As she recently turned twenty-one, I passed on to my daughter a few words of wisdom. I thought I might share with all of you some of those thoughts. For your information, the full text is available in a book from Amazon and on my publisher’s website: thecricketpublishing.com.
First, wear sunscreen. The long-term benefits of sunscreen are well established. As for the rest of these words, they have no basis in fact; they are merely the meandering ramblings of a very abnormal old man. Just remember: normal is boring. I will now dispense that advice.
You won’t appreciate the power and beauty of youth until they fade; such is the truth in all things: we don’t value them until they’re gone. Perhaps these words will help you to realize that. People tend to want what they don’t have. Marilyn Monroe longed for the family Jane Mansfield had; while Mansfield wanted the career Monroe had. Remember the words of Mr. Spock: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
Think about the future, but try not to worry about it. Worrying about things over which you have no control is like trying to solve calculus with a slide rule: you can do it, but why bother. There are easier ways of dealing with life: like hope. The real problems of life are those in the here and now. Evil or lousy politicians, to triumph, only need good people doing nothing. Vote in every election; even the local ones, as they’re most important. Never trust politicians who wave the flag in your face. The more a politician says they support something – the less they usually do. Deeds count.
Remember the words of Margaret Sanger: “No woman can call herself free, who does not control her own body.”
Greed is not good. If greed is your guiding creed, then virtues remain in the trash. Corporations are concerned with one thing: profit, which means one thing: don’t trust them! People protect their self-interests. Companies protect profits, unions protect workers and moms and dads protect their children. I hope I’ve at least done the latter.
Don’t fear change, it’s always coming. When the winds of change come, you have two choices: Build windmills or walls. Change is like a sharp bend in the road – so long as you make the turn, it’s only a turn; it’s only dangerous if you don’t make it.
Try something new as often as you can, and make at least a couple of them things that scare you. Whether a theme park ride or a new language, challenges make life interesting, overcoming them make it meaningful. Scooby and the Gang, and Nancy Drew never shied away from mysteries, neither should you! Remember this: A ship in port is safe, but that’s not the purpose of a ship.
Sing and never care if you’re off key.
Be gentle with other people’s hearts. In that fraction of a second between beats, the heart stops. The heart is strong, but also fragile. Treat it right, and don’t put up with people who hurt yours – yours is just as fragile. Don’t waste time being jealous, angry or full of hate. That’s like drinking poison and expecting the other people to feel the effects. Always be willing to accept a sincere apology. As Thomas Fuller said: “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.”
The race of life is long. If you run it alone, you’ll go fast, but if you want to get far, travel with others. Your only true competition is with yourself. Remember the Chinese proverb: Life is an echo; what you send out comes back. Try to remember compliments, only; forget insults. If you ever figure out how to do that, let me know. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do with your life right now. Col. Sanders didn’t start his restaurant until he was 40, and he didn’t launch the KFC franchise until he was 65 and collecting Social Security. George Burns won an Oscar at 80 and Grandma Moses was painting when she was 100.
Get plenty of calcium, and take care of your knees. There may come a day when they’ll give out, and you’ll miss them.
Maybe you’ll have a child, maybe a dozen, or maybe you won’t have any. Don’t worry about being a nerd mom. Teaching kids about muggles, the one ring, Red Dwarf and the TARDIS is just as important as their ABC’s. Maybe you’ll marry three times (like your Nona), and maybe you’ll be alone. Whatever happens, don’t congratulate or berate yourself too much. Life is a blending of fate and chance. Remember how your Nona and Grampa Robbie met.
Life is full of winners and losers; get used to it. If you lose, did you try your best, and did you learn anything? If so, you’re halfway to your next victory. It took Edison hundreds of experiments, mostly failures, to perfect the light bulb. Don’t be too boastful when you win. Victory is partially due to pure dumb luck! Alternatively, put another way, it is timey-wimey.
Remember the words of the Lee Ann Womack song: don’t lose your sense of wonder, never take a single breath for granted, and don’t fear the mountains. Don’t settle for the path of least resistance, always reconsider selling out, and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance, even if you only do it in your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t use them. Know the rules, but don’t follow all of them. As Katharine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Don’t read beauty magazines. The pictures are all fakes, and they’ll only make you feel fat and ugly. Oh, and by the way, you’re beautiful!
Read books, especially the classics. A book opens a window into the heart and mind of another person, perhaps someone gone for centuries or even millennia. Nothing else in the world, no artifact or archeological remnant can do that.
Get to know your family. You never know when they’ll be gone, and, as everything else, you won’t appreciate them until then. Remember, one day you’ll be just a memory to your family; try to be a good one. Understand that you’ll have many fair weather friends, but only a precious few that will stand by you through thick and thin. Hold on to those. Work hard to bridge the gaps in distance with friends. As you get older, you’re going to need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in a big city and a small town. Only then can you truly know where you belong. Travel, see the world, for it is only by seeing what’s on the “other side of the mountain” that you’ll truly appreciate home.
Find something to believe in. Even atheists believe in something. At the very least, follow the Golden Rule. Don’t be judgmental; remember the Wiccan Creed: If you harm no one, do as you will. In society, there’s no such thing as absolute truth; there’s no one right way for people to live. Yet, remember the words of Bill Maher: Don’t be so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance! If you want facts, trust science but remain wary of scientists, they are mere mortals and, as such, cursed with all human weaknesses. If you want truth and wisdom, Jesus lived; his words are worthy of study, but his Divinity debatable. Study also Mohammad, Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the works of all great thinkers are pearls of truth worth keeping.
Study history! My Dad taught me the old axiom: “Those who forget the past are doomed to relive it”; this is very true. Accept certain truths about life. Prices will go up, politicians will be corrupt and you too, will get old. There will come a day when you remember that in the “good old days” prices were good, politicians were honest, the music was never too loud, and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Always smile at children; if you don’t, you destroy their belief that the world is good.
Find your passion. It doesn’t matter if you’re a technical director, a bartender, a respiratory therapist, or an engineer, as long as you’re passionate about what you do, two things will be true: You’ll be good at what you do. You’ll love what you do. My Dad said, "The day you find something you love to do and paid to do it is the last day you’ll ever work."
Whoever said a diamond is a girl’s best friend never loved a dog. Compassion for animals is an intimate part of being a good person. No one cruel to animals can be good.
Don’t expect anyone to support you. Maybe you’ll inherit some money; maybe you’ll have a rich husband. It doesn’t matter one bit; you never know when they’ll run out.
Be careful whose advice you take, but be patient with those who give it. Advice is nostalgia. People like to fish about in their past, pull out a memory remnant, paint over the ugly parts, and make it sound more valuable than it really is. Be wary of giving advice. Wise men don’t need it, and fools won’t heed it.
Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life, you will be all of these.
Don’t be timid. Remember the words of Sam Witwicky; fifty years from now, you don’t want to regret not getting in the car. Go for the gold, eat the chocolate, ask out the super model or the super genius, audition for the Broadway show, try to write that novel. You’ll regret more the things you could have done and didn’t even try than the things you tried to do and failed.
Follow your dreams; usually, the only one stopping you is you! In the end, it’s not what you bought, but what you built; not what you took or got, but what you shared, not your intelligence, but your character, not how successful you were, but how significant, and not the destination, but the journey. If Frodo reached Mount Doom in one day, would his story be worth reading. Life is like a book; they all have the same two words on the final page. It’s what makes the rest of the book important. As Natasha Bedingfield said, “The pen is in your hand, the ending unplanned.” So, staring at the blank page before you, what will you write on the pages of your book.
Finally, the Apache have a blessing. I give it to you. May the sun bring you energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.
Now, my child, go, go live a life that matters, and live a life of love. Oh, and trust me on the sunscreen
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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