It was shocking enough to acknowledge your sister’s 20th birthday – the fact that I no longer have teenagers. But this, now past the HUGE marker of 21? Shocking. Amazing. And, more than all else, full of joy. Not because you’re getting older, necessarily, but because as you do, I am getting wiser.

This year, sweet girl, has been one in which I’ve witnessed you step boldly into your voice, your uniqueness, your mind and heart, your body, yourself. All of which is teaching me. You are.

If I knew then what you know now…

I didn’t. But now? Now, I witness your endless courage and compassion, your deep wisdom and wit, your infinite brilliance and boldness. And as I do, I learn more about what it means to have kindness for myself: that young woman who knew little-to-nothing about self-compassion or self-kindness or self-love. I learn more about what it means to step into my own voice, uniqueness, mind-heart-body as I watch you do the same. I learn what it means and looks like to hold on to infinite hope on behalf of the future – because of the collective one that you are actively shaping through your both your anger and your advocacy.

Despite your fears (warranted), your sadness (appropriate), your ache (of course) on behalf of the world in which you live, your name remains true: Joy, Joy, Joy.

And for better or worse, this is why you feel fear, sadness, and ache: joy is your birthright, your deepest desire, and that which you make manifest in your world – in ours. Its absence is intolerable to you while, simultaneously, your presence ushers it into ours.

“Who is this girl, this woman, this human?” I continue to ask myself – and have from your earliest of days. The answer is endless, but at a bare minimum this: you are miracle and gift beyond words.

I couldn’t possibly be more humbled, more proud, more amazed, more delighted, or more in love with who you have been these past 8030 days and who you will continue to be(come) in every day that follows. ‘More rooted in hope (and joy) than I could have ever imagined…because of you.

Happy 22nd Birthday, sweet girl.

I love you, Emma Joy.