I guess you would call this an advice letter — something that as you prepare to go off to college you can read to help guide you along the way. I hope you look at it from time to time. This is not a lecture; it is simply advice from a friend who has made his own share of mistakes and hopes for you to avoid them. Keep it tucked in a drawer or a private place.
You are going off to college and will be living away from your family for the first time. Believe me, your family will miss you. You are a part of us and your empty seat at the table will remind us daily that you are not here. Don’t be surprised if your younger sisters sleep in your bed sometimes because they miss you so much.
But this letter is not meant to bring you down. College is an exciting time with wonderful people to meet, things to learn and experiences to share. Take advantage of this time and enjoy it. Life will become serious soon enough.
Some words of advice:
— Keep God in your life. Pray every day, whether you say a prayer of thanks or one for help. Remember, He is the one that formed you and knows you far better than anyone. He wants to be a part of your life. Allow Him to be. Go to Church on Sunday (even if it’s hard).
— Listen to that little voice in your head. You have been raised in a good family, with good common sense and with a good moral compass. If you are in a situation where something doesn’t sound right or look right (and that will happen), listen to that voice and follow its advice. Don’t make a big deal about it, but don’t put yourself in a bad situation that could get you in trouble or hurt.
— Don’t be a slave to fads, pressure or the feeling that you have to fit in. Making friends is important. Everyone wants to have friends. However, do what you know is right, stick up for yourself and your beliefs, stick up for those who have no one to stick up for them. You may be laughed at, you may be picked on, and you may even fall out of favor with people. … OK, so what? You have to live with you and not with them. You have character, Cynthia, show it!
— Maintain your dignity. You are not an object and you are not property. Don’t ever let anyone treat you like you are. You are a beautiful, smart, talented lady with inestimable worth and value. Especially boys — don’t let them use you. If they truly love you and care for you they will never pressure you into anything. If they do, show them the door. They are bad news.
— Seek out and make good friends who will look out for you just as you look out for them.
— Call your mother. Maybe not every day (that would be nice), but call us and let us know how you are, what you need. Talk to your sisters; they will need to hear your voice. Assure them that you are not gone forever.
— Work hard, use all of your resources wisely and don’t be selfish.
I could probably go on forever, but I won’t. I’m not lecturing, right? Call as often as you can. Come home as often as you need to. Your place at the table and your room will be ready.
As Dr. Seuss says, “Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way!”
I love you,
David McCord, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2009, is a former parishioner of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Fredericksburg. He now resides in Huntsville, Ala.