Ever since I became a mother, my heart has been in my throat most of the time. I feel like I am always worried about one thing or another, and each successive child has given me more to fret about. Every single day I fear that something will happen to them or to my husband or to me that will mean our time together is cut short. I try to make each and every second meaningful for them, and I tell them I love them dozens of times every day. I know it is morbid to imagine a world where we are cut off from one another, but I read so many news stories that break my heart, and I can’t help but imagine the absolute devastation of what it would mean if I couldn’t see my kids grow up.
I wanted to write them a letter to share with them everything I am thinking of, all the love and advice I have for them. I wanted to make sure that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, they’d have something left to remember me by. But I couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t put myself in that frame of mind because it was too painful. So instead I kicked myself up the backside and reminded myself that no one knows what the future holds. Worrying about it takes far too much effort and time, and I am better off if I focus on the time we DO have together. To that end, I decided to put pen to paper (figuratively speaking) and share the things I want them to know right now.
1. JUST DO IT
Life is Scary. Life is Exciting. Sometimes it is both at the same time. It’s the things that scare us that are usually most worth doing. Whether it is going after a job you think you’ll never get or asking out the girl you believe is out of your league, you will regret more the things you don’t try than the things you try and fail at. And who knows? Maybe you’ll actually get the girl and the career.
2. ‘TIS BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN NEVER TO HAVE LOVED AT ALL
Love is a gamble. It takes hard work. When it pays off, it is so worth it. When it doesn’t pay off, it is still so worth it. Love is one of those scary and exciting things I refer to above. It is the single most important thing you can find in life. Focusing on love in all its forms is a way to a better you. Familial love, romantic love and even love of a place or a pastime are all emotions that will allow you to be your best self. Take the gamble. Go for it. Regret nothing. A single moment of love is worth years of heartbreak.
3. RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT
Anger is okay. Vengeance is not. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. When something bad happens or you are frustrated or sad, you need to feel angry to get past it. Let yourself indulge in it. But only to a point. Remember that anger serves no purpose in bettering your life. If you wallow for too long, your anger will fester and turn your inside black and rotten. The best you can do is let it all out. Scream, cry, talk to someone, write it all down, but once you’ve done it – let it all go. You must forgive yourself, forgive others, forgive the world in order to truly move on.
4. EXPERIENCE IS SIMPLY THE NAME WE GIVE OUR MISTAKES
You will fall on your face. A lot. You will try something and fail, and that is okay. You may fail a lot. Every single mistake you make is a learning opportunity. Sometimes you will make the exact same mistake again and again and again until you want to scream and give up. But that one time when you finally get it right, you will look back on all of your failures and be grateful. You can never truly appreciate something unless you’ve had to work hard to make it happen.
5. YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL. JUST MAYBE NOT ALL AT ONCE.
People will tell you that you can’t have everything. That you can’t be or do all the things you want to. They will tell you that you must pick one thing and follow it to completion, and you should just forget the rest. Those people are idiots. The truth is that we are each complex individuals who want many different things all at the same time. Some of those things will match up nicely with other things. And sometimes we will find that one desire is in direct conflict with another. It won’t be easy, son. But with enough creativity, you can make anything happen. Find a way to make your dreams come true. Every single one of them is worth your best effort. And if you fall down, just remember what I said about making mistakes.
6. THE ONLY THING TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF
Don’t ever let being afraid stop you from doing exactly what you want. Nothing worth having comes easily. When you feel like you’re too scared to jump in, just stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid. Life is a challenge, and every challenge is scary. But fear is never a reason to let life pass you by.
7. RAIN TODAY, FAIR TOMORROW; RAIN TOMORROW, NO FAIR
We learn this when we are children, but it only comes into reality as we get older – Life isn’t fair. Life never works out the same for any two people, let alone for any one person. The old adage about the butterfly effect is a good one. No matter how similar you think your situation is to someone else, your outcomes could be completely different. You won’t get everything your way. You won’t win every race. You must work hard, do your best and be accepting of it all, even when you want to rally against the universe. You don’t control anything but your own actions. When in doubt, see point 5.
8. A BROTHER SHARES CHILDHOOD MEMORIES AND GROWN UP DREAMS
Your brothers are your best friends. They know you better than anyone else. They will carry your secrets and your memories in their hearts and minds forever. Love each other. Be brave together. Have each other’s backs. You will find them in equal parts annoying and enthralling. The brother who steals your favorite toy as a kid is going to be the same one who gives you his couch to sleep on when you break up with your first love. Cherish your time together. Be grateful you were born into the best friends you could ever have.
9. THIS HURTS ME MORE THAN IT HURTS YOU
Every single punishment you’ve ever received in your life was given out of fear and relief. Relief that you were okay and fear that you might do it again. When we send you to your room or put you in time-out, it is not because we don’t care. It is because we care so very much that we will risk being seen as the bad guy to help you learn, grow and excel. When we take away your car keys or refuse to let you skip school or get a tattoo, it is not that we are lame. We remember what it was like to be young. We want better for you than we had for ourselves, and we will do everything we can to keep you from making our mistakes. Believe me, you have a lifetime of your own to make.
There is so much more I would have my kids know, and I hope to be around to share it with them. Life is so short, and it is so hard. I can only hope that my boys take in some of this advice and know that I’ve only ever wanted the best for them.