Tomorrow you start high school and I couldn’t be more excited for you. I know you’re worried about remembering your locker combination and which staircase to take, and yes, I’ve already bugged you today by showing you the photo from your first day of kindergarten. But if you’d be so kind as to indulge me just a little more, I wanted to share a few thoughts before you head out the door bright and early tomorrow morning.
I hope you will be brave.
I know that a new school, and one with 3,000 people in it, can be intimidating and even scary. You’ve got this, and you will be awesome.
Remember that being brave also means taking chances. Every single day brings new opportunities to be brave. That could be inviting someone you don’t know to sit with you at lunch or standing up for a classmate others are picking on or talking to the teacher who scares you about something you don’t understand. Do all of that.
Being brave means being yourself. Be confident. Decide when you like about yourself, don’t let other people or social media do that for you. Find friends who love you exactly as you are.
And sometimes being brave means opting out when everyone else is opting in. I know you have the reservoir of courage you need for such situations. Go to it when you need. Jiminy Cricket was right—always let your conscience be your guide.
Make good choices, even when doing so is hard.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Please try new things. Look at high school as a chance to explore and expand your horizons. Don’t just focus on what you already like and are good at. Give some new activities a shot to see if you like and are good at them, too. Trust me, there is no better time in life than high school to try out an activity that seems fun or interesting to you.
Do take school seriously, but do not take yourself too seriously. (Yes, you can do both.)
The world is far more fun when you can laugh at yourself. (And it will make the aforementioned failure much easier to handle, too.) It is possible to laugh at yourself and be a serious student.
You are so very lucky to receive a wonderful education, and I know you are aware that there are girls around the world who would love to be in your shoes. Remember that when the chemistry lab seems hard and geometry isn’t exciting.
High school is an amazing academic opportunity and I hope you’ll take full advantage of it.
That does not mean that I only want you to get good grades. It means that I want you to learn, to think independently, to challenge yourself, to know that your teachers are eager to help you and to let them do that. I want you to do your best and try your hardest.
Try not to get caught up in the mania about college admissions.
I know, it’s early, but it came up often during the parent orientation session. Remember Frank Bruni’s advice—where you go is not who you’ll be.
I know that you’ll light the world on fire and make it a better place, regardless of where you go to college, and we want you to go somewhere that is a good fit for you, regardless of rankings and public opinion.
Please don’t get so focused on the future that you forget to live in the here and now.
High school will be full of special moments. Enjoy them, and the beauty and fun in the ordinary days, too.
Know that you can always come to me.
No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby. (And yes, I see you rolling your eyes, but bear with me.) You are loved more than you know. I am here to help you.
While I may not be able or willing to fix your problems, I will always be happy to listen and to give you love and support as you figure out solutions.
You can use me as your excuse when you need to get out of situations or don’t know how to say “no.” You can call me any time for a ride, no questions asked.
I have been proud of you every single day I’ve been privileged to be your mom, but never more so than when I see you use that big heart of yours to be kind to others.
I can’t wait to see all the ways you make me proud in the coming four years. Have fun and know that your family is behind you 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.
This post first appeared on Chicago Now. Reprinted with permission.