I wanted to write and say I have been thinking about you recently. You and I are sharing very turbulent times in our lives. Much like a storm that rolls into your neighborhood and blows over trees, COVID-19 has thrown your family’s life upside down. Now, just on top of the COVID-19 storm is an earthquake. Voices in our country are shouting for recognition and action in the face of wrongdoing. Right now, it can feel like everything in the world is scary, dangerous, and uncertain.
Where do you and I go to find security and understanding during a time where everything feels out of control around you? You should begin with your family. They love you very much and, since they know you best, can help you think through what is happening. You may need to walk right up to them and say you want to talk. The adults in your life are trying their best to be there for you and to help you feel safe, but sometimes they might not know how bothered, scared, or confused something has made you. So, don’t be afraid to tell them directly that you need to talk! They’ll happily sit right down with you and let you ask as many questions as you need to understand what is happening in the world right now.
But don’t just talk to your family!
Talk to your friends and make an effort to connect with kids your age that you may not know well, especially those from different cultures, races, or religions.
They may not know more than you, and they won’t have all of the answers either, but it is good to know you are not alone in your questions. If you don’t know what to say, try simply asking what they believe. I think you will find what matters is not what the person looks like, but rather are they respectful, honest, and courageous – the same qualities your parents want you to show.
You will also have to turn to yourself. At times during the day, or at night, you may be alone, and you might find yourself thinking about something happening in the world right now and you’ll start to feel uncertain.
This is when you must learn to say to yourself, “I will be fine. I have my family, friends, and pets as my guides and companions.” Then, you have to switch your thoughts and focus on a good part of your day. Maybe it’s something you accomplished during sports practice, or maybe you figured out a really tough problem on your homework. Maybe it is something you noticed while riding your bike or playing outside or perhaps your pet did something fun. If you still can’t stop feeling scared, maybe read an adventure book. There are tons of great adventures to choose from! Each day something interesting has happened around you. Teaching yourself to think about these thoughts can make troubling ones take a back seat to your positive ones.
Just like a stormy day will eventually clear up to blue skies, negative thoughts will also pass with time. If you can learn to take a pause and take a few deep breaths, you will be able to slow down or even get off the roller coaster of fear, anger, and negative thoughts. Courage isn’t the absence of scary thoughts, it is knowing we all have scary thoughts, but we choose to take action anyway. Learning to be courageous at big times begins by being courageous at smaller times. Courage begins small and grows as you gain confidence, knowing that you can do the right thing and make a positive difference in the world.
Did you know I also have doubt and uncertainty? Guess when?
It is when I am writing to you!
Unlike in the Air Force and NASA where we had extensive training before missions, on this new “mission” I have none. I worry you won’t find my writing interesting, or that I won’t know the right thing to say.
Sometimes I think the words I choose will sound odd. But more than that, I want to tell you things that are useful and true. Our words are important, and I want to make sure that mine help you feel ready and excited to become the best person you can be. Fortunately, when I think about you reading my posts or watching my live streams, my fears and doubts fade, and I begin to write. You see, courage is an everyday effort by you and me to not give in to fear and doubt. You can do it.
Our country is showing courage as well. We are on a difficult road, but we’re coming together. This a good and healthy thing. It makes us stronger as a nation and shows we can do hard things. So, don’t be afraid. Find the voice inside of you that shows you how to be the best you can.
Over and out,