I started writing this letter in my mind on pretty much the same day I learned that we were having a baby. It’s taken me a while to write this guide to life for my kid and hopefully, she will see it someday.
I hope you’re cool with me calling you that. If not, we’ll work out some other nickname.
When you’re at an age where you can piece these thoughts and words together and not get offended by the language, you’ll see that I want you to live life on your own terms. Okay, they’re more like my terms right now and I don’t expect you to follow them to a tee. My hope is that you’re going to realize that I was looking out for you, long before you ever came into this world. You’re in special territory, kiddo, as I’ve never created a guide to life until your Mom and I knew you were coming along. Seeing your little face and feeling you kick has changed me in so many ways, and also made me realize that I need to set a good example for you. So let’s hop to it with some pointers in this life guide from your Daddy. Let’s go through some tidbits and pieces of advice.
- Look things up
- Put yourself out there and ask questions
- Relax, breathe, and you’ll get there
- Lend your own hand
- Compare yourself in a good way
- Surround yourself with awesome stuff
- See the good in people
- Don’t buy into excuses
- Exercise to feel good and solve problems
- Love Criticism and Constructive Feedback
- Travel FFS
- See the world in your way
- Don’t carry it all
Look things up
First and foremost, look stuff up and fall in love with Google, Wikipedia, and other sources outside the actual books that you’ll find in our house or at the library. Hopefully, the latter still exists when you’re reading this. This will teach you how to figure things out on your own, even if there’s an initial struggle involved. I still lean on others a little too much and kick myself afterward each and every time. Remember, you can still ask Dad for the occasional historic thing to make him feel good about himself.
Put yourself out there and ask questions
On the flip side, ask for help if you need it. Put yourself out there because there are so many wonderful people who want to help you. They just don’t know it yet because you haven’t asked them. If you want to be a writer, find a writer who’s doing it well and send them an email. Don’t ask them for a job or who to contact for work. Just ask them what they’re doing that works. Never give up, regardless of how many times you think nobody is listening to you. In extreme situations, you hit bottom and need to scream at the universe. As long as you approached it from the right frequency (see Pam Grout), someone will respond and lend a helping hand.
Relax, breathe, and you’ll get there
Regardless of whether you’re stuck or not, relax, breathe, and focus on one thing at a time. You’ll get to your goals in due time. It just takes a lot of time and work, unless you’re lucky. Don’t compare yourself to others. Hard work and resolve will get you farther than your smarts ever will, though you’ll need that noggin from time to time. Take care of your mind and view it as another part of your body that deserves love.
Lend your own hand
As people will help you throughout life, there will be times when others need your help and encouragement. Don’t hold it back because there’s no going back in these situations. The world needs more people helping each other out and I hope you’ll lend others a hand when they need it. Give with your whole heart and don’t expect anything in return. The world has a funny way of working itself out here. Don’t think everything happens all at once. Just pay it forward and the circle of giving will eventually make its way back to you.
Compare yourself in a good way
Don’t compare yourselves to others, unless you’re viewing a friend’s and colleague’s successes as a springboard for your own. Learn from them and if you’re feeling froggy, reach out to ask what they’re doing right. Jump even higher and call on successful (even famous) people and those who answer will offer the most inspiring collection of wisdom seen on this side of the Mississippi.
Surround yourself with awesome stuff
At other times, fill your mind with good books, great music, and wonderful friends. You’ll always need these things and people if you ever want to grow. I don’t want to harp on bad stuff here but if you ever find yourself in a situation where the good days are few and far between, it might be because of your feed and group of friends. Eliminate the bad seeds or start a whole new crop of ideas and compadres altogether.
See the good in people
Sometimes you may think a person is rude or flawed in some way or another. Don’t stay stuck on this judgment because you may be wrong and unfortunately, I know I’ve been. There are so many wonderful people in this world with spectacular personalities covered by your foggy judgment or their own misfortune and grief. Take the high road and always try to see the good in people before assuming the worst.
Don’t buy into excuses
Many smart people have weighed themselves down with a lifetime of “if” or “should” or “would.” You’ll hear people making up reasons about why they can’t do something all the time, and the challenge is to let it go in one ear and out the other. Just don’t be pompous about it and call them out, unless you really love them and want them to change. If you feel like you’re making too many excuses as well, take a deep breath and step back before forming your escape plan. Self-auditing your own actions and beliefs is the best way to figure your own way out, though great friends will do their best to make sure you don’t remain stuck forever.
Exercise to feel good and solve problems
I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve worked through, thanks to exercise and working up a sweat. Maybe you’ll be like me and move somewhere with an abundance of mountains someday. Hiking to the top of a mountain is the most exhausting and exhilarating way to sweat and work through stuff. There are so many opportunities to see beauty while exercising, whether you’re inside or outdoors. The most exhilarating achievements and sights result from the hardest climbs.
Love Criticism and Constructive Feedback
Not all criticism is bad and good feedback from a peer or boss should empower you to do better next time. Use feedback as a chance to do better next time and don’t dwell on what you could’ve done differently this time. Move on from your previous work with a clean slate and attack the next piece of work with the same tenacity as before, though you’ll have lessons from the awesome feedback you got from a peer or superior.
This next piece of advice is near and dear to me because I think it’s going to be a big part of our lives. Travel, for fuck’s sake! I can’t scream this loud enough because it’s essential to living life on your own terms. I lived abroad and traveled when I could, and still better be doing it when you’re old enough to read this. If not, tell me about the part I wrote about excuses.
See the world in your way
I want you to see the world in your own way, as a place full of love and positive energy. Don’t buy into the fear that gets peddled by people on a daily basis. They’re just walking in place. And you, my dear, don’t get stuck in one place and don’t ever think there’s no way out. There’s always a way or opportunity that can get you out of any town, job, or situation. Put your mind to it and you’ll get there.
Don’t carry it all
Finally, don’t worry about doing everything I’ve listed here. This is your out clause and also to show you that I love you no matter what kind of person you become. Sometimes it’s better to go off the beaten bath, to travel without directions as the cliché goes. Do whatever you want, as long as you’re growing from it. I’ll try my best to stay out of the way unless you want to grab a beer or scotch along the way.
And that’s my guide to you, my Charley. No matter which path you choose, at least choose one that’s not being done by everyone. It may be painful at first but the long-term payoff will be worth the wait. Your mother and I love you very much and are so excited to see how you turn out. I don’t have a huge plan in mind for what you’ll become because I know that we’ll set an example for you to be yourself. That means you’ll be your own person who’s curious about the world and not afraid to explore it. I look forward to watching you transform from a baby into a woman and will patiently wait for the outcome. One thing I can’t wait for is the day when you can finally read this, so you’ll see exactly why we raised you the way we did. Until then, here’s to watching you grow.