We live in the space between absolute certainty and knowing nothing because it is safe here.Read More
I have spoken to a lot of people lately who all say the same thing: “I have learned my lesson about hope, and I do not do it anymore.”Read More
What would it take for you to kneel down in front of your daughter and tell her to put her three favorite things in her tiny backpack, to tell her a story about your trip that would prepare her, but wouldn’t make her too afraid?Read More
When I was very young, I just wanted people to like me. I wanted them to think I was nice. And so I was. I was very, very nice. I was nice at the expense of a lot of things.
I was nice when I should have been bold. I was nice when I should have been angry. I was nice when I should have been brave or sad or offended.
I was nice when I should have defended myself, and more importantly, when I should have defended others.
The truth is hard: I was nice because I was afraid of what doing the bold thing would cost me. I was nice because I was a coward. And because I was a coward, other people suffered.
I am still too nice sometimes, still too worried I might offend the people who disagree with me, especially those related to me. I still sometimes dance around what I know is the right thing to say because I am afraid of what they’ll think of me: that I’m condescending or pretentious or inconsiderate or that I don’t know my place. I’m even more worried that they’ll be right: that I do not know my place because I am still finding it. That I am never sure whether I am worried more that my voice won’t matter or that it will.
I now see the cost of my cowardice more clearly. I see that when I decide not to be brave—when I decide to be nice instead of bold—that someone loses. And it is almost always someone who already has less than I do.
I do not endorse being hateful. I do not like yelling, though I understand why humans who have been stripped of their rights cry out. It is the correct response to injustice. And yet, I have always been more prone to crying than screaming, always more likely to close up than to lash out.
This is not about violence, which is never OK, regardless of circumstance. But it is about the way we react to violence: about whether we’re bold enough to defend ourselves and each other when it matters most. About whether we are bold enough to call something wrong when it is. About what it costs us to stop violence, and whether we’re willing to pay that price.
Now, when I think now about what I want my legacy to be, I don’t care at all whether people say I am nice. I hope people found me to be kind when they needed it, and brave when they needed it, and funny when they needed it, too. But more so, I hope that when my friends’ daughters go to their first days of work, it is easier for them because my generation lived. I hope they are safer and smarter and better off because we were courageous enough to make it so.
I am done being nice not because I am done being kind, but because I am making room for more important ways to be. I am making room for courage and justice and love and growth and mistakes and a better world for all of us.
Dear Class of 2022 (and the rest of you),
Welcome to college! You probably have a lot of expectations about what the next few years are going to look like. And you’re probably wrong.
And that’s OK! Because that’s my first piece of advice. Be brave enough to be wrong, because being wrong is the best way to learn. We know that girls and women especially have been conditioned to be perfect or be silent, and that has hindered us in our education and work and development as human beings. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes, and college will provide you with the perfect opportunity to make those mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment, so that when you leave here and need to get it right, you’ll be ready. So go out there and fail fantastically!
But please don’t make those kinds of mistakes. You know the ones I’m referring to—the ones you know are mistakes before you make them. The ones that don’t feel right. The ones that hurt people, whether directly or indirectly. Try really hard not to make those mistakes. Find friends who help you not make those mistakes. Learn what you need to in order to avoid making those mistakes. Plan for the decisions you’ll make in situations where you know you might make these types of mistakes.
Also, do the reading! Please! I know you’re busy and there are a million things to do but people have spent a lot of time writing these books and your professors have put a lot of thought into what information will best prepare you to learn what you need to in class, and if you don’t do the reading, you (or your parents) are paying a whole lot of money for you to get half the education you deserve. So please, read.
Make friends everywhere. Don’t buy into the false narrative that your friends are your sorority or your dorm or your church or your youth group. It’s not true that you can’t make friends in your classes—some of the people who are reading this right now are lovely, wonderful, inspiring individuals who I met in my classes. So make friends in your sorority or fraternity, but also make friends in class and at work and on the bus and in the dining hall and at church and walking across the quad and in French club and at that honor society induction and when you study abroad. You have the great privilege of being on a campus with a diverse student body, and you will not meet all of the incredible people you have the opportunity to meet if you decide to only make friends in one place.
Eat some healthy foods. But also eat all the delicious unhealthy foods. Just don’t make a habit of it. Exercise. Do make a habit of that. Stay up late sometimes when adventure calls. But please sleep the night before a big test.
Listen. You’re going to hear things in college that you’ve never heard before. Some of them are going to be neat and some of them are going to be scary and all of them should make you stop and reassess who you want to be as a human.
Change. You should not be the same person when you graduate. This will scare some people. It may even scare you. But what is the point of education if not to become and become and become?
Find a thing that is not work or school to which you can contribute. Do not place all your value as a human on whether you pass that Chem exam. This is good practice for your life. You are not your grades or your work or your relationship with one friend. You are a wonderful conglomeration of all of these things, and you should begin to organize your life with that in mind.
And then continue to do all of this for the rest of your life. Continue to be fearlessly curious—to dare to make mistakes. To be kind to others and to think about the way your actions impact them. To make friends everywhere you go. To eat some healthy foods and some unhealthy foods because life is too short not to eat the delicious donuts. To exercise and sleep as if your life depends on it, because it does. To change as you learn new things and meet new people. To read every book you can get your hands on and let the stories shape you. And to find the things that bring you joy and do them.
This is how you make a life. This is how it begins.