You are Zenden. A name I chose to reflect the gift of beauty and serenity you bring to this world. Remember there’s only one you in the entire course of human history. You are a woman, and because of that, you are beautiful no matter what anyone else may try to tell you. Never allow them to tell you who you are — not another girl, not a boy, not mainstream media, or some designer label.
Don’t waste your unique gifts and abilities trying to fit in, despite the common misconceptions and biases towards strong, confident, driven women. Give yourself full permission to unapologetically take up space in the world, show up uninvited, speak your mind, and say ‘thank you’ when you’re victorious.
Always live life chasing butterflies, dance in the rain till you fall down in fits of laughter, and sing till your voice is hoarse. Cry shamelessly during movies, sleep under trees, and forever continue making snow angels. Always be on the search for moments where you can be tickled by inspiration and lean into it, my dear Angu.
The future belongs to you, and I promise I’m working hard so it embraces you better than it did me. To be honest, this still isn’t exactly the world I want you to inherit. But trust me when I say that there are good people out there trying to make it right.
I once made a promise to your Popola (Tibetan: Grandfather) to visit Tibet together, but Popola was denied a visa to visit his own country — simply because he was my father. I was heartbroken. Later, he told me it was his proudest moment being recognized as the father of a ‘freedom fighter.’ A year later, he died in exile, watching the sacred Boudhanath stupa in Nepal. I hope you decide to use some of your lifetime to push forward your grandfather and your father’s fight for our people.
Always be curious about our history. You will come to see the burden of untold sufferings of our sisters and brothers as our nation continues to be annihilated. When your friends ask you about your heritage, tell them you are a Tibetan. If you get blank stares, take time to explain (and explain well). Be proud of our culture, identity, and traditions; you are now one of its keepers.
Zenden — use your time on this earth to change it for the better; not to blend in.
Never stop loving and living, and know that no matter what path you take in life, I will always love you.
Author: Jigme Ugen
Revised and published with permission (Original: “A Letter to my daughter on her Birthday”)