Saying the Unsaid, Finally, To My Girl: Part 2

Dear Caroline,

To begin, you should try to appreciate nature. I know: you’re a city girl, and I’m a city guy, and the city is our preferred ecosystem. But you might take a moment, perhaps in a stroll through Central Park, to marvel at the most basic wonders around you – the sky, the light, the trees, even the squirrels. The planet, in its raw, unprocessed state, free of sidewalks and skyscrapers, is deeply beautiful. Admiring it all will bring you great rewards.

Here’s another piece of unsolicited and maybe unwelcome advice. Listen to all kinds of singers and all kinds of music, even those unrelated to opera. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney, to jazz and big bands and swing. Ultimately it’s all music and it’s all connected.

Knowing music history will be both instructive and influential. You never know which song from Barbra Streisand or Billy Holiday might teach you something valuable that you’ll later decide to apply.

Oh yeah, just in case you’re wondering, it’s okay with me for you to go out with boys. If I’ve never come out and said that before – and I doubt I have – I say it now. You should get all the benefits life has to offer.

You might also forgive me for anything I’ve ever done wrong. I wish we could have surrounded you and Michael with more family and friends – you deserve the love of others, too – and I’m sorry about that. We’ve closed ourselves off somewhat, for all kinds of reasons – Mom and I are largely solitary souls, happiest among ourselves, our standards high, and we’re also easily disappointed in others – and you tend toward the same attitude yourself. We are what we are, and even though we can change, we’ll probably never change all that much, just enough to get by, if that much.

Now let me share with you just one more urging. It’s important, and that’s why I’ve saved it for last. If it comes last, you might also remember it best. Here it comes, something I’ve long wanted to tell you but never dared.

You really should give yourself a break.

Savor your many considerable accomplishments. You’ve earned a degree of self-satisfaction.

You’ve worked long and hard and smart. You strive to excel. And it’s wonderful for you to be so ambitious, because we know you’re going to get where you want to go. But sometimes I worry you’re too hard on yourself, even unfair. Ambition is both tonic and toxin, and you have to learn to regulate the hydraulics involved enough to get just the right dose. Even those intent on success once in a while take a deep breath.

So please, I beg you, start now. Breathe. Breathe deeply. You can always get back to practicing your singing in a few minutes.

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