Tag Archives: Letter

An Open Letter to My Brother on His College Graduation

Dear Adam,

Congratulations, baby bro. You did it. And your family are so, so proud of you.

I missed your graduation because I’m half a world away but all of our grandparents were there and that’s more important. I’m proud of you because I know you worked hard, took chances, made choices, and had adventures. Our grandparents are schepping nachas because you were their first boy and no one knew what to make of you, but everyone loved you immediately. Everyone continued to love you as you grew into the cheerful, funny, passionate person that you are. And look at where you are now. I’m so glad they were there.

I couldn’t be there but I’m thinking of you. I know you have a good head on your shoulders and that’s why there are things I want you to know. Putting my educator hat on, I will say that I wish they’d taught you differently in school. You graduated from an undergraduate business program, after all, and I wish they’d taught you about things that matter. You know you’re supposed to go into the world and make money, with which you’re then supposed to do . . . something. Make more?

But as your older sister, and as person who shares the planet with you and identifies in relation to you, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. You will always have my love and support, in any way you need it and at any time of night or day. Just call and I’ll be there.
  2. It’s important to take care of yourself. It’s important to eat well, sleep well, and make the time for things that matter. Work can wait, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You can’t do the work if you’re not healthy.
  3. The world is full of choices and they only get bigger as you gain life experience. Make the choices that will help you become the person you want to be. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow.
  4. It’s hard to ask difficult questions and even harder to answer them. Think and feel deeply. Consider the questions, “Who am I? What am I?” Consider them over and over and over. Act accordingly.
  5. You will make many, many mistakes. You will hurt people without knowing you did. You will be hurt. You will cry. And you will learn. Learn from your mistakes and experiences and let them make you a better person.
  6. Beauty is easy to pass by. Don’t. Really, actually, stop and smell the flowers. Spend thirty seconds just looking at a tree. Dance in the rain. Climb the mountain. Look around and protect the simple things – they matter.
  7. Remember that small acts create big ripples. It’s not hard to remember a birthday or write a note or say hello to someone new, but all of those things make a difference. Make them part of who you are.
  8. It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to decide this isn’t working and do the difficult thing and walk away. It’s okay to start over. It’s okay to try something completely new. This is how we learn and grow.
  9. Speak up for what matters to you. It’s one thing to grumble in private and quite another to stomp your feet in public. Stomp your feet and behave with integrity.
  10. The most important thing is to be a good person. Money can wait. Buying a house can wait. Your new avalanche skis can wait. Be a good person. That cannot wait.

Congratulations again. Take some time to celebrate . . . and now go change the world.

I love you,

Rebecca Michelle

Unpublished

I do a lot of writing that no one ever sees. I write a lot of letters. Dear you. From me. Many of these letters remain in my journal but I also have a Google Doc titled, “What Not to Say”. The letters in that document are usually a little more formal, a little more polished. Typing allows me to edit whereas writing by hand sometimes leads me down a rabbit hole to places I didn’t want to visit. But the letters that I actually send or pass on are always handwritten. If it’s important enough to say and give to you, I don’t want to make changes. Sealed in an envelope are my fresh, unedited thoughts. Think about them, if you’d like. They’re for you.

Years ago, when I packed my childhood memories into boxes, I sifted through envelopes full of letters and postcards. I read them, smiling through hasty blinks to keep back tears, reciting lines I’d memorized but forgotten I knew. I smiled at the way that person wrote “and”, the way that person signed their name, the way I still know the handwriting of my family and friends from forever ago.

I wonder which of my letters remain with their recipients.

I wonder about the letters I’ve written that I’ll never send, that no one will ever see. I keep these letters so I have them, but what’s in them worth saving? And if I won’t send them, why save them after all? Is it to have a record of what’s in my heart, a record of what I really wanted you to know? Is it just to give me something to do when I’m filled to the brim with sensations and emotions that I can’t express any other way?

Sometimes I secretly dedicate blog posts to specific people. Sometimes I write knowing a certain someone will see it or hoping it’ll somehow reach them. Once upon a time, a friend got in touch with me months after I’d published something for her. Another time, a friend told me I’d put into words what he couldn’t quite express about our interaction; everything was a little less weird after that.

And then there are the posts that I write but don’t publish, the ones that remain partially edited, often with another friend’s comments in the margins. Sometimes I realize I’m not clearly communicating what I want to say because I don’t quite understand it, either. Sometimes the ideas that come through in these unpublished posts are raw, uncomfortable, and complicated in ways that I’m not quite ready to engage with, at least not in public. And sometimes I’m satisfied having private conversations about my writing and don’t feel the need to take the discussion any further.

I was in elementary school when I started keeping a journal. I was in grade 10 when my English teacher required us to write every week. I was in my early twenties when I started writing every day, and slightly older when I started asking for feedback. Writing is a journey, a process; it’s a way of pausing, slowing down, and finding quiet in my mind and in my surroundings.

Sometimes I write for you, but more often, I write for me. I write because I think better on paper; writing requires me to make sense of my thoughts and ideas, to unravel what seems to be a whole into its discrete parts, to create concepts out of fragments. I write because the act of holding a pen to paper and watching the letters take shape is mesmerizing, soothing. I find myself distracted watching the ink flow and my breathing comes more easily than before.

That’s why I don’t always send the letters. Writing them is often enough.

Sharing my writing is taking a deep breath every time and throwing caution to the winds. Some pieces hit a wall and crash back down to Earth. Others soar, prompting reactions that delight and surprise. And still others come back to me riddled with wounds, criticized and critiqued in ways both constructive and spiteful.

Writing is thinking on paper and sometimes it’s best to keep that to myself. But writing starts conversations and that’s why I share it. Challenging conversations don’t bother me; fraught silence does.

Dear you. From me.

Thank You Note

Eleven months ago, I wrote a note to a crying stranger in a café, assuring her that her troubles would pass and that she was not alone. You can do it, I wrote.

A week later, I needed a kind stranger to write me a note, promising me that I was not alone, that my troubles would pass, that everything would be okay.

More than a few kind strangers entered my life this year; they grew into kind friends.

I’m at my parents’ house in Rochester, enveloped by a quiet joy, a delight at having my family all together. There’s a warm bubble somewhere just above my heart, noticeable despite a slight constriction in my chest. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and a backpack to move back to Singapore, a place that I love and still call home. I’m not sleeping well, which must mean I’m nervous.

And just like last time and the time before, it’s bittersweet. I think it always will be.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who has supported me through a year fraught with personal challenges. With their support, I learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons I didn’t know I had, and gained a sense of what I want and what I’m looking for.

So, I want to say thank you.

To the friend who sat with me for hours to find an apartment, figure out the next steps, and forced me to literally get up, get dressed, and get out;

to the friend who let me be sad and supplied me with wine and cheese to help the sadness go down a little easier;

to the friend who held me when “New York City” by The Chainsmokers filled the LA Convention Center;

to everyone who told me to talk to a therapist and to my roommate who gave me the last push in that direction;

to the therapist who let me talk and assured me that that I’m doing okay at this thing called life and that I’m allowed to listen to myself;

to the friends who called on Skype and over the phone to remind me that they may be far away, but they’re here;

to the colleagues who put a smile on my face every single day, made me look forward to coming to work, became my friends and confidants, taught me about resilience and overcoming adversity, and gave me the safest, most nurturing place to be when I had nowhere else to go;

to the students whose questions pushed me to rethink schools, education, and my plans for the future;

to the UES carpool squad who became my reason for getting out of bed nearly every day for the first few months of school and for friendship, political solidarity, and Starbucks Fridays;

to my sister and brother who checked in on me, came to visit, and reminded me that my “built-in friends” are really never going anywhere;

to my parents who showed me the world;

thank you.

Thank you all so much.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle