When I tell you I love you and want the best for you, I mean it. You have my heart. So, on your 21st birthday my son, I wish you some of life’s greatest moments because that is exactly what you give me.
1. Life is not fair or easy, but it’s still pretty awesome. If you spend your time comparing and complaining, you will never learn to appreciate where you are at this moment. I remember being passed up for a promotion I worked hard to attain and then believing the chosen employee was not nearly as qualified. I was highly disappointed. After more hard work and a change of attitude, I was later selected among more than 100 candidates for a position much better suited for me. That job paved the way to my future career path. Be patient. Be grateful for what you are doing at each stage of your life, knowing that your hard work will pay off. Then, you will experience contentment but not complacency.
2. Never turn your back on your parents; they are the only ones who will always have your back. I remember going through a difficult boyfriend break up in high school and thinking I just couldn’t go to school the next day. I was sure I wouldn’t make it through this devastating, humiliating, lonely experience. Driving up to drop me off at school, my dad said, “It’s going to be okay. Your mom and I are your best friends.” Those were some of the most comforting words I had ever recalled hearing from my dad. I knew my parents were on my team then. They always had been and they always would be.
3. Love without fear. You do this well with your family and friends, and my wish is that you continue. You haven’t experienced romantic heart-break at its worst yet, but when you do, it may feel as though your whole world is falling apart. Well, it’s not and neither are you. Give yourself time to understand, to grieve, to heal and to learn. Then, go love again. The risk is worth the reward.
4. Enjoy a good bourbon or whiskey drink once in a while. It won’t hurt you and, it just might help you.
5. Learn something new. Enroll in a class, go on an adventure or take up a new hobby. It will feel unnatural and uncomfortable, but in the long run it will be refreshing and rewarding. You can’t become more interesting if you never step out of your comfort zone. So, challenge yourself. You will be glad you did and so will your new friends.
6. Watch a sunrise or stand at the edge of the ocean at least once a year. It will remind you of your place in this world.
7. Attitude is everything. You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you respond. Be positive, think good thoughts. People will enjoy you and good things will happen for you.
8. Read the newspaper. It’s hard to have an intelligent conversation if you don’t know what’s going on in the world. Make it a priority to keep up with current events.
9. Find a church home. Feed your spiritual self through worship. Give and receive, forgive and be forgiven, pray and be prayed for and, fellowship with like-minded people. A connectedness with God will give your life purpose.
10. Do something extraordinary. Climb a mountain, sleep under the stars, sing karaoke at your local bar, feed a homeless person, skinny dip in a lake or river, see a ball game at a stadium you’ve always wanted to visit, travel across the country, visit the children’s ward of a hospital…oh, and call your mom.
11. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. You only get one body. Treat it well now and it will thank you later.
12. Know your talents and use them. You are unique and gifted. Some of your talents are obvious and others need to be discovered. Find them and cultivate them. You will be more satisfied when you work at what you love doing.
13. Make memories and record them. Go places, do things, meet new people, experience life. Take pictures and write in a journal. Later, these vivid memories will make you smile on a cloudy day.
14. Mean what you say. Be who you are. There is no one exactly like you. Take pride in being yourself. Be sincerely you in both words and actions. People are attracted to genuineness and appreciate individuality.
15. Having everything you want is over rated. Having everything you need is under appreciated. Money can not buy you happiness. Plain and simple. If you constantly wish for what you don’t have, you will forget to be grateful for what you do have. Invest in things that fill your spirit, not your house.
16. Forgive easily. Everyone makes mistakes, including you. Don’t be quick to judge and don’t hold a grudge. I have witnessed these two things alone sucking the life out of people. Learn to give others the benefit of the doubt and forgive them for their wrong doings. Down the road, you will want them to do the same for you.
17. Hindsight is not 20/20. There is no point in having regret over decisions you made in the past. Trust yourself to know that the decisions you made then were the right ones for you at that time in your life. Yes, if you were making the same decision today it very well could be different because, you are at a new place and time in your life. Be smart enough to know that the decisions you make along your life’s journey are the right ones for you.
18. Read books. One day, you will no longer have a teacher. Books will be your continuing education.
19. Know that when people hurt you, it’s not usually about you. People are self-absorbed. They aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think. And when they do or say something hurtful to you, it’s usually because of something happening in their own life that has nothing to do with you.
20. Be at life’s milestones for your loved ones. Show up for family birthday parties, weddings, graduations, funerals, and reunions. It may not make your day but I promise it will make someone else’s day. It preserves relationships and if you show up for them, they will be there for you.
21. I will always want you to be happy. If that means moving far away from me to pursue your dreams or choosing an occupation that seems unfitting to me, or marrying someone different from the kind of girl I expected you to marry, don’t worry. Do what is right for you. My greatest wish is for you to be happy.
So, happy 21st birthday my son. I couldn’t be more proud of you.