Those ten make a pretty big difference.
Elizabeth Andrea, I have loved you at every age, and I really think this is the best yet. Little Ellie sparkled. Everyone saw it. She just had that…chispa. And yeah, sometimes she also exploded, but that was colorful, too, even when it burned. In the last ten years, that sparkle hasn’t faded. It’s taken hold. At thirteen, you glow with the kind of steady luminescence that makes people want to come closer. It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. Just that.
I could tell stories. There are a lot of good ones from this year, and I’m pretty proud of you, so it would be easy to give all the reasons why. But as I already said last year, I think we’re past that.
Things are different now. I don’t tell you who you are anymore. Now you tell me.
I know you don’t fully know yet. I know you’re still figuring it out, and it will take a long time (probably forever since it will change often). Still, you’re up to the job. And I want to know you. The real you. Each new you that comes as you grow and change through your whole life. And in order to do that, I have to let go of being the narrator. I’ll watch and listen and live along with you, but it’s not my story. It’s yours.
I guess that’s what I want to say to you about today. This is your story now. As the Doctor would say, make it a good one.
Just a few things to remember along the way, though. Because I can’t just say nothing, obviously. Because I don’t need to tell you who you are anymore, but I do know something about being happy, and I think we can agree that happiness is a good goal.
Make your story about more than yourself, okay? It’s going to be easier and easier to get caught up in doing your own thing, in discovering yourself, in being awesome and conquering the world. Sometimes other people will be annoying nuisances along the way to where you’re going. I know, I know, not your friends. At least not most of the time. But those siblings. Definitely them. And you know the classmates and the teammates and the teachers who just. don’t. get. it.
People are going to be drawn to your glow. You’ll have a choice. You can brush them off and brush them away or you can pull them in, you can form a merry band of misfits and have an altogether different kind of story. An “us” story instead of a “me” story. You’ll want to push some of them off a cliff some of the time, but I promise you’re more likely to get to the end in one piece if you don’t.
Have fun being awesome. However you grow and whoever you become, you are extraordinary. Do all the things. Enjoy everything God has made you to be. Enjoy every gift he gives you, and don’t feel guilty about any of it. Someday, many days, he’s going to ask really hard things of you. You’re going to want to give him everything he asks for, and you will never regret that. When it’s the other times, the times he’s giving good and pleasant gifts, don’t be afraid to take them. He’s your father. He wants you to be happy. So be happy.
Give yourself a break. You won’t get it all right. You won’t get it all together. You won’t get it all done. You don’t have to. I know you only sort of believe me on this. I know these words are going in one ear and out the other. But after you’ve half killed yourself being awesome and realize that you still feel like a failure, come back here and remember this, okay? It’s not up to you. You don’t have to be anything or accomplish anything or create anything. God’s going to make you, use you, and build what he wants to build. You can take a nap if you need to. I swear it’s okay.
Don’t forget how much you’re loved. Do I say this every year? I hope I say this every year. Never in all the world was anyone loved so much as you are loved. If you ever wonder how much God loves you just look around. You’re surrounded. There is literally nowhere you could go and nothing you could do to get away. There are no words for how much Papi and I love you, and we’re only the beginning. Everywhere you go, you’re wearing that love like a magic cloak of protection or maybe just the coziest of sweatshirts. I hope you feel it on your loneliest of days and in your most confusing hours. I hope it keeps you warm when the world is colder than you ever thought it could be.
Okay, enough. You’re a teenager. You don’t need more words.
Anyway, I have a cake to bake, and in a few days we have a plane to catch.
I love you, El. Happy, happy birthday.