By Emanuel Ortiz

Dear Cousin,

    I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine about the positive influence she got from her aunt. Her aunt was only 10 years older than her. Age maybe helped because she wasn’t just an influence but also a friend to her. My friend could talk to her aunt about anything that was happening like the troubles she was having with friends, school, and work. That got me thinking, cousin, on all the positive influences I have had in my life. You came into my mind, cousin. Well, you and my father who are no longer around.

    I am the way I am today because of you two. My father taught me morals that shaped the person I am today. Morals such as being trustworthy and respecting others came from him. This helped me more than I could put into words at school and at work. I regret not being able to tell him how much I appreciated all that he has done and all that he has taught me. This is why I’m writing this for you, cousin. You influenced me so much in school to be better than what I was and even better than that. You told me to put my games down for a week, then a month and start caring more about school. I actually study now because of you. You taught me that there were no limits to how far I could go and I should always be striving to be my best.

     I was lazy and unwilling to go any further than what was required of me. It was a bad mindset and I’m glad you helped me break out of it. Now I look around in college and I can easily see that not everyone has broken this mindset. I used to be in the game design major and there were so many kids in the game lounge playing games. I could leave for four hours then come back and they’d still be there.  Some go straight home after class to play games or hang out with friends. I know a few people like this. It’s fine if they wish to do so. I know that I used to all the time. They haven’t thought further though. They haven’t thought ahead of what to do after college.

    I used to live in the present and not worry about what had happened before or what may happen in the future.  I used to until you. You saw what I was doing. The bad habits I have had. You didn’t judge me for them and that was one of the most important parts of your help. You just had questions about what I was doing and what I was planning on doing later. I had these questions in the back of my mind as well but was afraid of answering them because I never had a plan. I never had a backup plan to that plan. I just worried about going to class and getting homework done. Thank you for guiding me through that.

    But who showed you? Who was your influence when you were going through your life? You had told me before that you didn’t have someone when going through college. I was having trouble going the extra mile even with all your help.  But for some reason you just seemed to have all of this under your belt from the start. There must have been some hint from somewhere that told you this was where to go. And although we’re going different paths in our careers, I know I’ll be able to make it to the finish line because of all you and my father have done for me.

Thank you,

    Your cousin.