My daughter’s babysitter leaves tomorrow for a year-long exchange to Germany. Lucky girl! While her parents struggle to let her go–as any parent would–I hope they know this:

They’re not losing their daughter; they are helping her find herself.

By allowing this exchange, they are giving their daughter the gift of self-knowledge. Stripped of familiar trappings and cultural conventions, the choices she makes in this year will be the products of her own essence. Everything will be new and different. And, until she forms new ones, nothing she undertakes will be born from habit. She’ll test, experiment, reject, and accept. Without the comforts of home, she’ll find out who she is, and that will likely be different from the person whom those around her think she is.

When she returns next year, many people will think she has changed because she won’t fit into the mold she left behind. Respectfully, I posit that she won’t have changed; the person her friends will see will be the same young woman who has always been inside. She’ll just look different without the cultural constraints and expectations that have clothed her for so long. We’ll get to see the real her, and that’s exciting!

We should all be so lucky. Who is the person hiding under your cultural artifacts?

Viel Spaß und alles Gute, Madison!

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