If you look up the word “proud” in the dictionary, it says:

a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

You have qualities that are widely admired and, being so closely associated with you, it gives me a feeling of deep pleasure and satisfaction to see you achieve your dreams.

Since you were four years old you’ve wanted to be a chef, and own a restaurant, and unlike every other kid I’ve met, you haven’t changed that dream. In elementary school you came home one day with your business plan for Coral’s Reef, it was going to be in Arizona because you wanted a sunny place, not like our gray Washington, and you had learned that Arizona was sunny. It was going to have floor to ceiling walls of aquariums.

In high school you took the only cooking classes available and had your volunteer hours be in the kitchen at the community center. You told me one day that your school was going to go around and tour the local colleges and that you were interested in going (phew! you were going to consider living at home longer!). You came back from that field trip completely lit up about the kitchens at Bellingham Technical College and how they’d just remodeled and it was all state of the art, you were so animated.

Your senior project was making cakes for your aunt’s wedding. You toured BTC the following year as well and when you told me you’d decided on going there I was elated.

You have been so focused and have made this all happen by yourself. You filled out all the paperwork for college, have paid for it all by yourself, and worked your butt off the entire time.

I remember a day when I was about your age, I’d just turned twenty, and we were driving home from the Seattle airport after dropping a friend of mine off that had come to cheer me up right after leaving your sperm donor. It was just you and I, you would have been three. I was sobbing, the emotionally unstable thing that I am, and from the car seat in the back you tell me it’s okay, and that we’ll be fine.

And you know what, we have been. Look at us, growing up. Look at you, being the ever responsible, ever calm and driven person that you are. Living your dreams. Wowing me.

77% of High School students will graduate.

Only 33% of children born to teen moms will finish high school.

Only 36% of children whose parents did not complete high school will enroll in college.

63.4% of high school graduates will enroll in college for the following fall.

47.8% of college students will work while attending college.

44% of people who begin college will finish it.

11 of your classmates completed the course out of the 36 that started (That’s only 30%). UPDATE: five people failed their finals, so only SIX people graduated!! 12.5%!!

6.7% of the world will graduate from college.

The odds were stacked against you girl, but you freaking did it. All while still a teenager.

So, doing some very rough, non-college graduate, non-high school graduate math, out of the 7.347 Billion people in the world, you are not just one in a million, you are one in 42,831,647.

I saw you.

I saw the late nights doing homework until 3am, getting up a 6am and doing it all over again. School full time and working part time. Not coming home from your day until we were already in bed.

I saw you washing your chef coats and Subway uniform every night if needed.

I saw you working 300+ hours at an unpaid internship last summer that was an hour away, driving there, then to work at Subway, then home.

I mean, I barely saw you, but I saw what you were up to.

I saw you create new friendships, I saw you somehow find the time to maintain the old friendships.

I saw you being yourself.

I saw you shine.

I saw how comfortable you became at the stove, how nonchalantly you chop and boil and stir and simmer. How you admiringly pay attention to cooking instructions and quantities, that stuff did not come with your DNA.

This is a big deal sweetie, and your dad and I wanted to make sure you know that we understand the enormity of what you’ve accomplished and couldn’t let it slide by unnoticed. To say we are proud of you and everything you have accomplished is an understatement.

I recently watched a Youtube video of the commencement speech the Dean of Harvard gave at the end of the 2016 school year. He talked about a great poem by Raymond Carver that he had read on the back of a memorial program at his dear friend’s funeral. It read:

“And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?”

The dean said “The ‘even so’ part of this, captures perfectly the recognition of the pain and disappointment that inevitably make up a full life, but also the hope that life, even so, offers the possibility of joy and contentment.

“My claim is that if you regularly ask about what really matters, when it comes time to ask yourself ‘And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,’ your answer will be ‘I did.’

“So the poem asks “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,” and then continues:

“I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved. To feel beloved on the earth.”

He went on to explain that the word “beloved” is important as it not only means dearly loved, but also cherished and respected. When reading this poem he thought of the students at his university and said:

“We spend a lot of time, here and elsewhere, thinking about how we might improve student performance, which is how it should be. Yet I can’t help but think that schools, and indeed, the world, would be better places if students didn’t simply perform well but also felt beloved – beloved by their teachers and their fellow classmates.

“To tie this all together and to bid you a final farewell: as you leave school and head into a world that so desperately needs you, let me express my sincere hope and belief that: if you never stop asking yourself ‘what really matters’ and listening, you will feel beloved on this earth, and just as importantly, you will help others feel the same.”

I think there were a couple million things that we did wrong as parents, but the one thing we did right was to always try and ensure that you felt beloved, and I think that has made all the difference.

Now, we know that the term “Chef” is an honor that has to be earned in the kitchen, and can take years of building relationships and cultivating trust, but with all of the work and dedication you’ve put into fulfilling your dreams over the last couple of years, we think everyone that knows you can agree, that you fully deserve this title…

We love you Chef.

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