Authors Note: Occasionally I write a brief letter to my son and tuck it away somewhere. Honestly I don’t know why. It could be vanity. It could be fear; what if I forget or, even worse, I’m not around. Maybe I just write it down and pretend he’s listening and sitting still for five seconds. With or without meaning they are around.
It’s New Year’s Eve, nearly 2020. You’re four years old, an amazing big brother, and you remain your dad’s best friend. Honestly, I didn’t see that last part coming and yet here we are. Coming home to a hug and screams of “daddy’s home” is invigorating. You have a plan each morning of what we will do when I get home and you surprise me when you never waver from that plan. You are also a great helper in the kitchen and certain you can do anything I can. Hopefully one of us doesn’t lose a digit in that endeavor. You are a bright young man Greyson, always up for a game, or puzzle, or book, and your ability to invent games out of seeming nothingness in my eyes reminds me of how amazing this world is. Right now you also seem to know everything there is to know and while I admire your confidence I, through age and my own mistakes, may have learned a thing or two that can help you later.
Read often – As long as you are reading you are learning and your mind is working. You can learn about history, current events, social issues, or simply disappear into a fantasy world through books or, as I hope is the case when you read this, newspapers. Support your library, but do it for the books and programs they offer, not to browse the movies. Spend a portion of your disposable income on a newspaper or online news site you enjoy. Good writers can’t devote the time it takes to be good writers for free, don’t make them starve because you and your buddies figured out how to get past a paywall.
Learn about your food -Most of us are pretty disconnected from where our food comes from and what is in it, your health and appreciation for it will improve if try to get closer to yours. Utilize your farmers market or CSA, plant a garden if you have a little space; it will help you appreciate what you enjoy. I’ve found Michael Pollan to be an excellent resource for some basic nutritional rules that I’ve come to believe in more as I get older. To paraphrase a couple simple thoughts; try to buy things without labels (you don’t need a label on a banana to know it’s a banana), don’t buy food where you get gas, and eat more plants. If you think about your diet and take a walk every now and then you will be far less likely to have to worry about a diet.
Find a job you enjoy and be proud of the work you do there – In the past year you’ve wanted to be a firefighter, a garbage collector, and a construction worker, but it doesn’t really matter if you land on one of those or any of the thousands of other occupations out there do it to the best of your ability and be proud of the job you do. If you find that you dread going into the job in the morning it’s time to find a new job, just don’t quit before you land the new gig. On that note, it’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do when you are 17 or when you are 47 for that matter. Sometimes people’s interests change so if you find your passion later don’t panic, put a plan in place and work towards that career. Far better to lose a week or two of vacation in a job change than spend 15 plus years wondering why you are there every day.
Don’t be afraid to hear the word no – If you are always doing things you are comfortable with you’ll hear yes a lot and that is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone. Tell them you want a bigger raise at the job and ask out the girl you aren’t sure will say yes. You likely won’t get everything you ask for, life often lands you somewhere in the middle, but you won’t hit many home runs if you lay down a bunt every time you step to the plate.
Be kind – This one is tough for me as well, so maybe I’m writing it down to remind myself as much as you. Years ago I would spend time with my grandpa a few times a year during a time he had reached a successful point in his life, and when I think back to those times his interactions with people stand out as much as the front row basketball seats. He always had a good thing to say to everyone we talked to from a waitress in a restaurant to the business owner in the front row next to him. It’s hard to be kind. It takes real effort. Make that effort; you probably can’t change the whole world but you can change the world around you.
Ask better questions – Most of the time we are all getting the same answer because we all ask the same questions. There’s an old story of a guy on his hands and knees under the streetlamp. Another guy walks by and asks what’s going on and the first guy says “I’m looking for my keys.” The second guys asks “Well is this where you lost them?” and he replies “How should I know, this is just where the light is.” Point being, if you always look where the light is you’ll likely miss out on a lot.
It’s a great day to have a great day – This is probably stuck in your head by now since I tell you almost every morning but believe it or not there has been a reason for me to repeat this silly little mantra. People like positive people and you will like yourself more when you feel happy and positive and spread that. No one really cares if your flight was a pain in the ass, or your Uber was 11 minutes late, or your pizza delivery got to your house a bit cold. You flew through the air, used your phone to get a ride across town, and someone brought you food so you didn’t have to miss a second of The Bachelor. Your life is likely pretty amazing, so try to find ways to treat it as such.
I hope by the time you read this you already know all of this. You’ll probably stumble sometimes, most of us do, and that’s just fine. You don’t have to be the best, just try your best. Now go call your mom. I said call not text.
I love you buddy.