My baby sister graduates this week, and I couldn't be more frightened.
Worries flow through my mind freely and consistently. Is she ready? Will she find her place? Will some lovesick 20-year-old woo her into an early marriage?
Now I know what parents feel like, and it's all so unsettling. It was hard enough watching her grow up. When I dream of her, she's still the child I remember when I was a senior and she a fourth-grader. Her hair was long and so dark everyone always mistook it for black, and her eyes were the same shade of brown as mine. A dimple creased her cheek when she smiled.
When I moved to another city for college and returned home only a few times a year, it was difficult to acknowledge that this young girl was becoming a woman. And not just any woman, but a beautiful one. I've often noticed the looks she garners, and I must say I'm not delighted. Of course I'd never want her to hide her beauty, but I'm a big fan of conservative clothing when it comes to my sister.
But now I have no choice but watch as Nicole wears two-piece bathing suits and off-the-shoulder tops. All I can do now is just be there for her. And pray. I pray all the time that she's strong enough for the adult world she's about to enter.
She's got a good head on her shoulders and she's feisty, but that's simply not enough to make it these days. I don't want this cruel world to gobble her up and spit out a bitter, unhappy human being. And that truly scares me.
So as my sister and her peers say good-bye to their childhood and start settling into the people who will one day run the country, I have some advice I'd like to share.
Don't rush into major life-changing decisions without really thinking about the consequences. Some things just can't be fixed. But at the same time, don't be afraid to jump in head-first. You'll never really experience life if you're afraid of it. Take chances, but only the thoughtful ones.
Laugh as much as you can. Don't dwell on the bad and negative. That will only make you bitter. If you don't have a sense of humor, buy one. It's necessary in this modern day of depression and war.
Make friends often. They are responsible for most of the happiness in your life. And to make good friends, you must be a good friend. Invest in your relationships, and you'll get a nice return. Listen when needed. Embrace their flaws. Overlook their mistakes.
Don't forget your family. You didn't pick them. You don't have to live next door. But you should, at the very least, love them. Keep in touch.
Some brothers like to know their little sisters are doing well.
Shannon Jenkins is the education reporter for The Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org .