11/17/2014 12:35 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

Letters to Hadley: Risks

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"Of course I'll hurt you. Of course you'll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence means accepting the risk of absence." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


I stood on a cliff today. Two hundred feet above the Balearic Sea. Looking at the sharp rocks below, I thought for a moment about what it would feel like to fall. My heart jumped into my throat. But the closer I got to the edge, the more alive my whole body felt.

It made me think of you, climbing on the plastic play structure in grandma and grandpa's back yard. The way you ignore the railings and stand way up on the top, looking around with your wide and knowing eyes. The grownups all worry that you might fall, but when they tell you to "be careful," you just laugh because you're not afraid.

I bet standing up there feels to you the same way those cliffs felt to me: alive, free, unbreakable.

As you grow up, I hope you never stop taking risks. Jump over fences. Climb on cliffs. Stand on mountains. Dive deep into dark waters. Drive fast on open roads. Ride a motorcycle at least once or twice -- so you know what the air feels like when you move through it that fast (but please wear a helmet, OK?).

Physical risks are good to take because they'll remind you that your body is capable and incredible.

But emotional risk are even better. Because they'll remind you how many feelings your capable body can hold. And feelings are the most incredible of all things.

Be vulnerable, Hadley. Open your heart for people who are worth it. Open it also for people who might not seem worth it -- so you know what it feels like to give more for less. When you have ideas, don't be afraid to put them out there. Make big mistakes and learn from them. Stand for things you believe in. And then change your mind when you learn something new. Tell people not only what you think but also how you feel. Feel everything, even the scary stuff.

Your brain is important, but your heart is what keeps you alive.

I love you, little one.

Aunt Liz

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