To my son
A change of program for today. I've said before that I use this blog to curate my life's interests. I find the blog is an outlet to put my motivations and childhood joys on record, if for no one but myself. I've thought about this a lot lately, as my son is turning 1 year old later today. I've always had a romantic vision that he'll read this blog far into the future after I'm dead and gone, gaining some insight on my life. With that in mind, I have written an open letter to my son, Parker.
A letter for Parker,
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, and even if you do, I have no idea of the time or circumstance. I’m writing this the night before your first birthday. I don’t know what kind of person you’ve become, but as your father, I can only hope I’ve had a positive influence in your life.
I’m only 30 as I write this, but below are some lessons that I’ve learned so far. In an ideal world I’d have taught you all of this, but we all need reminders throughout our lives. Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules. Instead, they are general guidelines in which I try to live my life. Don’t get discouraged, life will always be a struggle to be a better person, but it is always worth the effort.
Choice and Opportunity
I’ve started with this, because to me, it is something that so many people ignore. Remember that everything your life has amounted to the opportunities you were given, and the choices that you’ve made. Of the two, only one is important, and that is choice.
Understand that you should always be thankful for the opportunities you’ve been given, but know that it was your choices that have moved you forward. Never dwell on missed opportunities, and never expect them to come. It may seem like you don’t have a choice in life, and a lot of times, that will be true. Be patient and don’t get frustrated over this, because it’s a simple fact of life and everyone faces it to some degree.
Instead, focus on the things that you can do. Replace words like “I need to” or “I have to” with “I want to” or “I choose to”. You have more control over your life than you think, and you have the power to change things if you aren’t where you want to be.
Don’t wait for an opportunity to present itself before you start working on something. Work first. The more you do, the better prepared you’ll be when opportunity comes around. More often than not, working opens up unexpected opportunities you might not have even imagined.
Choose to be happy. This seems like a silly concept, but it’s true if you work at it. The decisions you make impact how happy you end up. Keep in mind that being happy does not mean being happy all the time. Instead it’s working through the tough times and coming out the other end. This is much easier said than done, and will seem absolutely impossible at times. Just remember that it will get better.
Everything you see is a pattern, and your patterns are your habits. It’s an exercise in futility to just wish yourself happy. Instead it takes a lot of self examination and being honest with yourself. If you can’t attack your problems head on, work on changing your habits. Find what triggers bad habits that send you spiraling and try to avoid or replace them. This, more than anything, is your strongest tool for bettering yourself.
Guilt vs. Shame
You can’t control how you feel, and you can’t control what you think. Instead, you control what you do, how you behave, and how you choose to interpret a situation. Because of this, you should never be ashamed of who you are. Instead feel guilty for what you’ve done. It’s a subtle difference, but it boils down to separating you from your actions. If you’ve done something wrong, own it and fix it, but you are not a bad person inherently for making a mistake.
No one owes you anything. Remember that. In this world, there are very few people who care about you. This doesn’t mean they’re all out to get you, it simply means they don’t care. This may seem harsh, but it’s a fact. People are struggling to try find their own happiness and you shouldn’t hold that against them. Instead, foster the relationships with the people who do care about you. Friends are always great, but remember, family comes first. When your chips are down, it’s only your family will always be there for you no matter what.
Treat others as you would want them treat you. It’s simplistic and cliché, but things are cliché for a reason. This is not just a simple rule to follow, but a way to shape who you are. The world can be unjust, and you will see people who do the very opposite of the Golden Rule and excel. Don’t obsess over this. The way that those people act forms the kind of person they’ll be and, In the long run, come back to bite them in the ways that truly matter.
The things you face, and especially the people you meet are never black and white. Everything is a varying shade of gray. People are more complex than you’ll ever know, so never assume that you know them or what they’re going through. Remember, compassion is awareness. You will be a more compassionate person if you simply just pay more attention to those around you.
Also, know that whether you 1) respect, 2) like, or 3) agree with someone are three completely different things. They are very much tied together, but are different.
To others: be as truthful as you can while staying compassionate. If you find that you can’t be truthful without hurting someone, say nothing. Sincerity is truly meaning what you say, so speak up if you have something nice to offer but don’t throw out false flattery. People will know.
To family: talk to us. What you say may be misunderstood or taken badly, but there is nothing you can say or do that will stop us from loving you. We may not always understand or agree with you, but we will always accept you for who you are.
To yourself: Don’t lie to yourself. This will probably be the hardest piece of advice I’ll ever give you, but the most important to work on. This is something that you, and I, and everyone will struggle with. Your mind is very powerful. You will make excuses for actions you know in your heart are wrong. You will make rationalize, play down consequences, project onto others and basically do anything you can to lie to yourself. This is you trying to escape the fact that you’re feeling scared, nervous, or ashamed. It is up to you to recognize when you are doing this, and it is up to you to change. You have to learn to let go of your pride or hold onto your courage to make the right decision.
It’s now 12:18am, Happy Birthday Parker. Remember that your mother and I love you, and always will.