To whom this may concern,
I write to you this evening in the hopes your infinite wisdom can help me. My Daughter, Erica, will be traveling to India tomorrow and there are some things I need you to know, before she embarks on her first journey out of America...
The night before Erica turned eighteen, she was very upset. Her tears fell hard and fast, as she told me how scared she was to turn eighteen. She realized that in the eyes of the law, she would now be an adult and she was afraid. What does being an adult mean? I asked. She said it meant I didn't have to take care of her anymore; that I could throw her out on the street, if I wanted to. That I could abandon her, legally. She said if she accidentally broke the law, she'd "no longer qualify for Family Court" and she'd most certainly be tried in criminal court. (She's so cute.) She said being an adult was a huge privilege and she couldn't imagine herself taking on such a responsibility. She felt that from here on out, life would blindside her, ambush her, hurt her.
Before Erica was born, I thought of the things I'd be afraid of as a parent; how I'd be able to financially support the lifestyle I wanted to give her, how safe she would be in her car seat--which I tested fifteen times before she was born, by slamming on my brakes, almost giving myself a concussion.-- I had all my fears and concerns in check, but I never considered what my Daughter would be afraid of. What would be the things that keep her awake at night? I didn't know she'd have an innate fear of being abandoned. I didn't know she'd come to believe she is unworthy of love and belonging.
I listened fully and attentively to my soon-to-be-eighteen girl that night. I assured her that only good things can come of being an adult. I told her life is never just thrown at us. I said that as opportunities and responsibilities come, she'll already be ready for them. I said, Life is gradual. Life is a process. She took a choppy deep breath and said, Okay, Dad. I believe you.
Two years later, I died. And life for my child was not, as I'd promised, gradual.
Although she was thoroughly heartbroken and in excruciating pain, I wish I could say I worried for her; that I thought she couldn't survive without me. But I didn't. My Daughter knew exactly what she needed to do and she's done it. She sold our house and made a new home for herself by the sea. She went to school to earn her degree. She's easy with her love and sees the gifts and power in her vulnerability. And now, she's going to India, with her best friend, Hailey. As a parent, I couldn't wish for a better travel buddy.
Erica often feels afraid, yet she keeps showing up. For every doubt that she is worthy, she takes at least three new chances. For every moment she believes she's forgettable, there are ten people who can't imagine life without her, and they tell her so. She is sensitive and tough. My Daughter is very much interested in life. That's who she is. That's my girl.
So, Universe, for this adventure, my wish for Erica is to abandon the mental and emotional ways she's kept herself safe. May she let go of the relationships, the fears and the beliefs that have kept her small, and gently take down the walls she's put up, protecting her from being heartbroken, the way she was when I had to leave. I want her to ride the elephants and do the Yoga, as she's been saying. I want her to allow this once in a lifetime adventure to wash over her, around her, through her. Mostly, let her laugh; it's my favorite sound.
Tell her I'll know she's arrived safe and sound, because I just know those kinds of things. She must know that I am with her, that she is my front row seat at her Talent Show. She needs to remember that she is not OF my greatness, she IS my greatness. She is expansive, brave and authentic in ways I could have never been.
Tell her I am always accessible to her and always have been. Show her that in life, the only way out is not through, but rather, in. Remind her not to worry what to do with her life, but rather what her life is doing with her. Emphasize that she's always had everything she needs to not only survive, but thrive. Also, please remind her to drink bottled water, check in with her Mother and don't talk to strangers.
Thank you for taking care of my little girl.