Congratulations on completing your bachelors degree! Your story has been an inspiration to me and so many others. You could have sat in regret and confusion as one who deferred your dreams because of societal, cultural or familial pressures to be a certain person.
You could have walked away from completing your education as all the whispers powerfully told you it was too late, it wasn't necessary, it's too embarrassing to finish now. You quieted that flurry of voices and gave our family an irreplaceable gift.
You gave us you. More fully and more authentic.
All along the way you have been given justifiable reasons not to pursue this degree. Most significantly we are raising four children currently 12 and under, and the responsibility and also invisibility of motherhood alone would give reason to squash your dreams.
Only a few slight "interruptions" like moving across the country, learning how to refinish floors and lay tile to refurbish an ancient house, starting your own business, recording an album, building a playhouse from scratch…the list titled "things Jessica impresses me with" goes on and on... and none of these blocked you from continuing your dream.
Over the past six years as you have pursued this degree, you have modeled sacrifice and dedication. You would wake up before anyone so you could get homework and papers written before the kids needed to get up for school.
You juggled intense deadlines and assignments for school with music lessons and math homework and the fact that seemingly every Friday a child was sick. You did the hard work of recognizing your limitations and accepted help when needed. You battled the feelings of guilt and pushed through to stay focused on your goal knowing that what you were doing was indeed the right thing.
Today we're all so proud to watch you achieve this amazing accomplishment. You deserve every bit of pomp and circumstance imaginable.
There is a reason that millions upon millions of people flock to see the original Mona Lisa painting or the David statue instead of physical replicas and high definition images they can see almost anywhere—authenticity. When something is real you know it and its magnitude far surpasses any replica or lesser version of that particular thing.
This is the strength of what you have done for our family.
You have had the bravery and the resilience to pursue the truest version of yourself. You have had the determination and perseverance to end your goal-deferment and go after your dreams. A lot of people don't do that. (But then again, you're not 'a lot of people.')
You have continually done the hard work to look inside and grapple with who you are and what your contribution to the world is, what your legacy will be. You have figured it out and you have pursued it boldly. That is the greatest gift you could give our family.
And I just want to say: thank you.
There are countless things you do for our family to keep the trains running, but today I want to thank you for all the loads of laundry you never did because you had a paper to write. Thank you for the times you studied instead of tidying up. Thank you for the times you stayed focused on your goal and didn't do a million other things you 'should have.'
Thank you for the hours you spent not doing so many other things because you were pursuing your dream.
Because when our children watch you cross the stage and get your diploma with all those fancy Latin words next to your name and those gold ropes around your neck, they will be watching their hero. You. The real you. The you you want to be. The you we all love. The you who makes us beam with pride.
They will be watching you, their mom. Their model of independence, sacrifice, talent and persistence.
Your degree won't just represent a box you checked, but will serve as a tangible example of your tenacity and intelligence. It's something that our kids have been part of and have observed all of the hard work you have poured into this. They will always have that example to reference.
I hope you see this.
When they are faced with a hardship down the line, they will think of their mom. They'll think of how she committed to a goal, stuck with it, and made it happen. You will be their inspiration. You are our inspiration.
More than anything, though, I appreciate so much how you have done all of this while still being an amazing wife and mother.
I don't know how you do it, but I am in awe that you do.
The Mona Lisa can't hold a candle to you.