To My Son As Soon As He Learns To Read
I won’t sit here and pretend that I have all the answers. Frankly, I might not even have any.
The little that I just might have, however, I will share it with you. If future realizations cause me to see that what I know presently is garbage, then I will correct them for your sake and mine, if I am around and able to do so.
I have been alive for almost three decades now. It sounds like a long time when I say it but looking back, it’s not.
Thinking back to my younger self envisioning the future, I thought my present age was far away, but as I said, it wasn’t. It feels like it came with the snap of a finger.
If my younger self were to meet my present self at this moment, he would be very disappointed. I have done nothing by way of his hopes and aspirations. He was a dreamer who wanted to achieve things; to be somebody; to change the world.
He was always a positive thinker and a hard worker. He had a thirst for knowledge and a drive to excel. He was a child to be proud of.
I sometimes ask myself “Where did I go wrong? What decisions did my older self make that destroyed this child’s dreams?” Sometimes I even reflect on certain times and think “those must have been the wrong decisions I made.” Maybe they were some wrong decisions but I’ve come to realize that they weren’t my core problems. They occurred because of who I had become.
My problems started with my younger self.
I’m going to tell you the areas that I think I fell short in. Don’t just read the headings and think “I don’t have that problem” or “I’ll work on that.” Read in-depth so that you can understand where I’m coming from and appreciate why, from my point of view, these are some life-crippling or life-changing traits.
These points all overlap like a complex Venn diagram. Remember them individually, however, to get the maximum effect.
The only time I had some level of self-confidence was during tests and exams. I usually knew the material or at least enough to pass with a good grade. This was because I was usually prepared for exams. If I wasn’t prepared for a test, it normally meant that it was a surprise that no one else was prepared for either. It then would turn out that I was among the highest-scoring failures and I took comfort in that.
In every other aspect of life, however, I had zero self-confidence. I wouldn’t try anything because I didn’t understand that failure was a part of learning. My thoughts were that the kids who were good in school were just born that way. The ones who were good at sports were born that way. The ones who were good at socializing were born that way. It seemed I had no concept of the art of trying, failing, training, and improving.
I thought that if I tried something and wasn’t immediately good at it, that meant it wasn’t for me.
I want you to be a self-confident person. I want you to always believe in yourself. I want you to have the confidence to try anything and everything you like. I want you to fail. I want you to have persons laugh at you. I want you to laugh with them, and to try again. You should only stop when you decide that you truly want to.
Fear is another thing that has been a burden for me to try and get rid of. I am and have always been a coward in more ways than one. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of injury. I’m afraid of rejection.
There are many things that I wanted to try; many experiences that I wanted to have. But I didn’t because I was afraid to fail. If you don’t try then you won’t fail, right?
There are also things that I stayed away from because I always dwelt on the worst-case scenarios. What if I ride that bike too fast and fall? What if I play football and end up with a broken arm? What if I follow my friends to that community and get robbed? What if I die?
There are people in my past that I wanted to say something to; something important. There are persons that I wanted to get to know; get to be friends with; get close with; learn from. But again, I didn’t. I kept seeing the things that could go wrong. Why would you think yourself worthy? You’re not special. You’re not interesting. You have nothing to offer. You’ll only get rejected. So, I never approached.
I didn’t try and fail. I failed in my head. I didn’t play sports and get injured. I mentally broke my foot to make sure that I didn’t go onto the field. I didn’t reach out and get rejected by anyone. I rejected myself.
Never let fear stop you from experiencing life to the fullest. It may seem strange coming from a father but don’t let even the fear of a physical injury stop you. I want you to be safe but not too safe that you don’t get to live. As long as you are not putting your life in danger, go out there and experience your youth however you desire.
This is something that I did not know the importance of while I was growing up. I always felt pride when my elders would say “He’s really quiet and well behaved. He never causes or gets into any trouble. He’s such a darling.”
This was rather stupid of me and ignorant of the adults. No child should have a perfect behavior record. If that’s the case, something is wrong with him. He just might be a sociopath. I wasn’t that bad to be classified as a sociopath. I did have friends who I hung with and talked to. I did just enough to fit in and to not be put into the group of the “weird” kids. They were, however, more acquaintances than friends. I had no one that I opened up to so I spent most of my time in my head.
I never learned to talk to people. I never learned how to start a conversation or how to keep one alive. I would always be searching for a reason to stop talking or to leave.
I wish I learned how to be outspoken; to get into an argument; to command a crowd; to give a speech.
Learning to argue might be a good place to start. Disagree with someone’s point of view and let it be known to them. Tell them why you disagree with them and defend your views. Do not back down until you’ve won, lost, or have no other option than to agree to disagree.
This will help you to make the right decisions in life.
I don’t have many experiences to fall back on. I never did anything. When I get in situations where people talk about their awesome teenage years, all I can do is listen. I usually have nothing to share.
To make life decisions, one has to draw from experiences and use these to predict the best path. You won’t only have your experiences to draw from. You will have the experiences of others before you. While it is important to use others’ experiences, nothing beats your own.
While you are young, try to get involved in as many things as you possibly can. If something interests you, try it out. Never mind that it’s not considered cool or popular. Never mind that you might lose a few friends. Never mind that you’ll be the only one doing it. If it interests you, do it. You never know when it might come in handy.
There was a famous entrepreneur by the name of Steve Jobs who once said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
The dots do connect so get out there and collect your dots.
Meet people. Do things. Go places. Live.
You have to be careful with this one as it can be very delicate.
Being selfish is usually seen as an awful thing and it can be. It can also, however, be the difference between living your life to your full potential and living as a slave building someone else’s perfect life.
There is only one you. No one knows you as you do. No one loves you as you do. You need to look out for you. You need to take care of you.
I have been in many situations where I have made decisions because of others. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be selfish.
At the time I didn’t see any harm in what I was doing. I thought I was doing a good thing. I thought I was choosing a win-win option.
Looking back now at all the decisions like that which I can remember, they were horrible choices. I ended up way worse off because of them and so did the other parties involved. It turned out to be lose-lose and devastatingly so.
If I had done what my heart, my instincts, and my gut feelings told me to, I just might have been better off. There is no guarantee of this but the same gut feelings are now telling me that I would have indeed been better off. If only I had been more selfish.
Do not let anyone coerce you or bully you into doing something that you do not want to. Even if it turns out that I am trying to live vicariously through you, do not allow it. I hope it never gets to that.
You have a long way to go and the world that you are growing up in seems different from mine but it isn’t. It’s only more fast-paced. All the things that I mentioned are things that I am still trying to overcome. I am learning and I am growing.
I am not old and I am not wise. I am still young and foolish. I, however, have a job to do where raising you is concerned and I will do it to the best of my ability so that you become a man who is superior to me in every way.
I love you son.