Dear TJ,

You’ve built a life for yourself at Woodward Academy over the past twelve years, and for the most part, this basic set of tools you’ve acquired will serve your well. As you go from here, however, you will encounter other situations that may require other tools. You’ll pick up and accumulate the other tools you need, acquiring them from all sorts of places. When in doubt about tool selection or if you need to acquire a tool you don’t have, ask advice and/or help from someone you trust, a wise person who has your best interest at heart more than their own personal agenda.

Be careful who you loan your tools to. If you loan your tools out and they are not returned, don’t hesitate to march right over and demand your tool back. Some people just won’t value your tools, and that’s okay. Sure, it can sting a bit, but that’s just the way it is. They can go get their own tools. Or not. Just don’t make it a habit to loan your tools to people who don’t value them.

People may tell you that for every job, there’s only one tool that will do. Pffffft. Don’t you ever be afraid to try different tools – you might find that they work just fine. Some things come with step-by-step instructions that are clearly written and easily understood, but many things you’ll just have to figure out yourself through good old-fashioned tenacity, open-mindedness, and hard work. The best things you will ever build are worth the effort, and though it may be messy and difficult and frustrating in the middle, if you stick to it, you’ll finish with a sense of satisfaction, memories of the fun you had, and a well of confidence you can draw from for the rest of your life.

If you take care of your tools, they will last a lifetime. Oil your tools and store them properly so they will not deteriorate from non-use. Sharpen your tools when needed, and remember that some tools need to be recharged periodically. Take care of your tools, and they will always be ready to take care of you.

These tools will help you deconstruct, build, and repair some things. For other things, rely on your heart, your bones, and the people you trust. Remember that sometimes things must be torn down and taken apart before you can begin, and that now – more than any other point in your life so far – YOU are the one responsible for the life you build.

I love you.

I am proud of you.

Now, go. Scoot. Build yourself a life you can be proud of.

And don’t you ever forget that I love you more than my cutest shoes,