A Letter to My Niece: You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be

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Dear Athena,

It's your Aunt Kali here. You know, the only Aunt you have. But even if there were more, I'd be the coolest. I saw you the other day for the first time in a few months and, WHOA, you've grown a lot. I think you are about 1.5 years old. Or in mommy talk, 18 months. (For some reasons moms really care if you are off by a month or two.) It amazes me that we can now tell you to do something and you go do it. Just like that. You're not even talking yet. But when we told you to take off your shoes and put them on the shelf, you did just that. It was bewildering to me! You're so smart.

A Letter to My Niece: You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be
Photo courtesy the author

So then your mom and grandma proceeded to show me all of the new things you can do. They bought you a miniature vacuum and showed you how to "Hoover" the carpet. (Your grandma calls it "Hoovering." For future reference, it's really called vacuuming. Hoover is just a brand of a vacuum... never mind.) They also showed me how you fold the clothes in the basket to help grandma with the laundry. And finally, you were given a whole miniature kitchen set complete with a coffee maker that buzzes, pots and pans, and a toaster that pops up plastic bread.

In the midst of being baffled by how much you can understand, I realized that we are training you to be a housewife. Cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry. I have to admit my heart sunk just a little. If you want to grow up and be a stay-at-home mom, you absolutely have the right to be that. (Just don't think I'm babysitting your 10 kids.) But I wanted to write you this letter to tell you that you have the OPTION to be something else -- anything else -- if you choose to do so.

I can't take credit for giving you this freedom. There are many women before us who fought long and hard so that you and I can shape our lives to our liking. And once you are old enough to understand and appreciate this letter, I anticipate and hope that you have even more opportunities than I do now.

You can be an astronaut, an engineer (like your grandpa), a chef, a surgeon, a teacher, a graphic designer, a computer programmer, or even an event planner (like your awesome Aunt). Whatever it is you want to do, I just want you to remember the lesson that your grandpa always told your mom and me: You can achieve anything you set your mind to. The only thing that can hold you back is yourself.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Elenor Roosevelt

So once you graduate high school and head to college (you're going to college, sister), just remember that you are not only pretty and capable of folding clothes, but you are also SMART and have the potential to accomplish things you never even dreamed.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Just always remember that I will be one of your biggest cheerleaders as you grow. (Unless you want to be a cheerleader. Just kidding. But please don't be a cheerleader.) And that I will always be here for you. I can't wait to see what life brings you and what you make out of it. Don't ever let anyone convince you that you can't do something. When they tell you you can't, prove them wrong. Because you, like the other strong women in your family, CAN do anything. And most of the time, we can do it better.

Love you always,
Aunt Kali

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