June 30, 2013 in Education
As some of you know, we celebrate turning 13 in a big way in our family.
It’s a turning point of sorts, a right of passage, if you will, and we invite the people who love our kids and who’ve mattered in their lives to contribute letters that we assemble into a book for them. It’s a life book full of love and laughter and wisdom on what it means to grow up, man-up, and live life passionately and deeply.
Elisha is turning 13 this month and so I’m collecting letters from all over the world, each one will mean the world to him.
Today I received one from a guy affectionately known as The Big Swede in our family. He nearly crushed Gabe in a soccer game in Guatemala a couple of years ago, but that’s another story. For those of you who worry about us picking up hitchhikers and strays, I present this man (and a long line of others) as Exhibit A as to my faith in humanity as a whole. This is a guy who spent a week with us, off and on, but has left a great big lasting impression in our world.
I asked him if I could quote him, but the more I think about it, the more I want to share his whole letter, because what he’s spoken into the life of our 13 year old is something that we all need to be reminded of, and he does it more eloquently than I could ever hope to.
Consider this your early birthday present too:
When asked to write you a letter for your 13th birthday I was a bit at a loss for words. Because I started going over my 37 years of life to try to deduct some form of life experience and I couldn’t move past feeling that you’re probably more adjusted to life at 13 than most of us, thrice your age, are. What could I possibly teach you? That’s a pretty heavy testament to you and your family.
There are however a few things that I can confidently let you in on, as true and tried secrets to life. They may not seem as that big a deal as you read this, but take it to heart and one day you might just go, “Shit, that tall Swede that almost broke my brother’s rib in Guatemala actually had something to say!”… Here’s hoping.
1. Level up.
As any seasoned gamer knows, the joy of any game is to create a character that possesses the right balance of skills to overcome any challenges that may arise. Don’t think that this only applies to petty pixels on a screen. This is real life. Every time you help mom cook dinner or go fishing – that’s +1 Sustenance & Survival. Playing in the ocean? +1 Swimming. Playing a game on the iPad? +1 Hand-eye Coordination AND +1 Problem Solving (which is a pretty great argument to play games, should you ever need one).
My point here is two-fold. First of all, learning at your age is a piece of cake. Sadly, this is something usually lost on people your age. Before you know it, you’ll be looking 40 dead in the eye and believe me, leveling up at that age is a whole lot trickier. So suck it up and learn all you can with reckless abandon for at least another seven or eight years or so. Future you is gonna thank me. Languages, instruments, crafts, general knowledge. All that stuff will stick with you forever.
My second point is, of course, to never stop learning. Most people don’t, I guess but there’s not that many that actively seek out new knowledge. Creating that perfect character is a life-long pursuit, and just like in the games it’s easy at first but as you progress the harder it gets. Don’t lose spirit. Keep building that guy.
2. You’ll fall in love again.
When I was you age, I had already been in love more times than I could count. I was a hopeless romantic. At 13, I knew how to say “I love you” in seven languages from experience. There was that german girl on the ferry to Visingsö, man she was a stunner. Our relationship never really went past that hour on the ferry but she gave me a german coin that I later drilled a hole in and made into a necklace. I think I was ten and the memory of her lasted me all summer. I had a faux-wedding with a Mexican girl at an international summer camp in Portugal the year after. She was a stunner. And then there were the two Dutch girls shortly thereafter…
Well you get the drift. I know I sound a bit easy, and I probably was, but in a very innocent sort of way. I was in love with the idea of love. But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I got to know love properly in a fairytale kinda way, the kind that just turn you inside out and make you believe in magic and unicorns and every book you’ve ever read. But unlike most stories, this fairytale didn’t end well and love kinda broke. It doesn’t have to, sometimes the story goes on to become a life-long epic, but in case you go through the same thing I want to reassure you that you will fall in love again. It won’t feel possible at the time, but trust me. You will have another go at it, and this time you will be able to approach it with experience and wisdom (once you get past the insane wonder of falling in love again) and you will make sure not to make the same mistakes twice. And good golly, it will be worth it. And at the end of it all, you will think to yourself that perhaps things happened for a reason.
3. You’re stardust.
A rough estimate of people ever having been born on planet earth is around 107 billion people. Out of those ridiculous odds, you have the incredible fortune of being a child of loving parents in a time where you’re able to travel, fully experience all the cultures humanity has to offer, live in relative peace, be well fed and have the luxury of spare time to have fun. And to top it off, you happen to be born in the tiny sliver of time where the evolution of our species happens so quickly you can watch it unfold in a generation.
Arthur C Clarke once wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and it’s true. In any other time, you would be a wizard. Obviously not a distinguished bearded wizard smoking halfling-herb in a great pipe, but a pretty ace wizard nonetheless. We are so lucky to be living right now, and it’s only fair to the universe to give thanks on occasion. With this fortune also comes an obligation to make the best of it – can you imagine the look on the faces of the billions less fortunate that came before us if they knew you decided to squander this incredible luck by becoming, say, a lawyer, a banker or (shudder) a politician?
It’s also good to remind yourself on occasion that you, along with almost every element of this planet, was formed at the heart of a star that died in a supernova explosion. You are stardust. I meant to say this mainly cause it sounds cool, but it does give some perspective to life. You are, at the same time, insignificant and the most important person that has ever existed. And, depending on what you believe, there’s a fair chance that this life you have is it. There’s a definite possibility that all the stories about heaven, hell, reincarnation and afterlife are just that, stories, born out of our desperation to live forever. In which case you should make this one count. Just to be on the safe side. Which leads me to…
4. You’re gonna die.
Everybody does. Might as well get used to the idea. And the kicker is, it doesn’t have to be such a horror. Yes, it’s extremely sad. Yes, we love THIS party and don’t want to leave. But I am a staunch believer that knowing that you’re gonna die, as in getting comfortable with the idea, leads to a greater appreciation of life and less regrets at the end of it. Cause that’s the end game – being able to die content and at peace, knowing that you did all that was in your power to have the best life possible.
Happy birthday to you Elisha. I wish you a long and wonderful life, and I truly hope that both me and Jess gets several more cameo appearances in future episodes of your epic adventure.
**If you know and love Elisha and would like to contribute to his 13th year book, please email me a letter! If you’d like to mail a hand written one, contact me for our current address**