I can't believe you're 18. Where did the time go? In the beginning there was just you and me, hiding behind a wish that became our little secret. I have said it before, you saved me. It was the moment I knew that my life was significant to something bigger than myself that I decided to sit up and take notice. But still, you were the practice child. The one I had to learn everything with for the first time, which is essentially a nice way of saying you're the one who graciously endured my mistakes. It wasn't easy trying to be both parents to you as it never should have been - and I always hurt for what was lacking - but this year for your birthday the best gift I can give you is the freedom of peace and joy and a quiet, loving atmosphere. I pray that you use it well. Surround yourself with people who treat you with love and respect and dignity. Forgive those who might belittle you, or raise a hand to you for your own sake - but don't allow them into that inner circle, or give them the intimacies of your heart. I hope if you've seen any bad examples from me, that you choose to learn from them and do the opposite. I know from experience that sometimes the worst examples are the best way of knowing what not to do.
While you keep that inner circle guarded, don't forget to open your heart to love when the time is right. Remember that people are imperfect, each with their own inadequacies. Please don't be afraid to risk your heart for a person who is deserving. Don't be afraid that every man will be the one you have known. If you panic or hide or run from love, you will miss out on the best moments life has to offer.
Never settle for mediocrity, in any area of your life. Henry David Thoreau said "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you have imagined." I can't think of better advice on your 18th birthday than that. Don't allow your life to be derailed by someone who puts those dreams down, or refuses to be a companion on that path, be it friend or lover. Take responsibility for your own life, because it is yours alone.
Thank you for moving back to West Virginia with me. I know it meant sacrifices on your part, and I will never forget them. You are an amazing young woman, and I am so blessed to be your mom. You have always given me courage to try to be better than I am, because you deserved the best mom I could give you. Always remember that I love you. Happy Birthday baby.