Wisdom for my children from your mother as I enter my 36th year:
I hope you both continue to embrace each other and say “I love you” throughout your entire life. Nothing is more important than family and relationships with others. When your father and I are gone, you will have each other. Do not let petty differences or hurt feelings get in the way of your love for each other. Even if the only way to resolve conflict is through screaming and yelling, it’s worth it. Forgiveness is powerful.
Success doesn’t have to look the same for you as it does for others. To some, success is defined by a powerful career, to others, success is defined by the amount of money in their bank accounts, and still to others, success is defined by how much the world loves them. Perhaps your idea of success is to wake up in a safe, warm home and be able to enjoy the freedom of daily, peaceful walk around your neighborhood. Maybe your idea of success is freedom to travel or to play in a band on weekends. Don’t let the world chain you down with its superficial and unattainable idea of success. You know in your heart what brings you joy.
Money helps you stay comfortable during life’s inevitable crises. When your car breaks down, or you end up with large hospital bills, or you want to go on a luxurious vacation, having a certain amount of money will lift stressful burdens from your shoulders. You only need a certain level of financial comfort. Beyond that, money becomes dangerous. And money cannot bring your life meaning. Worshiping money, working only to accumulate money, hoarding money—this strips your life of meaning and rots your soul. Money is a tool, not a god.
Meaning and purpose come from your spiritual beliefs, your relationships with other humans, and your connection to the Earth and creatures great and small. You cannot find joy in life without having purpose, without believing that you have an important role to make the world a better place. And you cannot find life to be meaningful if you only believe in yourself. Humans are not enough on our own; we cannot rely on ourselves to fill the void in our hearts. We need God. You can find Him anywhere you actively look.
It is unwise to wrap up your whole identity in any one thing, especially if it is mutable, like a career, a personality trait, a preference, or idea. You contain multitudes. Your career can change, your ideas should change, your preferences will most certainly change, and everything that makes you who you are is not something that can easily be labeled. You are made of values and morals and beliefs and personality traits and ideas and DNA and so many things. You are more than every descriptive adjective attached to your name. So don’t get hung up on one sole identity. Except, you will always be the beloved child of your father and mother—the beloved child of God. That will never change, and that is very much part of who you are.
It is important to take pride in your work, no matter how big or how small your job. Whether it is tending to a backyard garden, or leading a city, whether it is doing daily dishes, or making positive change in your community—all jobs are important and should be taken seriously. Never look down upon those whose jobs may pay less than yours or be unglamorous. Every member of society has value, every job has purpose, and we all need each other to thrive.
It’s easy to find things in life to complain about. It’s easy to see yourself as a victim of your circumstances. But unless you’re intent on changing your circumstances to make your life and others’ lives better, walking around feeling sorry for yourself does absolutely no good. Pain is relative, yes, but it is so important to take a step back from yourself to see the many ways your life is wonderful, the world is beautiful, and you are lucky to be alive. Health is the greatest wealth. Treat your body like a temple. Do not take your physical and mental abilities—your life itself—for granted. Many people find pleasure by being negative, and misery loves company. Don’t let them infect you. Find the beauty in the world around you, look for the good in others, and don’t let your unfortunate moments defeat you.
The world is a vast, beautiful place, filled with people who think and behave in many different ways. Different isn’t bad. However, immoral behaviors and beliefs exist, and should be condemned. Read and genuinely consider all sides of an argument. Listen to understand. Even if you don’t agree with another person, it’s important to treat them kindly. Don’t be dishonest, but be direct and honest in a kind tone. Don’t try to hurt their feelings, but you might hurt other people’s feelings without trying. Other people’s feelings are not your responsibility.
Your friends and peers will try to pressure you to wear what they wear, act how they act, eat how they eat, and believe what they believe. Never follow others simply because it’s popular. Be wary of trends, whether it’s the latest fashion, the most recent health fad, or a popular ideology you must believe lest you be labeled “evil.” Any time a swarm of people embraces an extreme, you must be careful not to follow. You might lose friends or relationships if you stand firm on your opinions and beliefs. But having one true friend holds much more value than having one hundred acquaintances. You will find a few wonderful friends who cherish you and respect you, who share your morals and values; if you’re lucky, you will find many.
Do not confuse opinion with fact. People might state their opinion as if it is a fact; it is important to remember everything people say is not necessarily true, especially when it is a critique of your behavior, personality, or ideas. You cannot change or control other people; you can only control your reaction to other people. Mean people will always exist and you will probably be a mean person many times. We are human and we are all flawed. You must find healthy, productive ways to cope with hurt feelings, fear, insecurity, and anxiety. These are all basic human emotions that you will repeatedly feel throughout your life. Don’t run from them or numb them or feel shame for feeling them. Find ways to shake off undue criticism, mean words, and hurtful behavior from others. Building a strong character will help you overcome difficult situations.
My hope is that you two go through life fearlessly pursuing joy and purpose and contribute to society to make life better for all people. My wish is for you to remain close as siblings.
I want you to know that I love you more than anything—I love you unconditionally. You have made my life whole and made me feel like the most honored mother on Earth.
And if anyone ever tries to harm you I will sink my bare fangs into their chest and rip out their beating hearts. I will do anything for you.
I love you forever, Mommy