Dear 22-year-old Catherine,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I just saw the video of your college graduation that someone posted on Facebook. Wait, I forgot—it’s the 1980s and you don’t know about Facebook yet. Ok, so briefly, it’s like the paper freshman face book you have now, the one that has everyone’s pictures and names and where they are from, that you think you’ll keep forever to remind you of your college friends. You won’t, actually. You’ll lose it in one of the many moves awaiting you, but don’t worry, because ultimately all those friends will be connected online.
And as I’m writing this, I realize you don’t know what that means either. You’re an English major (congratulations, by the way) so I won’t get too technical, but basically, you know that Mac computer you have now? It will have colors and pictures and do just about anything, kind of like a tv but so much cooler, and your phone can be used to do all kinds of things besides talking, which actually people are doing less and less these days. Anyway, trust me, you’ll be ok without that paper booklet.
As I watched that graduation video yesterday, I searched the crowd of grads looking for you, scanning the seemingly endless procession of your friends sporting those Ray Bans and big hair (how did you even do that?). All those young and optimistic faces passed by the camera as a rocking 80’s soundtrack plays, and suddenly I saw yours.
The hope in your eyes made me want to smile and cry at the same time. You’re right, there is so much to hope for in your life. At this point, where you are now, anything is possible.
While it is so exciting to watch the future as it unfolds, it is terrifying not to know what comes next, or even be able to make an educated guess (pun intended).
So I’ll tell you this: You will have a career, many in fact, that you will love while you do it. Then you will move on to the next thing that needs doing and do it well and with love.
You will raise two amazing daughters and despite the teenage years, you will love them intensely. You’ll also be surprised by your funny son, who will grow taller than you so you have to put on high heels just to fuss at him when he needs it, which fortunately isn’t often. His sense of humor will keep you on your toes and he will challenge you and the way you think. You will need that.
Don’t worry, you’ll have a really great husband too. I know right now you think you’ve found “the one,” but there will be an embarrassingly long string of those. Don’t be disappointed, instead try to focus on what you will learn about yourself from dating them. You know how your mom says you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince? Well, she’s right. (She’s right about a lot of other things too, but I’ll let you figure those out yourself.)
You will have heartbreak and disappointment, and although I’d love to tell you about them to spare you the pain, I won’t. Knowing about them, avoiding them when possible, would keep you from experiencing all the love and joy you are capable of, which is a lot.
Like I said, I’ve been thinking about these ideas a lot lately, as my oldest daughter (well, yours too) just graduated from college last week, and our other daughter will graduate from high school at the end of the month. The son is only a freshman and just has to go with us to all the ceremonies. His turn will come.
As I watch them from the audience, that cap balanced precariously on their heads, I can see that same look in their eyes that I see in yours. That sense that they can do anything radiates from their eyes, from their smiles, from their very presence. Being around them, I can share in that hope.
So, if I am being totally honest, I will tell you will still feel that hope so many years later, just in a different way. You will go through some great periods and some rough ones. You will make some good choices and some that are not so good. But know that your hope is justified. There are so many things that need to be done in the world, so many things that only you (and I) can do.
Anything is possible.
Love always, Me
Catherine Gentry has two daughters, a college graduate and an almost high school graduate, as well as a high school son. She works as a writer and writing coach in Houston. Her essays have been featured in online publications including Grown & Flown, Literary Mama, the “Voices” section of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and The Houston Chronicle. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and her blog.