An Open Letter to my Daughter on her Graduation Day

Today my daughter is graduating from high school. She mentioned the other day that she would like for me to take her clothes shopping for her graduation present. Such a simple request, so like her. Of course I smiled and agreed, but I also feel that the occasion presents an important opportunity to go beyond a token gift that I know I would regret not taking. A bit of back story: she is my non-legally adopted daughter and we met when I was dating her mom. She calls me Dad. It’s the family we chose when there was no other present. Even though we no longer live together we have tea dates every week and chat when we can and need.  I don’t get many opportunities to publicly acknowledge her, so I am joyous to say this here. 

Dearest Triana,

Today I can say that I am more proud of you than ever, and that is truly something. Because at this moment, this culmination of all of your work and trials, you made it. Completing the requirements to graduate from high school is momentous, and I am so, so, so happy for you. Bravely done, my sweet daughter!! 

I’ve been reflecting over the last few weeks on all that the two of us have been through in the few years that we’ve known each other. Some pretty tough stuff, honestly. And somehow we came out as we sit now.  I treasure the hugs I get before leaving you. I smile when I see a text from you, even when you’re struggling, because I’m so thrilled that you include me in your life. And when I’m able to help you, for the rest of the day I feel triumphant. And now, Triana, you have become someone I not only love, but someone I admire. You have such a strong sense of right and wrong. You stand up for what you believe in, often eloquently and always passionately.  I’ve seen you become outraged because someone was lying and I’ve seen you incensed at bullying.  How miraculous our lives are that we can grow and change so much in so short a time. I still keep the note you wrote me when I moved out because it meant so much to me to know my impact on you. Please believe me when I say that being a part of your life has challenged me and changed me for the better. I am grateful for you. 

And I am thrilled for you!!! Today is a transitional day. The end of high school, and the beginning of the best part of your life: when you get to figure out who you really are. It’s the best journey there is. You’ll learn how to do new things, that you can be passionate about work, you can use the money you earn to do things you have yet to dream of, and you’ll learn what things are the the real treasures in life. This all starts for you now and I can’t wait to hear about it all. 

I know you are nervous and have no concrete plan which is likely intimidating. I have an idea about that. You know how drawing helps you when you’re stressed? Think of this next stage as a sketch. Have an idea of what you want, spend a little bit of time thinking about it so it is a solid idea, but then just start sketching. Let the thinking stop and take action. Put your energy into that for a while. And when you feel like that sketch is done and you’re ready to move on to a different job in a different field or go back to school, grab a new page and start again. I don’t know that most people hear during their schooling that you can do that, but it’s true. So far I’ve played music professionally, installed Internet service, sold cars, ran a technical support department, taught high school, sang opera, and run a dispatch group. Those are all really different jobs. And anyone can change fields like I did if they put enough energy into it. 

I want to share with you another secret about life in the work force. Most people don’t put much effort into what they do. They do the minimum. If you give a job 100% of what you are capable of, chances are you will shine at it. My older brother told me that when I was your age, and I’ve found it to be completely true. 

And now, with the support of all of those that love you, go forth and create. Create laughter and beauty and quality you are proud of wherever you find employment, doing whatever it is you choose to do. Work is not the obligation it seems to be, it is an opportunity to create a better life.  That opportunity can happen every day with the choices you make. 

Congratulations on graduating from high school, my beautiful one. You are worthy of great celebration! I love you, and I’m so proud. 

With a full heart,

Dad

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