MY GIFT TO MY SON
I was rummaging through my old computer files recently and came across a letter I had written to my son nearly seven years ago on the occasion of his 21st birthday. Here it is:
Harvey, my son.
Happy 21st Birthday!
I hope you have a great time at your party with your friends and family. I’m sure it will be a happy occasion.
True “happiness”, I now know, is lasting, permanent – not fleeting or ephemeral. Even when our problems irritate, annoy or frustrate us – or even worse, seem overwhelming – true happiness is still present in our minds, impervious and invulnerable, despite the ups and downs of life.
But how do we find true and lasting happiness?
- By living and speaking our truth at all times without fear or favour – by being true to ourselves.
- By being kind to everyone, without exception, and treating others the way we would like to be treated.
- By not condemning or judging people, in the understanding that there is a spark of goodness in everyone, despite what they may say or do.
The above aren’t just “do as I say, not do as I do” words, however, it is indisputably true that for most of my life I didn’t do what I’m suggesting you should do.
Did I live and speak my truth without fear or favour? Hardly ever! My attitude to telling the truth was cavalier to say the least. I told people what I believed they wanted to hear to gain their approval. I told lies to save my thin skin; to deny responsibility for my actions; to inflate my ego by painting a false picture that I was, in some way, better than I really thought I was.
Was I kind to, gentle and considerate of others? Did I treat others as I would have liked to be treated? Sometimes, but always for self-gain, not from true compassion and selflessness.
Did I see good in everyone, regardless of their behaviour? Never! I was too busy blaming and judging them in an attempt to deflect the blame from myself; or by mitigating my perceived shortcomings by wanting to see greater shortcomings in them.
Did my behaviour bring me happiness. Did it serve me well? No! No! No!
I discovered, through pain and suffering, that not being true to myself only added to my self-doubts. It eroded my self-confidence and self-worth. It made me self-centred and cruel. It turned me into a “taker”, not a “giver”. It filled me with an emptiness that I tried to fill with addictions – pleasure, sport, booze, sex, pain-killers and work – to name a few.
The bottom line was that not being true to myself made me desperately unhappy, leading to despair and depression and self-loathing.
It took me many years to understand, admit and acknowledge what I was doing to myself. For the past 15 years I’ve been trying to undo the damage. I think I’m a much better person now, although I’ve still got a long way to go. Depression itself, I’ve found, becomes addictive even though being in that state of mind is hell.
So, Harvey my son, my real 21st birthday present to you isn’t just gifts or money. It is advice on how to live your life, based on my direct experiences. If my experiences can save you unnecessary pain and suffering because you’ve tried to embrace my keys to a happy life – I will be well-pleased.
No doubt, you have, and will continue to make mistakes and wrong choices along the way. But that’s life. Provided you’re willing to admit them and learn from them, each mistake made becomes a stepping stone in your personal growth.
An intelligent person learns from his own mistakes. A truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.
The opportunity to learn from my mistakes is my gift to you on your 21st birthday.
28 September 2006.
Harvey is now in his 28th year and he is turning out alright. Not sure if he took any of my advice. But regardless, I’m very proud of him.