Dear Alaina,

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I could just end right here. The picture would say enough. I am wearing a fanny pack and a button-up shirt, and just look at you! Absolutely as fabulous at age 6 as you are now: 21.

Even for the fabulous, though, 21 is a very strange age. Good news: You are an adult. Bad news: You still don’t feel that way. You have to spend a lot of time convincing yourself of it.

After all, I still find myself thinking, “This situation needs an adult! Wait—I am an adult…I need an adulty-er adult!” Maybe that’s something we never outgrow? (I can’t say for certain, but it doesn’t look like it happens before 24.)

Lately I think we’ve both discovered that growing up is not what we thought it would be. The future isn’t going to look like we assumed it would—and that’s really hard. But as I’ve learned time and time again, the unexpected can be good, too.

Being friends with you is unexpected—and it is so, so awesome. You’ve become one of my favorite people in this world. We are more alike than I ever realized; our mutual weirdness delights me. It’s like we’re made of the same genetic material, because I look through your senior pictures and I just see me. I love that we text pictures of corgis and cupcakes and the gif-set of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta in Catching Fire and none of it ever gets old. I love that we started Christmas Eve yoga as a legitimate family tradition. I love that we make popcorn and watch Bones together.

And yet I love that you are your own person. You always have been the fabulous one. I love that you are unashamed of the things you adore, like showtunes and gemstones and mac’n’cheese. I love that you make amazing, cool jewelry that I do not understand, like the rings with the teeth, and other pieces that I do, like the necklace you gave me for Christmas (which I am wearing today, of course). I love that you take so many selfies, because you have the most brilliant smile.

So here’s my advice: That woman I just described? Never stop being her. As much as I love you for our similarities, I love you more for your uniqueness. Never start giving a damn about what other people think of you—whether it’s the clothes you wear, the music you like, the career you choose—because the woman you are is someone very much worth being.

The woman you are inspires me.

Happy birthday.243883_2104658055696_2126725_o

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