With every new interaction, we arrive to each other not fully formed, broken even.
That is not saying anything about you; it is just a reflection on the nature of life. Our entire life’s journey is about healing in some way, about finding wholeness, and we are always on that journey, always on a quest to make ourselves as whole as possible for this given moment. And when we connect with one another, when we show up to each other authentic and vulnerable and willing, we receive one more gift, one more balm on our journey towards healing.
You all have been that balm.
To each other, yes; and to me, too. Week by week, I know that you helped to heal me, and I have witnessed you healing one another. I marveled at your magic and at our good fortune of having just exactly this combination of each of you at exactly this moment be together, to learn together, to try together, to heal together.
When we show up to each other, anywhere in life, I think these are the most essential questions that we should ask; whose answers we should most seek.
How can I help you? How can I be a part of your healing? What is it that I can learn from you?
These questions are the very cornerstone of discovering what our purpose is in this world.
Life is huge and complex and overwhelming. Sometimes, in our desire to make things easier, we take shortcuts. One of our most common shortcuts is to put people in boxes. Oh, you are Latina? Well, that means this. You are male? That means this. You are a woman and you date women? That means this. We do not create these boxes to be cruel. We create these boxes to make things easier for ourselves. And, yet, there is nothing easy or ordinary or basic about the human condition and when we subscribe people to boxes, we deny them all of their complexity, all of their richness and experience, all of their brokenness and even their healing. We dictate to them who we need them to be to make it easier for us. These shortcuts, designed for efficiency, almost always fail us because we aren’t meant for efficiency. As a people, we are meant for expansiveness.
As I witnessed and learned from you each week, the most miraculous realization came to me because I saw in you this way made truth as you committed to hearing one another, witnessing one another, revealing yourselves to one another, understanding one another. You refused to put each other in boxes; you assumed right intention; you gave grace, you listened.
And here is what I know from watching you: your generation can be the one that changes everything—that destroys the crutch of the box, that takes each other out of that box and, by doing so, takes society out of its prison. You can be the one that never assumes, that never limits, that never diminishes. And each of you, as I have seen here every Friday, can be leaders in that effort. Because I have witnessed your magic, your compassion, your hope, your hurt, your healing. You can do better than we have done so far. You can change us. You can make the world safer and more welcoming for each of us—no matter our bodies, our beliefs, our brokenness. You can heal the world as you heal yourself. Witnessing you, watching your way, reading your words has given me the most profound hope.
We have talked for months about what matters: how it is not how we look but how we show up—our openness, our willingness, our hopefulness—that matters, that people remember, that changes lives. I think creating the collective and individual future of our dreams comes down to this:
How young can we be when we realize all that matters is how much we love (ourselves and others), how much we cherish the time we have left (and how much we make choices that allow that time to be high quality), how much judgment hasn’t done us a lick of good as an individual, a community, or a society (in fact, it may be the thing that has done us the most collective profound harm), how much our offering help can change everything for someone else and our selves?
Today is the youngest you will be for the rest of your lives. Can you realize today that nothing else matters but getting the soul part right? Can you walk away from a prescriptive idea of what your body should look like and who you should be if you fall into any particular demographic and free yourselves, and everyone else, from the uselessness of judgment and smallness? Can today be the day that you quit living by anyone else’s principles and begin living instead by what you know in your soul to be true—that you have worth just as you are and that this world needs you?
I have known it from the first day that I met you—the collective you, yes, but the individual you even more so—you are magic. You have it in you to change not just your world but the world. You were made for a time like this.
I believe in you. I appreciate you. I am in awe of you. And I cannot wait to see how you change this world.
At the end of each semester, I write my students a letter that is unique to their class. This was the letter for my body image class this semester.
Want to read some past letters?