figure.

There is one thing I haven’t learned though – to stay in touch more often. That is something I will have to work on.

So congratulations and good luck on the next step. We are all very proud of you. And remember, the world is your oyster (it would be improper of me to send a message to a graduate without an obnoxious cliché).