Inspired by a post Nikki wrote on her blog, https://lifeasjustnikki.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/dear-me/, I started this with the intent of writing a letter to my 10 year old self.
I was in awe of her raw honesty, and her post really got me thinking about what advice I would give to myself at that age. I started writing but about halfway through I stopped and wondered how many specific events I would tell myself to avoid. See, the actions we took in the past and the choices we made shaped us into who we are today, but we are not beholden to them. If I had done things differently, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Some bad things wouldn’t have happened, sure. But I can’t get that decade spent on meaningless pursuits back. I can’t treat myself or other people better, the drugs, the alcohol, the days and nights spent wallowing in self-pity, I can’t take them back. Those events have happened – the past is done.
Some lessons just have to be learned the hard way.
For better or for worse, these things have happened and we cannot change them.
All we can do is accept them. Stop wishing they hadn’t happened, and acknowledge that they have happened. Come to terms with them. Overcoming trauma is not easy and it takes time but it can be done. I know this. But we must understand that these things will eventually hold no power over us in the present. We must believe that we are free enough to start again whenever we damn well want to. We can believe this.
With that in mind I considered writing a letter to myself with generalised advice, from the perspective of a father. I intended to write it from my frame of reference now as a father, to myself when I was ten, but a realisation hit me. I have someone under my wing that would benefit from this more than the ten year old me would. So here we go:
A letter to Jake, my son.
You control you. No-one else. You have a locus of control inside of you. You shape your life through your decisions.
Find a purpose. A mission. Think about what you love doing and work out how to make money from it. Nourish your soul.
Look up words you don’t know and learn their meanings. Words are powerful tools.
You are the barometer of your own success. Only ever compare yourself to the version of you from yesterday.
Did you get better? Did you learn something? Did you improve somehow? If so, today was a win.
Always keep getting better at everything you do. You’re never “done”, you never reach the finish line. Improve.
Also, there’s no point in comparing yourself to someone else, you are playing very different games, with very different objectives.
Be brave. Fear is irrelevant. You can conquer it through decisive action.
Be disciplined. Moderation is key. Too much of anything is bad for you.
You go to extremes and you’ll learn something about yourself, sure. I’m not saying that you should never have fun – but there is such a thing as too much.
Always be on your best behaviour. First impressions last forever. Reputation counts for more than you realise.
Be honest. Be a man of your word. You tell someone you’ll do something, you do it.
Be kind to people, but do not let them take liberties. Do what you can to help, but not to the detriment of yourself.
Be curious. Read books. New books, old books. Question what you read, and form your own opinions.
Be investigative. Work out how things work through action. Think about the end result and work backwards.
Tinker. Mess around with things. Play with concepts. Surprise yourself with your ingenuity.
Ask questions, because they are keys. They can unlock so many doors in this secretive world.
Be aware of your surroundings. Know what dangers lurk. Know who you can trust. And don’t put yourself in silly situations.
No means no, kid. Don’t ever use force to take something that is not yours, or use your strength to intimidate anyone.
But remember that your strength is a blessing. Use it to protect. And use it as a talisman to ward off those who would do you harm.
Don’t start fights. Starting a fight is easy but stupid, as ending one may not always be in your control.
And know how to physically defend yourself in case someone thinks they know how to end a fight. Better still, avoid fights. Run.
Be patient. Good things come to those who don’t get all het up when things don’t happen quickly enough. Progress can be a slow process.
However, a sense of urgency is a virtue. Despite the popular saying, you do not have all the time in the world.
Be humble. Support the team. Play fair. Don’t try to win one game at the expense of all the other games.
Be loving. Look up and see someone looking at you? Smile. Make their day. See someone that needs help? Help them.
Pay attention to the signs. Everything happens for a reason, good and bad. The universe is on your side, and it is not subtle.
I love you, kid.
He’s 4 at the moment! Do you think it’s a bit soon to pass this letter on?
Obviously it is. Even if he were ten, or a teenager or a young man, I wouldn’t expect him to take all this in and embody it straight away. It can be hard enough to remember a long list like this just by reading it once. A good way of using it would be as a reference after a memorable life event. He can look back on it and see how he acted, and be mindful of his actions the next time he is in a similar situation.
However, I have noticed that the best way to teach him how to something is for me to do it first. He copies me. I don’t know if he knows that he’s doing it, but sometimes I catch him watching. I see him adjust himself when we’re on the sofa so that he’s sitting in the same way I am. I know that the best way to teach him is to lead by example. By embodying these attributes myself, I’m being a role-model for my son. It’s a scientific fact that kids learn by watching and doing rather than being told or ordered.
So the advice in the letter was for me, all along.
I only wish I’d received it when I was ten years old.