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My darling niece,

Grateful for beautiful nieces. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

You’re about to start grad school, so I wanted to share a few thoughts before your first class.

I don’t know anyone who has attempted what you’re doing; you have my lasting admiration.

I don’t know anyone who has studied Latin — Latin! — for three years at university; I am so proud of you.

I don’t know anyone so committed to classical history that she traveled to Greece to study for a semester. I don’t know anyone so devoted to her goals that she would take public transit the length and breadth of the city for just one essential course.

You’re tough, and I admire that. You exemplify sisuand I praise your tenacity and resilience.

You’ve had to fight to get to grad school, and you’ve had to fight to get the courses you want. I’m proud of how you’ve shown all of us what it takes to challenge academics,  bureaucrats and others to pursue your dreams.

You show us that dreams are worth keeping, and working for. We know this journey takes real courage; we’re in awe of your perseverance.

I’m sure in your 20s that you don’t want to know that your aunt carries two mental images of you — one is recent; the other is from your childhood, when you surprised us all by grabbing a microphone at your parents’ wedding reception, and started belting out a song for the crowd.

Your hair was so blonde it was almost white, and you were wearing a pretty girlie dress that made you a child star. But it was the impromptu rap song you delivered, a cappella, that astounded.

Your mother said she had no idea. Your father, the musician, was delighted to pass on his talent. Yet the words were yours; no one helped you create those lyrics.

You just sang/spoke/shouted from the heart.

And then you accepted the long applause and standing ovation as if that was the most natural thing in the world.

That moment, darling niece, stays in my memory as the best example of your fearlessness.

You’re bold and carefree, serious when studying, and full of life.

No matter how tough it might seem sometimes, the path ahead is yours. You’ve chosen one of the most difficult, and one of the longest academic pursuits — no one in our family has a PhD — but what’s another degree to a grad student who has two already?

Study well, darling niece. Study with sisu, and know that all of your family supports you with love and pride and admiration.

And thanks for showing us how to be fearless and have heart.