The Birthday Letter:
March 8, 2016
I was born in this day 59 years ago, or so I have been told. There is documentation to this effect, but surprisingly little of it. A funny looking birth certificate, a social security card and some baby pictures are all that remain of those times. I have done a little research on the era. Sputnik was launched, we were between Korea and Vietnam, Elvis was just becoming big, Ford Edsels were being manufactured and there was only one phone company for the entire country.
A lot has happened in the intervening years. The economy has changed (it always does), people have come and gone, both physically and emotionally. I like to think that I learned a lot, but the sad fact is, that the older I get, the more I realize how slow I am to learn a lot of things. The law says that we become an adult when we turn 18. Hmmm, not quite right. Most souls that I have encountered didn’t become adults until well into their 30s. I have to admit that I was one of them.
This all translates to wasted time. Time that we could have spent doing much more productive things. My observations have led me to believe that a lot of the time we waste not learning important lessons is due to environmental and social factors. The more time we spend cheering for our favorite sports teams or watching out favorite reality stars on television steals time away from walking with our dog in the woods or spending time learning a new language, or volunteering in the community. The sad fact is, most of the things that we are told will make us happy actually don’t. We have to figure out what makes each of us happy as individuals.
The reality is, the sports franchise owner that encourages you to root for ‘your’ team, pockets millions of dollars, while the sports fan ends up with a penent a hat and $180 less money after the big game.
So what are those things that I have finally learned after 59 years of making mistakes? Well, I can’t recall all of them. But here are a few general hints about what I have figured out so far:
Stop Being Politically Correct: Yes, we need to stop doing this, because all it does is repress how people really feel, which in turn fosters stress and hatred. Donald Trump is significant now only because he is saying what is on everyone’s mind, but they can’t speak it out loud. The NAACP and the KKK can hate each other all they want, but they have to learn to respect each others position and ‘dialog’ about it. That is what democracy is all about. Be ourselves and be accepting. Don’t force people to behave a certain way. “Black Lives Matter”, might sound great to the frustrated African American, but it sort of leads the rest of us to think that our lives don’t. “Lives Matter” dip-shit, if you qualify it, it sort of defeats the message.
Find something that makes you happy and do it: If you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life. Otherwise you will hate what you do and you will hate your life. If you don’t want to sit in an office all day answering phones and staring at a computer then GET OUT. Don’t believe what they tell you about being unemployed and losing your house. They are just trying to keep you in line by scaring you. You own the world, go out and use it.
Change is everything....embrace that sucker: Which leads us to this little tidbit. It may seem like a no brainier, but the human resistance to it is undeniable. My generation was beset by fear when we were growing up. There was nuclear war, the communists, the great depression. We had been through a lot by the time I was born and our parents craved stability and security. So that is what we grew up wanting. But there is a down side to it, we don’t grow and move on if we don’t take risks. We become stagnant. Don’t fear change, it is almost always positive in the long run. The worst thing you can do is wait for things to get better. That never happens and you just grow old in place.
Make yourself happy, no one else will: It is possible to categorize people in a million different ways. We all do it as we grow and interact with others. One category that needs to be highly emphasized are those people that seek happiness and fulfillment through others. Those needy folks. But beware, they often times mask their true nature to get into your good graces and then they latch onto you like a ramora. Avoiding these people is a must in life. They have negative energy and are basically unhappy with themselves. Be happy in who you are and what you can do and you will find like minded souls along the way.
Discover, there is so much more out there than you are lead to believe: In this age of connectivity and instant communications we tend to get the idea that we are all knowing and pretty darn smart. This is especially true in large urban areas where media has more saturation. However, there is a lot more out there than most of us realize. There is culture, art, nature, just pure wonderment that you never knew existed if you just get off the beaten path. Society is becoming more and more of a cookie cutter / IKEA / Home Depot world where we stop thinking of better ways to do things and instead trust in large manufacturers to create what we need instead of making it for ourselves. Discover the world and what you can do in it.
You can do anything, given enough time and money: We tend to think of success as what we can accumulate. Things such as cars, real estate, bonds, money, etc. We want to accumulate these things ‘ready made’. We don’t build our own car or house, someone else does that for us. But what if you could be anything, or create anything? What would you make? Time is the issue, if you do one thing each day (write a letter, play an instrument, work out) for the next 10 years, what would you be able to do that you can’t do now? Time is free, but there is a caveat. It is running out, and it runs out faster as you get older. Don’t buy into the media that you have to work hard to buy your dream retirement. If you start laying a brick a day for the rest of your life, you can retire in a castle.
Money, it isn’t what you think it is: I was raised that wealth meant happiness and success. You never saw any sad millionaires. Or at least that was the idea. Not true. Money is really something that becomes harmful when accumulated. It will not buy you happiness, health or contentment. Money is a tool to be used so that you can do things. Don’t horde the stuff thinking that it will keep you alive when you are old and frail. Death comes a knocking at everyone’s door sooner or later. But death will really be laughing if he takes you and you still have $400,000 in the bank.
Like I have said, it took me almost 40 ‘adult’ years to figure all this stuff out. I recall my parents and some of my early educators trying to tell me some of this, but I was to young and rambunctious to listen. Now I look forward to the latter stages of my life armed with the knowledge that the future is unwritten and full of opportunity because I can envision it that way and not how others tell me it is going to be.