A letter to my newborn niece, Winifred Virginia. Born on September 22, 2017.
Dear little Winnie,
Looking back on my 23 years of life, there are few moments as joyful as the day of your birth. I felt an inexplicable sense of gratefulness as I held you and looked into your eyes for the very first time. I get to be your aunt. And there are few titles in this life more important to me than this one.
I don’t have a ton of life experience yet, but reminiscing on the past several years, I have a few tidbits of advice I’d like to give you.
Here are some shreds of wisdom I wish I knew—or at least taken to heart—as a young girl growing up in a complicated world:
1.Your worth is inherent.
Winnie, your worth and value as a human being does not fluctuate.
There will be days where a sense of worthlessness will creep into your psyche. Everyone has these moments. But just let them be fleeting.
You can have a hundred successes or a hundred failures, but your inherent worth stays exactly the same. It is not contingent on your results in life.
2. Your beauty stems not from your outward qualities, but from who you are as a person—from the way you treat other people, and how you love those around you.
Winnie, your birth coincides with a very divisive time in our country’s history. I pray the problems we’re experiencing today will be resolved by the time you reach young adulthood, but this may be wishful thinking.
What I do know is you will have people throughout your life that will try and convince you the pigment of someone’s skin or the faith a person practices somehow defines his or her worth in society. Pay them no attention.
Just remember, “Nobody is better than you but you’re better than nobody.”
3. Know your namesake.
Winnie, I know for a fact I won’t be the first or last person to tell you about your namesake – Virginia. Your great-grandma was one-of-a-kind.
Everyone in the family hopes to be a little more like Virginia each day.
Virginia fought against societal norms that marginalized women, especially in the workplace. Throughout her life she was a constant source of joy and laughter to everyone around her. Her servant’s heart and empathy for others were incomparable.
4. Tell yourself a different story than society tells you.
Winnie, there will inevitably be a situation in your life—most likely multiple—when someone tries to marginalize your ideas or perspective. Fight against it.
Don’t allow yourself to be subjected to the shadows. Your voice and your ideas matter.
Even in 2017, women face a myriad of obstacles in both society and in the workplace. You’ll most likely experience these obstacles as well. Don’t let them stop you. Keep persisting.
5. Allow yourself the time to figure out who you want to be.
Winnie, figuring out who you are and who you want to be is a hard and weird process. And it’s a process I have yet to complete entirely.
As you grow, different groups of people will try and influence you to act or talk or dress a certain way. Peer pressure is real for all ages.
When you begin school, it will be so easy to try and transform yourself into a certain mold to fit in with a friend group. You will feel pressure to start changing yourself into someone you’re not as you begin dating.
These moments are inevitable for all of us. My only advice is to take time to discover who you want to be. This is your life; don’t let anyone try and vicariously live through it.
6. Be content with where you are now. If you aren’t content where you are, you won’t be content where you’re going.
Winnie, take it from someone who is not very good at this: living in the future or in the past is exhausting and counterproductive.
As a graduate student attempting to figure out what I’m supposed to do for the foreseeable future, it’s incredibly easy for me to constantly be thinking about what’s coming. But the fact is that my present is pretty awesome, and it won’t last forever.
So enjoy the season you’re in. You’re not always going to have it all together and that’s okay. That’s normal.
Even in periods of suffering where you feel like it will never end, just know these are the moments you’ll grow. These are the moments that will shape you. Try and be content in them.
Winnie, what I’m trying to tell you is that life is full of incredible opportunities and crushing disappointments. I pray your opportunities are abundant and your disappointments few, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Life can be really, really hard. Through life’s darkest valleys, I hope you can find the inexplicable joy this beautiful world provides.
I can’t foresee your future or the world’s future, or even my own, but I can know without a shadow of a doubt that you will walk through this life surrounded by an abundance of love. And in the end, that’s all anyone ever seeks – to be loved and appreciated and valued – not for what you accomplish, but for who you inherently are.
Life itself is a gift and I look forward to what you do with yours. Don’t be afraid to be you, Winifred.
I love you,