Today you are eighteen. Excuse me while I go take a deep breath.
Eighteen. You’re officially an adult.
It feels like this is a date I’ve had marked on my mental calendar since the day you were born and yet I am still shocked at how fast you went from this:
(In fairness, you did look a lot like an old Italian man when you were born so I’m glad it worked out for you.)
Eighteen years in the blink of an eye. I can hardly catch my breath.
And in what is fitting for this season of your life, you aren’t even here for your birthday. I dropped you off at Impact Retreat on Sunday for what I’m praying is the best start to your college career. The fact that you get to spend four days with kids your age who share your faith is basically a mom’s dream come true. When you checked in on Sunday, the sweet counselor looked right at you and said, “We’ve been praying for you for a year”. And it just about did me in to know that you already have other people praying for the momentous steps you’re about to take on your own.
When you started your senior year last August, I couldn’t really wrap my brain around the fact that you only had one year left at home. How on earth would any of us be ready for you to leave in just a year? But as the year went on, I watched you grow and change in so many ways that there is no doubt in my mind that you are ready for what lies ahead.
From the time you started high school, you had goals that you set for yourself and I watched you make sacrifices and put in the work to achieve them. This was the year you watched your blood, sweat and tears come to fruition. You got accepted to Texas A&M, you were captain of the soccer team, you made the All-State team, and you graduated with honors.
You stayed true to yourself, and your confidence in who you are and who God made you to be grew in ways I can’t even explain. So as much as I will miss you, I have all the certainty in the world that you are ready for this next chapter of your life and I’m not sure there is anything better than that. This is what we’ve been training for over the last eighteen years. Every lecture, every pep talk, every obstacle, every prayer and every victory was all leading up to this moment when we set you loose on the world.
When we went to your New Student Conference at A&M in June, one of the professors in your departmental meeting congratulated all the Animal Science majors on being accepted to Texas A&M and acknowledged that meant you had been the best of the best during high school. Then he said, “None of that matters anymore. This is a whole new start so take your high school resume, wad it up and throw it away.” And he’s right. You are about to walk into a whole new world of adventures and experiences that will continue to shape the woman you have become. The brightest futures belong to those who aren’t afraid to leave what is familiar and comfortable behind when God is leading them to something new. It’s not where you’ve been but where you will go that matters now.
I’ve always heard people change more from 18-25 years old than at any other point in your life. These next years will determine so much. College is essentially adulthood with training wheels and I hope you wring the marrow out of every minute of it. There are friendships waiting for you that will be the friends of your life, opportunities that you can’t even imagine and experiences that you will still laugh about thirty years from now. These years will make a lasting imprint so make them count for the things that matter. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to be the best version of yourself and be that person for those around you.
There are stories about cartographers during medieval times who marked maps with the Latin phrase HC SVNT DRACONES which translates HERE ARE DRAGONS. That term signified uncharted waters and unexplored territories where no one knew what dangers might lie ahead. Our whole life could be marked HERE ARE DRAGONS because, if the last year has taught us nothing else, we never know what twists and turns we will face and what challenges are waiting for us.
But here’s what I know. Your dad and I have done our best to raise you to fight the dragons you will encounter. We have trusted God with you every step of the way and, hopefully, pointed you to Him in every aspect of your life. He has never one time let us down even when things didn’t look like we had hoped or planned. The dragons you’ve already faced have made you stronger and more resilient than we could have even hoped. You are a girl who knows her God and knows the strength and power that He gives to your life. So no matter what lies ahead on your map, never lose sight of that fact. You, Caroline Shankle, are a warrior.
And as for me, in the map of my life, the gift of raising you for the last eighteen years has been my greatest adventure. You have challenged me, you inspire me, you amaze me. I’m so proud to be your mom.
Dad and I can’t wait to see all the places you will go, the things you will do and the dragons you will conquer. I’ll leave you with Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
We love you more than you’ll ever know. We’ll be cheering you on every step of the way.