Written what seems like a million lightyears ago,
this letter was one of my very first grad school assignments.
In my Google Drive, it’s titled:
“OPEN THIS WHEN SHIT GETS REAL.”
And I never opened it…
Until two days ago, at the end of class when my advisor handed me the letter, sealed in an envelope.
Here is a *very slightly* edited version,
for when shit gets real:
Let this be a reminder that YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.
That YOU MATTER.
That you are POWERFUL. STRONG. LOVING. COMPASSIONATE.
And that you don’t have to be either/or—
that it is quite possible to be both gentle and strong, kind and fiery.
You are a complex human being after all.
And you, more than anyone else, know that.
This year, and all the years after, I challenge you to seek out and delve into discomfort:
The discomfort of being wrong.
The discomfort of being vulnerable.
The discomfort of saying sorry.
The discomfort of not knowing.
And so too the discomfort of holding and recognizing emotions, no matter how much they make you squirm.
And I know some emotions make you squirm. That feelings are sometimes the hardest things for you to talk about. But I’m challenging you to do it anyway.
Take the plunge.
Professionally, learn how to deliver feedback and criticism in ways that feel true to yourself. Learn how to speak these truths–
Ask to be in the room.
Ask to be at the table.
Fuck, DEMAND that you are in the room,
leading the table!
ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF IF THINGS FEEL OR SEEM OR ARE SHITTY.
ADVOCATE FOR YOUR STUDENTS, PEERS, COLLEAGUES, REALLY ANYBODY,
IF THINGS FEEL OR SEEM OR ARE SHITTY.
Listen listen listen.
To whom are you accountable?
Hold yourself accountable to yourself– to your vision, to your values, to your dreams.
Hold yourself accountable to the people you love and care for.
Hold yourself accountable to the people you work with and alongside.
Hold yourself accountable to the people whose voices and bodies might not be present, whose voices and bodies may have been systematically cast to the wayside.
Allow yourself to be angry.
To fight. To breathe fire. To write fire. To speak fire.
And bring that fire and that fight and that joy and that sense of ubuntu everywhere you go.
And don’t forget!
You’re not doing this thing alone.
You are not trekking off into the wilderness on a solo jaunt never to see another human being ever again.
You are not without a hand or a shoulder or a person to talk to or hug or fall on top of when things feel too heavy to bear.
You are not alone.
At the end of the day, your inner 3-year old zany self (see photo below) is jumping up and down with glee and pride and awe, all for you–
You can do it!!! You will do it.
Oh, and also don’t forget– have some fun!!!
Lots of love and hugs to you, my dear Khaki.
Love love love,