Dear Breanna: An Open Letter to My Sister and Advice About Going Away

Hello Glendonites & Future Glendonites!

As many of you have done or are currently doing, my little sister is in the midst of finalizing her University choices before her high school comes to an end. Although she has not picked Glendon, she’s debating between my hometown (Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University) to study Biology with a medical specialization and University of Toronto’s Genetics and Microbiology Program to further her along the path of Genetic Counselling. I know that whatever she picks, she will succeed, but U of T has thrown some incredible opportunities her way.  I want her to be aware of her amazing qualities that would excel her in whatever path she embarks down. U of T is currently her ideal. but there’s one thing holding her back, and that is fear. And I want to tell each and every one of you moving away for school, that there is nothing to be afraid of. This post is a letter to my sister, but I also want you to find yourself in my words, and take my advice if you feel the same way, especially if you’re moving from out of town to Glendon.

Dear Breanna,

I honestly didn’t have enough faith in you that you would muster up the courage do as much as you did. You proved me wrong. Seeing your resume and filling out scholarship applications with you made me realize, that yes, you are an extremely laxidazical* girl, you have a hard time picking up your clothes or doing dishes or paying attention to important detail, but when you need to work hard, you do it. I didn’t think that by the end of high school, you’d accomplish so much. You did Teens Not Targets the anti-smoking health promotion group, you were a school Natural Helper, you did peer tutoring, you played competitive hockey for years, you still worked a part time job, you played school tennis, you joined church youth group, and so much more.

*This term is used often by my family to mean lazy + relaxed, a great way to describe my little sister.

I mean, you did listen to me, you just took your time to prove it, but I can honestly say that me being more focused on myself, I never took the time to realize you have these fantastic qualities that are going to make you a successful student, until this year. That’s why I’ve been pushing you so hard the last few months, because I can see the potential. I can’t believe that from the girl who was scared to start high school has become a young woman who has had this many accomplishments. Look at your CV, it’s full. That’s success, and if you keep it up, you’ll soar with flying colours in post-secondary.

Dear Breanna,

You are 1) Creative – You always find a way to make a project unique or different from just text on a blank page. Your drawings are beautiful, which reflects the quality of workmanship you put into everything. Your ideas, usually fantastic, and you can come up with something that stands out in a matter of seconds, which normally would take someone like me pages upon pages of brainstorming to accomplish. Your photography inspires me, you always see the beauty in something simple. Like the blue door photo you found in downtown Thunder Bay that your friends bug you about. I agree with you, it was a neat find.

Which leads me to the fact that you’re 2) Curious – You may be scared about it, but don’t like fear get in the way of curiosity. There are so many places to explore, things to feel, people to meet, food to taste. Embrace your senses and your curiosity, allow yourself to excel in different environments by doing just that. Because curiosity in a field like sciences that you wish to pursue is an extravagant characteristic to have, it means that your studies will fascinate you and therefore your curiosity may drive you to have wonderful results, findings and ideas. Don’t ever let anything get in the way of curiosity. Emotions are nothing to be afraid of, allow them to complement your life.

You are, 3) Empathetic. I’ve never met someone as kind as you, who genuinely puts themselves in others’ shoes. I think that’s why a Masters of Genetic Counselling would suit you so well, and an undergraduate should reflect your future wishes. You love to help people, and so do I, which is the one quality we both share. You’d be a wonderful Peer Mentor, or tutor or classmate or friend that anyone would be lucky to have, no matter where you go.  Keep that empathy, and people will take notice of the actions you take to help others, and the sacrifices you make for others. Empathy is a quality people look for in future careers like the one you’ve chosen, keep that empathy and I want you to help as many people as you can, starting in your undergrad.

You’re 4) Confident. You are confident no matter what anyone tells you. You were never afraid to wear something with the fear that someone would make fun of you, you would always try to make a new friend without thinking twice, you would tell me to just post the photo, imperfections and all because you thought that I shouldn’t stress over the little things. You’ve taught me a lot about confidence and I strive to carry myself as well as you do. This confidence will pay off in University whether you think so or not. The hardest part of the transition is making friends, but I know you’ll have that down before Frosh week finishes. You know who you are inside and you know which values you hold closely, so don’t like the fear of who you are outside (job, school. partner) influence that confidence. It’ll all fall into place, just continue being yourself.

and finally 5) You’re a hard worker. You can sit down and study for hours at a time and actually learn the material. You know your strengths and weaknesses, which I cannot stress how important that knowledge is for post-secondary. You already have it, you don’t even need to find it or struggle with figuring out what those are. Use this to your advantage, and pick subjects and projects and clubs based on your strengths/weaknesses, and build on both. Be super strong and build on the weak, that’s what makes someone well-rounded.

Dear Breanna,

It may feel scary to have change sitting in the calendar for August 28th, but if I can tell you one more thing- Change is beautiful. University is a change all together, no matter if you’re moving or if you stay. But bigger changes shouldn’t frighten you. You’ll still have a support system like you did at home- Don’s or residence RA’s, Counsellors, Peer Mentors will always be there for you like your favourite teachers were. Get to know those people, feel comfortable with them. You’ll still have family– me. I’ll be closer to you than it was from your High School to home, and if you need help, I’ll be running (or TTCing). You’ll have a transition period – Frosh week and Orientation and even next week’s tour will only help you transition and make this step. Trust me, they work, and they are a blast. You’ll have so much fun you’ll forget all about being scared. You’re not alone – A big city does not equal being lost. You can get lost in terms of your whereabouts, but if you keep your head up, you won’t be lost. You’ll have an entire campus of people around you that you just have to spend a little time getting to know. Which means that you’ll have a place to call home– Residence and Campus may not feel like a home at the beginning, but 6 months in, it’ll feel weird to return to our home in Thunder Bay and call that home too. You’ll get used to your room, to the staff in the caf, to your Monday lecture group and to your Wednesday morning latte. It’s new at the beginning, then home towards the end. Which also leads me to, you’ll still have a routine– Whether you decide to play hockey, or not to, you’ll have classes and clubs and study groups and volunteer days all penciled into your agenda (please use this) that it’ll fill up your life, you won’t even have time to think about what High School was like. Let your life fill up with the things you love and things you want to try and let that beautiful curiosity ignite okay? Try whatever you never have before, try things just to say you did, you’ll never regret them.

That brings me to regret, which is my last point of discussion. Don’t do anything you’ll regret, and don’t not do something because you’ll regret not doing it. Do you see the fine line here? Normally regret and readiness are two things that are closely intertwined. Take that with a grain of salt, because even though you may not feel ready to move away, you may regret not doing it and there won’t be a second chance. There are other things though, that you may not feel ready to do, and turning them down won’t lead to regret, and if it does, then you could get a second chance. Yeah?

Dear Breanna,

I want you to pick the choice you feel curious, confident, intrigued and ecstatic about. I want it to make you envision a future for yourself. I want you to be able to expand your mind and critically think and question your everyday. I know this decision is the hardest one you’ll ever make, but there is no right one. There’s the one I’m leaning towards (sorry lol) and then there’s the one you will pick. They may be different, they may be the same, but it’s your life, and you only have more ahead of you.

All I can say is, don’t let fear influence you. It’s a beautiful life and world out there, be ready to be independent, and to be and to find you.


Because I love you and will support you with everything and am enjoying watching this unimaginable sister of mine grow up and mature alongside me. (Even though sometimes I get mad that you’re being annoying and fight over stolen shoes.)





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