By: Sylvia Hackett, Vice President of the Rex Healthcare Foundation
Dear Young Sylvia:
As asked of me, I am writing this letter to you. To be honest, I did not want to do it, and I have procrastinated at getting it done. This in itself is a symptom of why this message is important for you. If you are not careful, you could develop a habit of “just keeping things moving” and you might not fully appreciate the value that can come from reflecting.
No woman is an island. At times, you may easily walk away from situations and people that you think will create more obstacles or stress than you are willing to deal with. In doing so, you potentially sacrifice important personal and professional relationships and perhaps your own growth. You might say to yourself that you are doing this primarily for “self-preservation.” My advice: keep still and resist the urge to avoid discomfort. By doing so, you will become stronger and better equipped for life’s big challenges. Equally important, you will develop deeper relationships with people who will be there to help you through those challenges. There is never a need to go it alone, and in reality, you cannot.
Use your creativity! Stop viewing your creativity as an “extra” skill. Cultivate all of your talents and follow where they take you. It is okay to listen to those who care about you and want you to be practical and safe, but ultimately, do what you are called to do. Never accept anyone else’s definition of what success or happiness should be for you. Find ways to bring your “whole self” to your work. You do your best work when you are being creative.
Be proud of your story; share it boldly and with pride. At the time you graduate from college, only one other person in your entire family will have done so—others will follow. Value and show gratitude for the sacrifices and the struggles made on your behalf. Know that more often than not, throughout your professional career, there will be times when no one else in the room looks like you, and some will not be able to relate to unique challenges you have faced. Be authentic—do not choose to be invisible. You have more influence than you know—be an inspiration and use it for the good of everyone.
The “sandwich generation” is real! Do not miss opportunities to spend time with, and truly listen to, your grandparents and your parents. Their sacrifices on your behalf are greater than you will ever realize while you are young. Later you will need to help them in ways you did not anticipate. Do not stress—you will be able to handle it because of the lessons they taught you and the love they showed you. You will be married to your childhood sweetheart, have two beautiful, intelligent daughters and two glorious grandchildren. You will not be a superwoman, although you will try, and they will love you nonetheless. Be present in life’s important moments and always keep your priorities straight.
Take good care of your health. When you are in your thirties, just because you can constantly move the piano from corner to corner all by yourself while rearranging your living room, does not mean you should. Later in life, your body will remind you of the crazy things you did to it. Make regular physical activity a priority, and learn to make eating healthy something you want to do, so that you will never be told what you can and cannot eat.
Finally, make an effort to give everyone you encounter an opportunity to be seen, to be heard and to make a difference—I borrowed that from Oprah—you are going to like her too! Be humble, be kind, show respect and give back. Plant seeds today for the future world that you want for your grandchildren. I know, young Sylvia, that all of these things are at the center of your soul anyway. I only remind you because life gets loud sometimes and I want to be sure that you can hear them.