Dear Son and/or Daughter,
If you’re reading this, you just turned 18. Wow, time flies! It seems like yesterday you didn’t even exist.
And that’s because yesterday you didn’t actually exist.
Your mother and I currently have no children. I’m writing you this letter before you’re born. I’m going to sign and date it, then put it in a sealed envelope with instructions to not open it until your 18th birthday.
So why write to you now, before you even exist?
It may seem odd to write to a son or daughter I don’t yet have, but I know becoming a parent will change me, so I want to speak to you at least once before I forget what it’s like to be young.
So why wait until you’re 18? Because you’re going to be living on your own soon.
I want you to have a glimpse of what your father was like before I was “your father.” Back when I was just another human being trying to find joy and happiness in a confusing world.
Because life is confusing to everyone. Every human being on earth is united by this one thing:
We’re all trying to make sense of this beautiful mystery we call “Life.”
It’s funny, I remember asking adults about the meaning of life as early as preschool (and seeing the panic on their faces). I thought “grown-ups” knew the purpose of their own existence, and therefore they’d be able to tell me the purpose of mine.
Wow, was I wrong. Everyone is remarkably confused.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you they have all the answers.
They don’t have answers; they have personal experience. What’s best for them might not be best for you. And that’s a good thing.
Life isn’t fun when you have all the answers. So have fun. Put yourself out there. Make mistakes. Be stupid. Then learn from your mistakes and be less stupid.
That’s life, and that’s how you play it. I wish I would have learned this sooner, because my biggest mistake was trying too hard to not make mistakes. I lived a very cautious life.
I didn’t kiss a girl until I was 19. I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21, which was the same year I lost my virginity (*cough* not a coincidence *cough*). I didn’t try any recreational drug until I was 27 (magic mushrooms, FYI). And I didn’t try weed until I was 30.
Hearing your dad talk about sex, drugs, and alcohol might be awkward, but I’m doing it for an important reason:
Too many parents are scared of being honest with their children, and I refuse to be one of those parents.
Yes, your dad had premarital sex. Yes, your dad tried marijuana. Yes, your dad once got blackout drunk and pissed on the dance floor during his friend’s wedding. Oops.
But I learned from each and every experience. I figured out how sex works, I learned that marijuana isn’t the evil menace that lying politicians paint it as, and I learned that playing a flip cup tournament with jägerbombs instead of beer is a dumb, dumb idea. Especially when you’re wearing a tuxedo.
Your dad was — and is — a human being, just like you. And I want us to have real conversations.
I want to talk about your dreams, your fears, your goals, your victories, your failures, your life philosophy, the things you love, the things you hate, the things you’re passionate about.
Because within your passion is the real you. Passion keeps you joyful, enthusiastic, and curious about life.
If you lose your passion, you’ll end up like my parents.
Wow, that sounded harsher than I intended.
Listen, I LOVE my parents. They’re beautiful people, and I’m extremely grateful to have them in my life.
I love them, but I don’t want to become them.
And honestly, I don’t think they’d want me to. Because even they would admit that they fell victim to an all-too-common enemy:
They let their lives be dominated by fear.
Some fears were reasonable:
Fear about when the next paycheck was coming. Fear of being laid off. Fear that they wouldn’t be able to afford groceries.
But then there were the fears that were tragically unreasonable:
Fear of traveling. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of being judged. Fear of Democrats. Fear of gay people. Fear of sex. Fear of drugs. Fear of people worshiping the “wrong” God.
And worst of all:
Fear of trying. Fear of change. Fear of living life.
My mom worked a job she hated (and I mean really fucking hated) for over 35 years. Every day she worked, she came home complaining. I’m not exaggerating. Every. Single. Day. But did she ever look for another job? Did she ever try to improve her situation?
No. Not once. She chose to come home angry and exhausted every day rather than put forth an effort to achieve something better. She lived her whole life in frustration and misery because she was afraid.
I refuse to make the same mistake.
So I recently started confronting all my fears — standing on the edge of every metaphorical cliff — and jumping into the unknown.
Open arms. Open eyes. Open mind.
It’s amazing how many times I’ve learned to fly on the way down.
When I moved to one of the most expensive cities in America during the lowest point of the recession with no job opportunities and no discernible skills… THAT was jumping into the unknown.
And I learned to fly. I got a great job and I met your mother.
When I left the country — and your future mother — because I believed in my heart that I needed to travel the world… THAT was jumping into the unknown.
And I learned to fly. I learned more about myself in five months than I had in the last five years.
When your mom and I married, despite the fact that we lived on opposite sides of the country and only visited each other three times in one year… THAT was jumping into the unknown.
And we learned to fly. We made you. :)
Now that you’re old enough to be living on your own, making your own rules, and living your own life… you’re jumping into the unknown too.
And I know you’ll learn to fly.
I don’t want to be one of those parents who makes my dreams your dreams, but I’m hoping we have the same dream:
I want you to live life with as much joy and as little suffering as possible.
I want you to be happy. I want you to be fulfilled. I want you to have everything I have, but more. More love, more money, more sex, more happiness, and more of a positive impact on this world.
That will only happen if I myself become the most amazing person I can be and live the most amazing life I can live.
So I promise you, I’ll be grateful for everything that life has to offer, both good and bad. When you look back on your childhood, I want you to remember your parents smiling and laughing every day.
Every generation stands on the shoulders of the generation before them. It’s my job to climb as high as possible so you can stand on my shoulders and climb even higher.
Your great-grandparents were farmers. Your grandparents worked in factory and retail. Your dad writes for a living. Each generation took what the last generation gave them and made the most of it.
So be your own person. Live by your own rules. Find your own path. And remember…
There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.
I love you, and I always will.
Now give me a hug.
~ Your Dad (before I was your dad)