A leader in business, a voice in academia, a veteran of the armed forces, an expert in relational mentoring, and a professor of influence, he's more than 70 years old.
He's been mentoring me for two years.
He has called me every two weeks for the last five months. His last message: "Hey, kid. I'm not giving up on you. Let me buy you lunch."
He sat across the table with his creamy cup of coffee, me with my diet Coke. And he poured himself into me.
Everything will be different now, kid. Harder. Everything. Harder.
The world won't stay in this with you. Some of them will... a few of them. But most of them won't. The world can't deal. They don't want to stay in this place. News has a three-day cycle; tragedies that happened four days ago aren't on the news anymore. Because there's another one around the bend, and the world is waiting for that one. They can't stay where you are, kid.
It's sad but true.
They'll move on. You gotta learn how to do this, whether they stay in it with you or not.
I know it doesn't feel like it, but you're one lucky girl. You had ten years of what most people don't get twenty minutes of. You had love. You had friendship. I could see it in your eyes, every time you talked about him. You had it. And that'll carry you another fifty years, kid. Fifty years.
I don't know if you'll get married again, but you know what I say? Who cares if you do? Who cares if you don't? You had it once. That's a pretty great gig, if you can get it.
If you do get married, it won't be because you need a man in your life. It will be because someone sees your strengths and your skills, and he comes alongside you. You know what I mean by 'alongside?' I mean, alongside. Together beside you. Not pulling you along or dragging you behind. Alongside.
People are watching you, but you can't give them all a voice. You know what I say? I say don't defend yourself to anyone. You do your best, you do it your way, the way you know how. And you don't defend yourself. They'll have advice; they'll have criticism. You can't let it shape you, kid. Make the best decision you can every single day. And don't defend it. Just do your best. You know your best.
You can get an A- on a paper, but you know if it really deserved a B. You can snowball a professor now and then, but you know if you did your best.
You can get a standing ovation, but you know if you deserved it. You know. You know if you had your head in the game or if you just stood up there and read your notes.
You know, kid. You gotta do your best. And don't defend it. Just do your best.
Look at this empty chair. Pretend he's in it. What did he call you? He called you Baby Girl... you know what he'd say? He'd say,
'Hey, Baby Girl? I love you. I still do. I didn't want to leave you. But I'm so proud of you. You go do this, Baby Girl. You're strong, you're wise, and you can do this. Now you do it. Do it your way. I'm proud of you, Baby Girl.'
It's a new chapter now, kid. You're a writer - you know what that means. It means you decide what happens next. It'll be hard. It'll be different. But you can do it.
Leadership is the path from intelligence to wisdom. You're on that path, kid. You're earning wisdom that a dozen degrees can never give you.
You need to cry? You call me. I can host a pity party with you. You bet I can, you bet I will. And then I'll tell you to get out there and do this thing. Because you can. I know you can.
And Robb knows you can. You hear him, Tricia? "Baby Girl, I'm proud of you."
Kid, I just had to see you for myself. I had to look at you with my own eyes. I had to see that you're okay. And I think you're right where you should be.
Can you stay longer today, Tricia?
"Oh, I would love to, I really would. And you have blessed me today. But really, I'm learning that I need to sleep. I have to sleep every day. I really need to."
Hey, kid. What did I tell you? No defending. Don't defend yourself. You make your decision, and you don't defend it. You didn't offend me, you owe me no apology. No defending. You do what's best for you and those boys.
And you stay in touch. I'm not giving up on you, kid.
And neither is he.
"I'm proud of you, Baby Girl." That's what he'd say.
Now you go do this thing.