I timed this, it’s a 6 minute read.
You’re moving away. And here I am, while you are packing to leave, watching videos of drunk people doing dumb shit. All the while wondering what pressures you will have to succumb to as a freshman.
At the same time, I tell you that if you’re being mugged, you literally need to give up everything you have, to keep yourself alive. “Don’t resist,” I preach.
If things do go wrong, how can I blame you? How’s a teen who’s becoming independent for the first time supposed to behave? After all, you’re a young adult who’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed.
Obviously, you don’t have some of the life experiences that I have the advantage of having, so how will you fully comprehend the consequences of your actions?
Ok, while I’ve your attention, I’ve something to say. Stepping out into the real world is a very humbling experience. For one, you’ll quickly find out that we’re all a relatively nobody – except for our family for whom we (might) mean everything – in this gigantic sea of people. And second, you’re not always the smartest one in the room.
But, these feelings can be assuaged. Everyone is going through an existential crisis of their own and are looking for social connections to feel valued and important. Join the tribe. And even if you’re not the smartest one in the room, your unique value proposition as a human is yours, thrive on it!
You’ll also quickly realize adulthood is a long stretch of tedium with opportunities of creativity and connection that we make for ourselves. And there’s a best kept secret of leadership. If you’re the one taking the initiative, you’re the leader. The same goes for opportunity, it doesn’t find you, you create it for yourself.
If you’re failing at something, and that I wish you do every day, it just means you’re alive. All obstacles can be divided into three categories. The ones we can’t see, the ones we can see, and the ones that come from within our minds.
The essence of life is to learn from pitfalls and document them in your head to never repeat. The point is don’t just reserve learning to the classrooms.
There’s a tool for problem solving that’s well within us. Use downtime every day to bring clarity into your life. Brain hates the lull, and it starts problem solving for issues you’ve been facing.
And silence is also an antidote to busyness that you will always find within yourself. In a world that consumes 24/7, I cannot overstate the importance of a few moments of self-reflection and solitude.
Kafka said it best, “Be still and solitary and the world will unmask itself and roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
In relationships, it takes courage to speak up against things you don’t like. But, addressing the elephant in the room early on will save a lot of heart ache and trouble later. Think before you speak (text / DM). Once the arrow leaves the bow, it’s impossible to retrieve it. The damage is done.
And in the same way, be ok with silence when you face it. How you’re treated is not always about you, and of course, that also doesn’t mean that you should be ok with how you’re being treated.
The greatest of people on earth are never a replica of someone else. They were simply true selves. Be yourself.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be something that I was not, mostly because I didn’t really sit down to think what I wanted to do with my life. Find your strengths early on and you will be led to your purpose in life.
To that point, if you don’t create your own definitions of happiness and success, you will spend a lot of time adopting others’ ideas of what they mean.
Mediocre is everywhere, so practice success to get better at it. Commit yourself to excellence in everything you do – big or small.
Surround yourself with people who have bigger and better goals than you do. But don’t compete with them, because you will only try to inch past them in what they do. Instead of working on goals that are finite, compete with yourself because you never know what you are capable of until you’ve accomplished it. Just as important, stay away from those who seem to have an addiction to achievement. Life’s a balance of doing many things well, not just one thing perfectly.
The most important thing is you will have to stop complaining. If you think about it, even I, your momma, don’t owe you anything. So, buckle up, and get to work.
You don’t really need the latest device if your wisdom is ancient. All that social media on these devices show the highlight reels of others’ lives anyway. You won’t find a single person showcasing their daily struggles.
So, don’t make the mistake of taking a flight from sorrow only to land yourself into a cesspool of temporary joys.
In the end, it’s all about the journey, never the destination. You’ve climbed the Mount Everest, and then hear news that I’m dead. You will be miserable, so enjoy every minute of climbing towards your goals.
I think I don’t have to tell you to trust people, because I think you already see the good in everyone. And that’s a teen’s prerogative I suppose – to stand up for everyone and anyone other than their parents. OK, just kidding.
I don’t think I’ve to tell you to respect everyone’s differences and opinions. In fact, I’ve learnt from you how to be inclusive and love everyone no matter what. So, thank you.
Even if you forget everything I said, remember this. Reduce the time of your reaction about anything – sadness or happiness. Don’t give away your power to anything. Don’t let anything upset you.
Epictetus says this about how to react to what life throws at you. “What frightens and dismays us the most is not external events themselves, but our interpretation of their significance.” So fear is subjective, but that’s not to say that you should weigh in the consequences before taking risks.
You know what they say, only a fool can be separated from his money. Money gives you options and it makes you less desperate. So work for it and make tons of it. All the same, prestige and money will attract all kinds of yes men around you. Beware.
Inspite of it, money is just the means to an end, not the end itself. You don’t have to have a lot to give $5 for the person who cut your hair or waited on you. And it’s good karma, it’s going to come back to you ;-)
Anyway, it’s never about how much you have, but how less you need that’s going to make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. Read that book, The millionaire next door. Too bad a drunk driver killed it’s author in Marietta.
Lead yourself from your heart and serve always through your helping hands. You will always find someone who can use the kind heart of a stranger.
But, before you give unconditionally, self-care first. No one’s coming to your rescue, everyone else’s too busy worrying about themselves.
Before I forget, let me beg you – No matter what, PLEASE, do not get out to inspect car crashes at 2am on the highway. I don’t know what will bring you there at 2am, because you need to be sleeping at that time to have a full productive, cognitively brilliant day tomorrow morning. Oh well.
Our love will continue as long-distance from now on. But, I’m confident that our relationship will survive over messages, phone calls and your occasional visits.
I’ll keep listening to Life of the party by Kanye, the song that makes you cry. I’ll listen to Mac Miller on your record player because that boy who lost his life to an overdose, also sang his best song, Come back to earth.
While you’re away, we will grow wrinkles, mostly because this longingness will be a silent wave that will crush us. And we will be eager to dispense all this wisdom to someone, except this time, we won’t have anyone as “readily available” as you.
As you age, the ones you love will start dropping like flies. Honor their legacy and serve others in their name. That’s the best distraction from grief that I can propose.
Wherever you are, think of us as the guiding light from the light house. I will end this the way my parents ended most of our conversations. “Make good choices.”
OMG, I almost forgot, we don’t blink often when we’re staring at screens, so make sure you’re washing your eyes once in a while. Also, make sure your brain is hydrated after a good night’s sleep – give it a big glass of water as soon as you wake up.
One more thing before we part. Our eyes will always be watching the front door. If you can’t walk in through it, the next best thing is to lend us your voice every few days.
There, you have the steering wheel now, you’re on your own. Live brilliantly!
Actually, instead of this essay, I started writing a poem for you, which you would have brushed off as “Amma, too cheesy!”
“You burst open the gates of our heart, and make it impossible to contain our love.
Hope you soar with wind beneath your sails and surf the highest wave.”
Yeah, this one time, I’ll have to agree with you. Sheesh, what was I thinking?
* * *
About The Article Author:
I see myself as an advocate for bringing social, emotional and character development to families, schools and communities. I never want to let this idea out of my sight – Our children are not just GPAs. I’m a Writer and a Certified Master Coach in NLP and CBT. Until 2017, I was also a Big Data Scientist. In December of 2044, I hope to win the Nobel. Namasté.
Write to me or call me. Tell me what support from me looks like.
Program Director & Essential Life Skills Coach for Kids and Busy Parents
Articles On Mindful Parenting
It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.
~ Joyce Maynard
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