Dear 26 year old Amandla,

You spent the past 10 years working your butt off so your sister and brother would have the same opportunities you had when your parents were alive.

Your self-imposed responsibility was to see them through college; after that you would go back to just being their big sister. That time has come - baby sister graduated with honors as a bona fide college celebrity. She secured her first job, and carries herself with the poise, grace and composure of a young woman. Baby brother is graduating next year; he continues to be the most determined person you know, making adult decisions to take care of his body and mind. He is growing into the man your parents would be so proud of. You have done a fine job.

So why are you feeling morose? Why do the colors of your life seem muted? Life is no cakewalk, I do not expect ebullience from you 24/7. But where is the spirit of that bright eyed bushy tailed 18 year old that could lite up the room with a single smile? Take the time to think through why you feel lackluster sometimes, why you choose to engage in more solitary pursuits and fewer extroverted endeavors. Your feelings are valid, and you should heed them. It is difficult to transition from having such a singular motivating factor in your life - your siblings - to essentially a blank slate to plan out the next 10 years of your life.

Let me take you back to a similarly confusing time soon after mom passed, when your college aged self made the decision to take full ownership over how you reacted to these feelings. Here is what you learned:

  1. Go big or go home: Remember that job you were borderline ineligible for, but you convinced them you were IT? Or when you had that audacious vision for a skills-based organization that trained students to be better leaders because you believed that “charisma” was not sufficient for good leadership? 8 years later, that organization is going strong. You believed you could, and so you did. Don’t lose that.
  2. Be your own best cheerleader: Haters gon’ hate - especially as you continue to excel and achieve. Listen to the criticism. It is important to stay humble and recognize learning opportunities. But, you know yourself better than anyone else. Graciously accept the feedback that will make you a better person. Shelf the rest.
  3. You are not conventional, own it: You heart swells with joy as you help some of your closest friends plan engagements, weddings, and baby showers. But when your friends keep trying to hook you up with their “only” other single friend because they don’t understand why someone so smart, beautiful…yada yada is still single you just feel annoyed. Remember your first true love - you asked HIM out. Make time to meet interesting people but buck conventions about normative relationships. When you do get to the altar, do it for you and your partner. Not all the people giving you grief about settling down now.

Go forth and be awesome. You were once wild here, don’t let them tame you.


18 year old Amandla

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