It’s funny how I was so ready for you to be separate from me. My body grew tired from carrying the weight of you within me. It was a sweet relief to feel you in my arms and kiss your tiny face.

But now, I sit here contemplating how to soak you up, as if there was a way to reel you back in so that we’d be part of each other in the same way again.

These moments–each expression, word, and soft touch–I want to store them away. I know one day I’ll need them, long for them. I’ll sit and stare into the distance with a smile on my face as I remember how much you loved frozen blueberries and always tilted your head to the side when you said please. These are the memories that will keep me warm. They will fill me up from the inside out. If I have nothing in the end, I’ll always have this time with you.

You are more than mine, sweet daughter. You’ve always been so much more than mine. If anything, I am yours.

You are the best thing I have ever done.

As I think about how life circles around on itself, each of us having a set time to live and love, I think about what I want you to know about living, the things that have taken me so much time to realize.

You have choices.

You are going to feel like you don’t but don’t believe that. You can choose to change how you think. You can choose to be kinder, to ask more questions, to be a better friend. You can choose how to spend your time and who with. You may feel stuck, but you aren’t really. Think small. Take a step back from the bigger fear or worry, and choose something for yourself that’s completely doable right now. Take a hold of the freedom you have, my girl. Own it.

Messes are worth it.

Paint, bake, jump in puddles, garden, learn an instrument, play a sport, take a chance. Do the things that bring you joy even when they require prep and clean up, literal or otherwise. Don’t spend so much time thinking about the effort something will take that you second-guess actually doing it. Just go for it! You’ll learn a lot in the fun and the follow up. You can’t avoid mess in this life so you might as well choose to do what you want through it.

Growers grow.

This might sound contradictory to what most people say–people never change. I think this is more accurate and honestly, so much more hopeful. The truth is that people do change; just not always in the ways we want them to or the ways we think they should. We evolve as we experience more and understand ourselves better. You are going to have to take chances in relationships, whether friendly or romantic. Trust the growers. Find the people who know where they are and know where they want to go. You may know exactly when they will land there, but you can trust they’ll be working towards it.

Even right things will be difficult.

Don’t assume that if something is right, it will be smooth sailing. It is almost always not the case. The right thing is worth doing even when it gets challenging. Keep going. I believe in your ability to be steadfast, loyal, and brave. Whether it’s your marriage, your work, or your faith, it is going to hit rocky patches. Don’t be intimidated by the difficulty. The best views often have the most difficult trails.

Grace is everywhere.

You won’t make great choices all the time. It’ll be simpler for you if you just let yourself off the hook now. Grace doesn’t run out, just like my love for you. Too much time is spent on being perfect instead of actually engaging in the day-to-day. Assume you’ll make mistakes and get out there! Ask for forgiveness when needed and then try again. Offer grace as easily as you accept it; your journey will feel a whole lot more enjoyable and your relationships will be a whole lot more intimate.

Sweet daughter, know that no matter what, you can do this. No one has been here before quite like you, and I am so very glad I get to watch you do it. Take these words for what they are, little nuggets for you as you live life in just your size, just your way.