An Open Letter to my College Senior

When my oldest daughter was a senior in high school, I wrote an open letter to her. It was included in a magazine I published for my photography clients. It’s one I don’t want to forget or lose, and so I’m going to post it here.

For 14 years I photographed high school seniors. I’d watch moms and dads come and go, smile and cry as they did. Then when it was my turn, my turn to smile as she gave her signature giggle for the camera, my turn to cry as I replayed “lasts” while she posed, then I fully understood all the previous parents’ emotions.

My daughter is now in her senior year of college. Time is truly a thief.  As I read this letter again, the truths still remain. Her generation is standing up for what they believe and making an impact; one that should make us proud!  Don’t worry mommas, our future is in good hands with these kids!

My Dearest Ellexa,

I will in no way make it through this letter without tears falling heavily to my keyboard.  I think I’ve been in denial that this day would come and yet here it is. You’re a SENIOR!  When I first began photographing high school seniors you were still enjoying the tunes of a certain purple dinosaur.  Each year since then, I’ve watched moms cry as I captured their senior son or daughter on film– feeling for them, but never fully understanding. Now I get it! It is tough. It is sad. You don’t need me like you did in those Barney years. However, there is a part of me that’s so excited to see the woman you’re becoming– to watch you spread your wings and soar into a life that’s all yours!

As you prepare to grace center stage, draped in your cap and gown, and grabbing hold of that diploma, allow me to encourage you with this. Be brave. Take risks. Dream big. Don’t let fear hold you back from stepping out and doing that one thing that makes your heart beat fast. However, don’t move so quickly you miss the little things: the smell of newly fallen rain, the crunch of leaves under your feet, and the feeling of a twirly dress.  Life moves at a pace all too swift. Stop. Slow down. Listen to the gentle whisper knocking on your heart. In those quiet moments, don’t forget to give thanks. I hope I’ve instilled in you the importance of always looking for blessings in life, even if they are hidden under a pile of hurt or heartache.

One thing I love about your generation is that you have hearts ready and willing to fight against injustice. You have a passion that says, “That’s not okay. Not on my watch. I want to do something about that.” That kind of power is contagious. Your open minds have generously said to former generations like mine, “Join us.  Help us. Together we can make a difference.” I’ve been inspired by that voice. This past year, as I began to slow down and make room to hear my heart’s whisper, a fight rose up in me too. Thank you for setting the stage.

I love you, and I’m so proud of you.  As you continue to fully uncover what makes your heart beat fast, know that I’m always here for you. I’m a shoulder to cry on when your wings can’t find their soar.  I’ll always be that whisper for you that says, “You’ve got this. You can do it!”



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