To my Izzy and Every Girl Starting 9th Grade, Ladies, you have now entered the final four. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it is time to hit the ground running. What you start now, in 9th grade, will follow you to graduation. And here’s the deal with graduation: while is considered a big milestone, the four years preceding it will be challenging. There are sure to be bumps in the road. So, sweet girls, allow me to share some insight to help smooth the road a bit. To get through high school you are going to need (yes, I am going to say it once again) grace, grit and wisdom.

Talk with grace, walk with grace, learn with grace, listen with grace, use grace with your friendships, use grace with your frenemies. Just. Use. Grace. Leave a legacy of grace. Leave a footprint of kindness and gracious behavior. Be the girl who smiles at everyone, be the girl who invites all to the table, be that girl.  At times high school is going to leave you hurting, in tears, feeling exposed and raw. There will be other times, however, that it will leave you laughing, empowered, loving life. Be the girl who understands times will be hard and times will be easy, sometimes in the very same day. Don’t be the girl who makes everything hard for everyone else. Give grace to yourself, and only then can you extend it to others. But also remember, sometimes grace is keeping your circle of friends safe from those who may hurt you. Sometimes grace is saying no, turning and walking away.

High school will be a roller coaster — not a kiddie type of roller coaster that just takes small hills, but the one that will take you 50,000 feet up in the air and drop you and turn you around until your head spins. Grit will help you hang on for the ride. While you are in the final four, there will be times that you will giggle, weep, sigh, and pull yourself up out of the pit of sadness through your own strength. Trust yourself. You can do this.

There will be weeks that you will cry yourself through a Wednesday, laugh through a Thursday, have 20 friends on Friday, and only have one true friend on Monday. You are all trying to make your way through hormones, academia, and life can be confusing. That’s OK.  Grit will help you from slipping and sliding. Don’t stop moving forward. This isn’t how the rest of your life will go. Keep taking steps towards graduation. Some days it will only be half a step and other days you will take 20 steps. Be determined to keep walking. Some days you will need to pull the covers over your head and have a good cry. Cry for 10 minutes, then go wash that fabulous face of yours and start walking again. You got this. I promise, you this too shall pass.

If I had to choose between my kids being gifted in intelligence and gifted in emotional intuition, I would choose the latter. That being said, you better learn some smart stuff. I want you to work hard in your classes. Shakespeare and biology help you more than you know right now — but I also want you to develop wisdom, too. Wisdom and academia intelligence and two totally separate animals. Wisdom opens your eyes to the world around you. It gives you insight to the way people work, understanding people’s emotions, it lets you know when it is time for academia and sharpening your skills, and when it is time for laughter and relaxation. Wisdom is quiet leadership from serving yourself and others, wisdom does not push to the front of the line — wisdom makes sure no is left standing in the back of the line, alone. Wisdom tells you to respect the deadlines teachers give, and it tells you when you need to ask for help. Wisdom is what will make you a leader.

You have no idea how fast four years will go. When you were born I had a hard time comprehending you being in high school. It seemed forever away, but it went by fast, almost too fast and now dad and I are in a panic to make sure we taught you the things you will need for your final four. Use your time wisely (stop rolling your eyes), come to us if you are struggling, we get it. This goes for all your friends and all the Grace and Grit girls out there, too. We promise we remember those years better than you think we do. I will do my best to never embarrass you. But, in four years, when you walk across that stage, I won’t be looking to see if you graduated with honors — no one will remember that. But they will remember how you walked with grace.

Yours in the Final Four and Beyond,