I have loved your father for almost a decade. At the age of 24, these years are a good portion of my existence. We were kids when our lives first intertwined.
Our story began on the shores of the East China Sea - and I can't help but to believe that's where your story began, too. You are accumulated of all that we ever were. Children who climbed trees, scraped knees, and were desperate to grow permanent teeth and cross the street alone. Teenage angst during the years when we were discovering who we were for the first time. When your dad told me I was "worth the risk" and we loved deeply for as long the oceans stretched between the two of us. The words on the paper that connected us when time zones and continents couldn't. Hundreds of airplane dinners, and thousands of sunsets on opposite ends of the Earth. Mountains towering twelve-thousand feet above us, and the frozen powder that melted in our hair the day we wed. The gold flecks in his green eyes, and the seas in my blue.
All of us. We are you.
I have a lot of hopes for you both.
But at the top of that list is that you will be women who are deeply ingrained with an unconditional, unwavering love for yourselves - exactly as you are. I am begging you to see the worth that you embody. So much of my own life was wasted with me neglecting the relationship I had with myself. Hardships will not be easier, but they will surely be lighter if you decide early on to release yourself from the shackles of self-hate. Self love breeds self respect, and will in turn attract those who value themselves, too. Don't forget to belong to yourself first.
Aside from your self esteem, I often think about the people you will find to love in your lifetime. And I just hope they are a fraction of the human being your dad is.
I do not know much, but I do know what love is. Love is simple. It will never confuse you. Your heart and mind will be in agreement when you have found it. Like Mumford and Sons sing:
"Love; it will not betray you. Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free."
Love should set you free.
Find a love that ignites that self worth, never someone who dims it. A healthy marriage is composed of two whole humans, not two halves.
Find someone who loves you like they were born to do it, and kisses you like they can’t help not to. Love someone who never belittles you, even in the heat of an argument. Someone who is gentle with you, but does not treat you like you are fragile. Someone who sees the magic within you, knows the capacity of all you are capable of, and celebrates these pieces of you - never someone who is intimidated by your strength. Find the person who can watch you transform, and love you along the journey. Find someone who will call you out for being problematic, but will never make you feel shame for being flawed. It is not love's job to punish you. And always remember the person you love is just as broken as you are when they inevitably fall short. No one is perfect - do not hold them to this standard. Love someone who is merciful.
Find someone who is patient, forgiving, and apologetic. Someone who practices these things freely and often. Love someone who is humble, kind, and empathetic. Someone who humanizes a beggar on the street, or is courteous with the waiter who got everything wrong.
Compassion is important. Grace is important. Goodness is important.
Love someone who is driven and passionate. Someone who optimistically supports and uplifts you in your own dreams. Find someone who will move mountains, and wade through valleys to see you succeed. Someone who will do things that do not thrill them, simply to enrich you. Find the one who will give you standing ovations for your small victories. Find a partner, and a teammate; someone who does not expect you to adhere to obnoxious gender roles. Find someone you want to be in rooms with you, but also someone who understands the health that is in found in solitude. Love someone who makes you braver. Love someone who makes you better. Love someone who respects the words that come out of your mouth, and someone with an eagerness to learn about things they do not understand. Love a person who refuses to sit still in ignorance. Find a love that serves you, and someone who you want to spend your life serving, without reward.
Marry your best friend. I do not say that lightly. Really, truly find the strongest, happiest friendship in the person you fall in love with. Find someone whose chest heaves with pride when they speak of you. Find someone who makes you laugh the kind of laughs that make your belly ache - the embarrassing, earnest, healing kind of laughs. Wit is important. Life is too short not to love someone who lets you be a fool with them. Make sure they are somebody who lets you cry, too. Despair will come. Find someone that you want to be there with you when your world is dissolving.
Most importantly, marry the one that makes passion, love, and madness combine and course through you. A love that will never dilute - even when the waters get deep and dark. Do not settle for second best. This sort of love is out there. And I hope you have the courage to start over, and try again until you have found it.
My vibrant, beautiful girls, this wild, thorough, and reciprocated love is worth its weight.
Photo by Kandice Breinholt.