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To my dearest Emmali,

I blinked. And it happened. One moment we’re carrying your bedding, clothing and mini-fridge from the back of the packed SUV into the freshman dorm room you’d be sharing with a stranger; the next second, I swear, we’re reserving a U-haul truck so we can take your collection of mismatched furniture, expanded wardrobe, and piles of college memorabilia from the house you’ve shared with four friends your senior year.

I cried when we left you three and half years ago, feeling a mixture of pride because you were starting college and worry because you’d be so far away from me for the first time in your life. If you think for one minute that it was easy to hug you as we said our goodbyes in that tiny, outdated dorm room, you’d be wrong. Your younger sister and I sobbed the whole way out of town, telling each other you’d be alright and that we’d back in a few months to visit. We were right on both counts.

Sure, you weren’t always feeling alright about being a small-town girl in a large university. You told me as much, once or twice or maybe a little more often, during the first year of phone calls home. But I’d do my best to encourage you to hang in there, keep the faith (as my dad always told me when I went away to college eons ago), and enjoy the adventure.

I don’t know when your calls and texts home went from daily to every few days to me being the first to reach out or who knows how long it’d be before I’d hear how things were going with you? But that is the way it was supposed to happen. You became consumed with classes and work and new friends and enjoying the adventure.

And now that adventure is wrapping up. As you wrap your dishes in t-shirts and stuff them in boxes for the move that will take you away from your college town to do your senior internship, I know you are stressing about this. Moves are stressful. Completing college is maybe even more stressful than beginning it. New jobs are stressful. And you’re doing it all within a matter of a few days.

This is like that first roller coaster I dragged you on when you were nine years old. You cautiously boarded it, clung to me through the twists and turns, screaming at the top of your lungs, and then, when the ride was over, you begged to go again.

You were that way when we left you in the dorm in the fall of 2013, cautious and questioning your plans to be there. But you held on for the highs and lows of the ride, and in end, you discovered you loved the adventure and it’s hard to accept that it’s over, to leave it behind.

You know where I’m headed with this. Yes. Climb on board this next ride at the beginning of 2017. More great adventures are waiting. Trust me.

Blink. You’re all grown up.