Last night I attended Greek Week’s Recognition Night. The final portion of the evening was dedicated to seniors. First, they presented a slideshow with pictures of us as babies and as college almost-graduates. Second, they delivered letters from our parents. Although seeing the picture of myself was funny – I had never seen it before – I was particularly affected by the letter.
At first, I didn’t think much of it. I’m a little disappointed in myself in admitting that at first blush, I felt the letter was rather blase. I think I read over it and imagined that it was the same letter that every other senior would be receiving. Nevertheless, I called my mother and thanked her for the effort. She told me I was welcome, of course, but also told me that dad cried a little after he wrote it. We both chuckled at the cuteness of it: the tenderness most-times hidden beneath a tough, austere face.
When I called last night, I was out with friends, and so couldn’t talk for very long. I called her again this morning and after talking with her, spoke to my dad. He expressed that the letter was very hard to write. After my conversation with them, I picked up the letter again and read it. I think this is when the disappointment for how I originally viewed the letter sank in, but then was quickly washed away by what the letter actually said: “We couldn’t be more proud of you.”
Although I constantly think my parents are insane for being proud of me and I don’t understand where their perception of me comes from, I’m realizing that their pride means something very special to me – much more than I originally thought. I regularly get down on myself for not doing enough. I don’t study enough, I don’t work hard enough, I don’t mean enough to enough people, I don’t win enough awards, I don’t make enough money, I’m not being a good enough friend or lover, and so forth. This morning, I woke up mired in that familiar well of disappointment and regret. When I read the letter my father wrote and was confronted with how proud he and my mom really are of me, I started feeling that everything was okay. I started to realize that I usually subject myself to a pretty impossible rubric for what I should be as a human being. And although that will probably never change…and honestly, I don’t know that I ever would want it to change, I’m realizing now that the only rubric that should matter to me is the one my parents put forth. Honestly, who do I owe more for all that I have been able to experience and do? And who do I care more for? My love for them runs so deep that I can easily forget about it: it fades into the background of who I am, something as vital but discrete as blood or bone.
I may never think that I’ve done anything worth a damn, but I’ve got to say, so long as my parents think highly of me, I can feel proud of that. I hope that in the future, when I get down on myself, this is what I’ll return to.
My dad started off his letter by commenting on how wonderful spring is because of the sense of newness one gets from flowers and trees starting to bloom. As I was writing, I looked out my window and realized that the oaks outside were in full bloom for the first time this year. My father ended his letter by proclaiming how excited I must be at the newness that lays before me. I guess he was right.