I used to think we were courageous. But oh Oswin, I never knew courage until I met you.
In the summer of 2008, tall, dark and handsome walked into my life. (Hint hint: That was your Papa.) Little did I know that night at the karaoke bar on a tiny street in Philadelphia, that within a year and a half we'd be married and moving abroad to France. Me, the Philly girl who had been previously content with the idea of spending the rest of her life working in the health care industry in the city of Brotherly love. Living the city life. Maybe one day finding the man I was meant to marry. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be so lucky as to have your Papa so magically come into my life.
And never did I ever dream we'd move to a small French village along the French-Swiss border. With more cows than people. Surrounded by vineyards. Shopping at a tiny weekly market. And a beautiful mountain as our backyard.
I thought at the time that Papa and I were courageous. We packed up our lives, together. We said goodbye to our family and friends, together. Papa taught me how to say "Je suis désolée, mais je ne parle pas français" on our plane ride over. I kept the airplane blanket because, being my first trip to Europe, I couldn't believe they gave you a blanket. Papa humored me. We held hands as we landed in a grey Geneva, Switzerland.
I thought we were courageous. But no Oswin, I've never known courage until I met you.
You were born on a cold and grey day in Switzerland. You had trouble breathing at first, and the doctor's had to help you get started. Papa stayed by your side the entire time. You were so brave my sweet girl, they said you fought them the entire time.
Now you are a big girl, six and half months old to be exact. I'm amazed day in and day out at how fearless you are. You are limited only by your current physical stature and rate of development. You don't care what something is, if it catches your eye, you want to touch it. Be near it. Experience it with all of your senses (for better or for worse). You stare right into a person's soul when you meet them. Right to the heart of the object, taking it all in. Courage is embracing the new, the unknown, and you've been showing us how courageous you are since day one. Much like when Papa and I moved to France, you are seeing and experiencing things for the first time. You inspire me beyond compare. To go closer to things. To not be afraid to look longer. To follow the path that interests me. Your little face pushes me out the door each day, despite my insecurities of being a stranger in a strange land, because I want to show you everything. You push me to try harder, and you push me to become the best version of myself. You help me find my inner courage on a daily basis.
It's not just a physical courage that you possess either, you are courageous in the unconditional love that you show to Papa and me. It is incredibly brave to trust two people as wholly as you trust us. To trust someone else to attend to your each and every need. And even more courageous to forgive us when we're not at our best. Sometimes we might miss the mark. We're still learning. I know we'll spend our entire lives learning. But to wake up each and every morning with a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts, that says "It's ok Mama, today we're going to have a great day," well, that is a courageous love you share with us my dear. Your courage teaches Papa and I so much - patience, unconditional love, and how to listen. I can't wait to see what other things you teach us.
Your courage has been contagious for Papa and me, and we often find ourselves embarking on spur of the moment day trips to places like Annecy, France, Geneva, Switzerland, and nearby towns in what we like to call the "SwitzerFrance" region. Or to take bigger chances on longer road trips to places like Basel, Switzerland, Mulhouse, France, and Freiburg, Germany. And then there was that three week trip back to the United States for you to meet your extended family for the first time. We've learned so much from all of those experiences, despite the initial nervousness that traveling with an infant can bring. Your courage in new situations has been impressive beyond belief. New sounds, new time zones, strangers who come to meet you and want to pinch your cheek - you've been fearless in all environments. We hope that these sorts of trips will give you the continued courage to go out on your own and see new places as you get older. To truly follow your wanderlust takes courage, and this is something we want to instill in you from the get go, almost like a second nature. I think we're off to a good start.
One day my dear, I hate to say, there may be people who cause you to question your courage. Events in your life may cause you to doubt how brave you truly are. Remember that having courage doesn't mean that it's always there just waiting for an adventure, it must be worked on like everything else in our lives. Courage can get lazy. Courage can spend a few weeks in its pajamas hiding under the covers with a hot cocoa. Sometimes we have to rip the covers off, get out of our comfort zone, and kick courage out onto the street. Or the mountain trail. Or a train to somewhere, anywhere. To the destination, be it place or person, that our heart desires. I hope you remember in those times just how courageous you truly are, and if you forget, know that Papa and I will be here to remind you, no matter how old you are.
But having courage isn't just about getting out of your comfort zone, it's also about respecting yourself. Having the courage to let go of that which does not serve you - be it acquaintances, or situations - can be a difficult brand of courage to come by. You are so worth loving, and we hope that you choose to surround yourself with positive, loving, inspiring people. Life is too short to be surrounded by anything but loving, genuous and inspiring individuals. Be courageous with your heart, and know when a situation or person is not healthy for you.
That being said my dear, having courage also means learning to cut yourself some slack. It takes a lot of courage to admit when you're wrong. It also takes a lot of courage to forgive yourself for mistakes. You may be perfect to us, but believe it or not, you will make mistakes. Having the courage to face those mistakes head on, and learn from them, is where true growth comes from. We hope that you'll learn to love the choices you'll make, because they will help mold the amazing woman you'll become. Regret nothing. Feel no shame, for you are a wonderful and loving little girl that is learning who she is in this big ole world. Learn to laugh at yourself when you do something silly. Have the courage to own it, rather than run (even though you may want to). Courage isn't all about planting flags on mountain tops, it's also about lifting yourself out of the mud from time to time, and hopefully, with a smile.
I thought we were courageous Oswin. Living the expat life isn't an easy one. Saying abiento to everyone you know and love is a tremendously difficult thing to do. But with you in our lives, you've given us the courage to tackle any new challenge, because we'll be doing it together, for the three of us. We used to think we were courageous. With all the love, joy and fun that you have already brought to our life, I now know that we are. Thank you in advance for the adventure.