My favorite niece, Gayle, graduates from high school soon as part of the class of 2008. Now that she is older, she always emits a small yet audible groan, emphasized by a dramatic eye roll, when she hears me refer to her as my favorite niece. “Aunt Cindy,” she retorts with a mature, resigned sigh, “I am your only niece.”
That’s true, of course, but I suspect if you have a child or loved one graduating this year, you understand how I feel. It doesn’t really matter if you parented one child or 17 like that woman in Arkansas who is now pregnant, again. Every single one of them is a treasure upon your heart. You nostalgically remember, as you watch them stepping into graduation gowns, the first time your eyes met, the first time they wrapped their sweet little fingers around yours. I suspect that there is so much that you want to say, if only you could.
One of the things I’d say to Gayle as she prepares to go out into the world is, “Be true to yourself.”
Gayle possesses a wonderful mix of beauty, intelligence, compassion and strength. I remember explaining to her when she was 3 or 4 that I would get her a wonderful Christmas present, but I couldn’t afford the high end doll bed on which she had her young heart set. Later, she came to me with her little hands outstretched, overflowing with nickels, dimes and pennies. “Wow, you have a lot of money for your piggy bank,” I commented.
“No, Aunt Cindy,” she earnestly replied. “It’s for you. I want you to have it because you don’t have any money.”
Be true to yourself. As you go off to the school of your choice, pay attention to who you are. Make choices that reflect the divine spirit within you. Certainly, society has competing, sometimes opposing, opinions of what you should do, who you should be. Friends, parents, siblings, even doting aunts, can be quite vocal. But in the end, respect your own feelings. Honor yourself, as well as others, by being who you are.
You are—each member of the class of 2008—quite magnificent.
Second, be strong. Life sometimes has a way, young or old, of knocking you onto your unappreciated butt. It happens to everyone. Pick yourself up and start again. Sometimes doors open, sometimes they remain firmly shut. Every situation, good or bad, has a vital life lesson especially designed for you.
You cannot fail. No matter how hopeless or overwhelming life may seem, you will survive. Look within and listen to your inner voice for guidance. Look around you at this Earth for hope. Remember, even the harshest of winters eventually gives way to the glories of spring. Change is a part of life and life is an unbelievable adventure!
Laugh, cry, love, and embrace the ones with which you journey. Take necessary comfort from them, even as you give support to them. You are not alone. We are all connected.
Finally, I want to share with you the secret to happiness. The secret to happiness is this: choose love. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. Love yourself. Love others. Love life. That’s it. You can forget every other piece of advice you ever receive, including anything I say, as long as you remember this: choose love.
May the class of 2008 experience journeys filled with peace, joy, happiness and love. Gayle, no matter where life takes you, always remember that we love you.
Cindy Kazalia is a Messenger staff writer.