A letter to my sister, on the occasion of her first grown-up broken heart

Audrey Jo,

I was in second grade the year you were born. I don’t remember meeting you in the hospital, or holding you for the first time. I don’t remember those first few days. But I remember, vividly, the moment I knew you existed. It was recess, and a teacher called me onto the blacktop to say I was being picked up early. Because I had a sister.

Remembering it now, I think it was my first real, deep, grown-up emotion. I loved you before I met you.

Helping you grow up is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’d like to think I gave you good advice. I tried to keep your secrets. I know I made you laugh. When there is nearly a decade between yourself and your sibling, you’re often told, “You know, she really looks up to you.” I hope what you saw then – and see now – is someone you’re proud of.

Every second I was there while you grew up has been precious to me, but I know you’re not finished yet, and so I can’t be either.

There’s something you should know about this time, when the whole world is open in front of you; one long hallway, doors all ajar, every threshold silvery with hope and possibility.

It’s hard.

You will forget, for a while, the nature of doors. They lead you to new places. They swing wide, to let light come pouring in. They welcome you, give you shelter and a place to belong.

But doors also close.

You won’t notice it happening; not at first. You’ll bound through one after another, and it will be a long time before you turn to glance behind you. But when you do, you’ll find some of those unexplored alcoves closed to you, their doors gently shut. Some, if you want, can be pried open (and if you call, I will come with a crowbar). Others, it seems, get dead bolts.

It is easy to turn on your heel and run back down the hall to pound on closed doors. It is harder to choose a new one. This is where it gets difficult. It isn’t the closed doors that are scary. It’s the fear of uncertainty – of feeling that suddenly, the next knob you choose to turn holds your whole future. It’s enough to keep you out in the hall forever.

This is my answer: do not be afraid. Go joyfully in all the directions you choose, and the ones you don’t choose, and no path will ever be the wrong one. There will always – always – be a way out, and a way in, and a brand new way altogether. You will become a seeker of new rooms.

You will be a builder of doors.

Meet the future head on, and cherish every victory, tragedy, failure, romance and heartbreak. Feel every one of them as deeply and as honestly as you can. Wrap the light moments around your shoulders like a coat, and use the heavy ones as stones to lay a path beneath your feet.

You are fair and kind and good. You are funny and bold and full of life and music. You are my favorite person in the world, and my best friend. You are fully half my heart.

Head up. Shoulders back. You are more – so much more – than enough.

Love you, Bear.

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