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An ode to the graduate: Fearlessly be yourself

My sister Jordan graduated from high school last week.From the same high school I attended. But even though we’re from the same place, we had very different experiences. Jordan’s high school years were pretty typical, nothing to write home about. So going to college for her, is a shining beacon of *hell yes.* For me on the other hand, I felt differently. 130_8499875481_8545_n

I was blessed with some really, really good friends in Lakeland. Friends whom I shared every secret, tons of laughter & countless trips to the beach. They were the people who made my high school years more than bearable, they made them fun. So, when my acceptance letter from Florida State came in the mail, I was well, scared to death. I really didn’t want to go. I was comfortable. But I went, & I moped through my freshman orientation, & I sobbed my way through my freshman year.  I had a tough time – I was dealing with some teen heartbreak and homesickness. But I somehow crawled out of that Lifetime Movie without being sedated, which to this day, is my greatest accomplishment. (seriously.)

I eventually found my way and became heavily involved with student activities. And even though I basically took a year off from school to do so, I had fun, and I graduated, and landed a pretty great job.

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But Jordan is different. She’s over the moon about heading to USF, she’s already earned a spot on the dance team – she already has a resume. (When I was her age, all I had was a MySpace & a Live Journal.) She’s excited, she’s ready and she’s the proud owner of a hot pink Keurig.

For the larger part of my life, she’s looked up to me. I’d like to think she gleaned my determination & drive – but I think she learned that from my mom. She raised us both to be real & determined as all GET OUT. So really the only things my sister may have picked up from me is how to tease her hair & why you shouldn’t have a boyfriend in high school.20140616_1753491

But as she heads into this new part of her story with confidence & poise, I find myself looking up to her.

I consider myself fairly successful person (even though there’s a long road ahead) but just as I thought I had figured some things out, they fell apart again. But that’s life. It sneaks up on you & teaches you lessons you didn’t think you needed to learn. And sometimes you pick up a few things from your kid sister – Who used to steal your china tea set & your Limited Too polos.

While I was interning my ass off – during the era of “South in the City” – I was fearless. I hopped a plane to New York, lived in a nunnery, interned at a fashion mag – And a short month later, I was already driving up i75 to Atlanta for an internship at CNN. I may have been a doe-eyed, inexperienced “intern.” But man, was I gutsy. I worked really hard, showed some tried and true grit – And then I “arrived.” I got where I wanted to be my WHOLE life. I have a job that I love, in a small apartment, that I love. But I’ve gotten a little soft.

You know when you feel the wind of change blow into your life? You know, the wind that you’re not ready for, the kind that whispers around before it takes knocks you cold in the gut. That’s what I feel right now. It’s scary. It makes me nervous – But, from experience, I know that change hurts the most when you resist it.

I hope to be brave again, just like I was as an intern, just like my sister is as an incoming Freshman. Just like I know I can be. But the “what if” bully enters my thoughts, yelling: “What if you don’t succeed? What if you make the wrong choice? What if you never find what you’re looking for?”

And the small voice: …But what if you do?

That’s harder for me to picture than the failure.

But time & time again, when I think I can’t or won’t – that there isn’t going to be a next thing, a next someone, a next job – there always was. So while I teeter around the edge of wondering if I can I make the jump – I’ll be thinking of my sister and her God-given inclination to fearlessly be herself.

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