My niece graduated high school in June. At the tender age of 17, I still think of her as that cute little baby who loved the camera. The little one who would pose anytime you pointed a camera at her. She is my first and only daughter. Even though I didn’t birth her, you can’t tell me she’s not mine. I’m fiercely protective of her and her spirit.
We gave her a trunk party to send her off to college last Saturday. She’s attending Frostburg State here in Maryland. We’re so super proud of the first grand child. She’s beautiful, smart and will be a cheerleader at Frostburg.
But, she has had to overcome some obstacles already.
My niece suffers from anxiety. Last year, she went through a terrible episode where we thought she was having a nervous breakdown. She seemed to be unraveling before my eyes. This beautiful little girl who I hugged and kissed and affectionately named her “Little Tikeetha” was like a fragile china doll. I couldn’t reach her.
We banded together as a family and were strengthened in our desire to make sure that she knows that we love and support her. That we are and will always be her family. My mother, her grandmother, and her grew closer. She became grandma’s baby at that point. Her mental health was of the utmost importance. We constantly reassured her that we love her and are with her.
She is healing. She is on medication. She is better. She has the support of our family . My niece seemed to miss more school than we ever thought possible. But, she graduated. On time. With her class. She’s good. Great in fact.
You would have never known the internal struggle or challenges she suffered. She’s strong. Like her mom. Like my mom. Like my grandma. It’s in her genes.
Which is why I’m so proud that she is going away to college. Against Grandma’s advice. LOL. My mother wanted her to go to school closer, but she is going about 2 hours away and still in the state. Not too far. We’re her family so you know we will just pop up for weekend visits, love and support. That’s what we do. Support each other.
As she begins this next chapter in her life I wanted to tell her 3 things to encourage her. To motivate her and to take with her on the next part of her journey…
- You are more valuable than you know. You matter sweet princess. Your voice. Your spirit. Your life. All of it matters. You are an invaluable piece of the puzzle in our family. You are the best parts of us. Your weird laugh. Your gentle touch. Your sweet demeanor all remind us that we have good in us. Look at you. You are the favorite grandchild, favorite niece and the favorite cousin. There’s nothing wrong with that. My cousin, Brennan aka Boo-Bop, was that too. Never forget your value. We believe in you, but more importantly we need you to believe in yourself.
- There’s nothing wrong with saying no. There’s no greater strength than saying no. No to things that you don’t want to do. No to things that are suspect to you. When you go away to school remember that there is strength in saying no. You can do it. You are your own best advocate. Remember that if you don’t want to go to a party, say no. If you don’t want to drink, say no. If you don’t want to do anything, you can say no. It’s your right to say no.
- You are stronger than you know. I know sometimes life will seem rough and you won’t be able to make sense of the things around you. Breathe princess. Know that this trial is only temporary. You can and you will survive. Why? Because you are stronger than you know. You have the strength to make the best choices for your life. Don’t let petty arguments or situations bring you out of who you are. Speak up for yourself. If you are having issues with a friend, let them know. If you don’t understand why you received a grade on an assignment, ask the professor. There’s strength in trying to make sense of the chaos.
This journey you’re on is one that you must take alone. I know it may seem scary at times, but you must remember that we are always in your corner. You need money, call me. You need a voice to talk to. Call me. Any time. I will always be there. I will be there on your first day, homecoming weekend, parents weekend and any other time. I’m so proud Princess and I will always be your auntie.