Not long ago my youngest son asked me, “What do you hope I’ll be when I grow up?”
My first reaction was to say what I’ve said before when my boys have asked this: “I want you to be happy.”
But that’s not true. I’ve thought about what I want for my boys a lot. I would love to send them out into this world telling them, “Just be happy. That’s all you’ll need.” But I’d be lying.
I want so much more for them.
Saying I want them to be happy is setting them up to feel like failures. Because happy isn’t a state of being that one can be in permanently. Life is unpredictable, things happen to us we don’t always get to choose, people leave, hopes get lost. If my boys feel sad one day they’ll feel like failures because “Why can’t I just be happy?”
So instead of happy, my son, I want for you . . .
To be kind.
Not just to others, but to yourself, to the planet. Open doors, look people in the eye and say “thank you” for a job well done. Quiet the ugly internal voice we all have that says you’re lacking in some way, that you’re not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, popular enough. Be kind to yourself and know you’re enough, always. Be kind to the planet, always give a little more than you take. Do your part to clean up the air, help the soil, recycle, support farmers. Be kind, in all ways. Always.
To know love.
All love, not just romantic. But yes, find a person who makes you feel all the feels. Who accepts you without trying to change you. Someone who will carry you when life is too heavy. Someone who will cheer your dreams, cry with you during life’s hiccups, and who will say “I love you” freely and with joy. Know the love of friends, teachers, a dog. Know the love of hobbies, find something you’re passionate about, that fills you with fire and go after it. Fail, and love the wisdom that can come with each failure. Listen for that wisdom, memorize it, and carry it forward. Love food, the beach, sunshine, snow, sleep, books, movies, and cake. Love your body and treat it with respect. Know love in all ways. Always.
To do your best.
Perfection is a myth and I believe only exists in the first few breaths of life. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for your personal best. Try hard in everything but not so hard you get exhausted. Study hard, play hard, love hard, work hard, but stay soft. Keep a soft heart, a kind ear for others. Never get to the end of a project, opportunity or relationship and look back and say, “I could have tried harder.” Do your best and look back and say, “I’m proud.” Even if you fail, even if you lose, even if the job goes to someone else. Be proud. Do your best in all ways. Always.
Be. Know. Do.
That’s what I want for my boys. For everyone.
If we each strive to be, know, do, imagine what could happen?
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