You turned 17 last week. While my memory is fading, I do recall what it was like to be your age, 25 years ago, you know, when there was no internet. You’re in the middle of your junior year of high school. I write next to where you left SAT test prep book. The changes and landmark events like graduation and college are so close that when I’m not tearing up thinking about you leaving your mom and I, then worrying about your future overwhelms me.
It’s my job to protect you and help you be your best. But you have to do most of the work. Dad is a supervisor role. Daughter is labor. This is why you don’t like me very much, right now. When you have a few minutes then put your phone down, stop watching Pretty Little Liars, and taking pictures of your chicken sandwiches, here are some things you should take heed.
Your happiness is more important to me than my own. I wish that I could guarentee you will be an amazing success with no obstacles to leap and no periods of disappointment or sadness. I can’t do this. I’m going to extoll some wisdom (I’m your father, so yes, it’s wisdom. Stop rolling your eyes) you should know.
Life is very hard. It’s not impossible but if it were easy, then your mom and I would have met each other many years earlier than 2008, and prevented a lot of the pain and road bumps that occurred before all of us got together.
There’s a song called Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve you should hear. You’ve seen me turn it up in the car and warble the lyrics at the top of my lungs before you got embarrassed and started texting your friends. It came out in 1997, right before I made horrible decisions in my life that changed almost everything almost who and what I am. I can’t say I regret them because they produced your 9-year-old sister. But I think, had I really listened to the lyrics and applied them to my decision making, then who knows, maybe I could’ve found you, your mom and your 8-year-old sister, earlier.
You know I despise giving advice, but I’m your father so it’s okay if I’m a big, fat hypocrite every once in a while. These are 4 Be’s. Notice it’s Be’s not B’s or Bees.
1) Be self-aware. This is a superpower that is inside of you. Most people never tap their own because they’re afraid of failure, making people angry, or admitting faults. You’re already better at this than I ever was at 17-years-old. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You also know that many people are full of crap. As you graduate high school, go to college, then enter the real world, you will find that people embrace the negative more that the positive. You’re awesome at pointing out when I do this. Know that your mistakes will teach you more than you successes but you have to acknowledge them. It disarms people and makes you a leader.
2) Be prepared. People can really suck. Sometimes nice, kind, sweet, innocent, and wonderful don’t work, especially when the more powerful or those in charge are not any of those. You will get knocked down. You will get yelled at. You will lose, sometimes. What matters is how you come back from being down and how you handle adversity.
3) Be selfish. Since you don’t have a spouse and children like your mom and I do, it’s okay to want for yourself, right now. Ambition can be beautiful. Your dreams, those ones you have while you dance around to Taylor Swift in your room, are more important than anything. But a dream without a goal is a wish. Make goals and do whatever it takes to reach them. Should you intentionally hurt others to be successful? No. But as I said about being prepared, some people will not share your ambition. They’ll try to take you down or hold you back. Now is the time for you to be very selfish and concentrate on you.
4) Be yourself. Currently, your two best friends are one and two years younger than you, respectively. They seem great. But don’t make decisions based on your future because you might disappoint them or be away from them. Friends come and go but your life does not. Never let anyone try to co-op or glom onto your dreams and your happiness. If they’re really your friend, they’ll be there for the ride and the arrival. Stay true to who and what you are. You will mature, change, evolve, and blossom.
Now, Bittersweet Symphony is on the Urban Hymns CD. I have two copies. One of them is yours. Symphony isn’t what you’re used to listening to. Swifty isn’t experienced enough to write something like this. What I hope you gather from the five minutes it takes to hear the song, is life is a very difficult road to travel, but if you keep your mind open, your heart guarded, and your dreams large, you can make your own Symphony very sweet, with almost no bitter.
Sincerely, and with all my love, beautiful,