What can I tell you that you won’t learn in kindergarten or from the Beatles song that’s your eponym. Really, I can’t add much to that. Throw in a couple more select Beatles songs and you almost have a whole religion, at least on the level of Scientology.
But in case it takes you awhile to really grok the meaning of those Beatles songs or in case you need some of that kindergarten learning a bit earlier, I’ll share with you a few things that I wish I had known earlier.
First, and I know this is a depressing topic – I mean, you really just got here – but there is an endpoint down on the other end of the line. Now, hear me out, hear me out. I’m all about the cigar and champagne celebration – I was at a Sean Paul concert in North Cyprus when your mom was giving birth – but you can’t forget that this stuff, this here and now, this beingness, is not a permanent entitlement. And this is the reason why your life, your being here, has meaning, why you, your decisions and your movements through space and time matter. Because if it were always, one day and the next and the next, this long unending gray hallway, then who would give a damn about living. You have this here and now, from here to there. Make it count.
Second, let me fill you in on something about the nature of this world. Keep in mind that they’ll try to tell you different in kindergarten. Mrs. Whatzzername is lovely and you should listen to her in all else, but she’s going to try to tell you that there are always answers. She’s not lying to you; she just doesn’t know. There are hardly ever answers. It’s this crazy, scary thing where you grow up thinking there are answers and then one day you find out there aren’t. Or you might find out so late you run inside yourself to hide. So let me break it down for you. We know almost nothing. Not me. Or you. I mean everybody. All the adults, all the experts, these people who are running the world. Everyone’s faking it. If they’re not, then they’re fooling themselves to a scary degree. We know a little about a lot of things, and a lot about some little things, but we’re so, so far from knowing a lot about a lot of things. Not trying to frighten you. Just something you should get used to. It’s not a bad place once you settle into it.
Third, and this is the most amazing thing, trust me, you can do basically anything here. I mean, you can jump, you can holler, you can stop in the middle of a crosswalk and stare down a driver, you can pick up the phone and call the CEO of a company (or at least his assistant), you can put up website after website, you can talk to the person next to you at Starbucks, you can ask someone a question, you can throw a plate across the room, open up your DVD player (or whatever the equivalent will be in your day) just to see how it works, and on, and on, and on. You can shape the synapses in your brain through what you do, like those black cab drivers in London with their enormous frontal hippocampi. You can shape your internal world in the same way you can shape your external world. You can promise yourself to be so strong nothing touches your peace of mind. Hardly anyone uses all the degrees of freedom they have (and it’s probably for the best in some cases), but you could. You have this blank canvas to paint, with every color of every possible choice you could take, and it will be beautiful. Just don’t forget that if you don’t paint every day, some lover of taupe and ecru will do it for you.
Lastly (not really lastly but I’ll pick this up in my next letter) – this is key – people are important. Now you’re going to be a smart cookie, you and I will sit down and study for the SATs like we did in my day except maybe we’ll start you at 6 instead of 9 years old. But it’s this strange thing that the smartest people are the ones that always forget that people are important. You won’t get that for a long time, for awhile other people will seem like, well, other people. But it’ll start growing in you, this idea that other people are like you, and you’ll start to see yourself in these other people that were sort of like animals in a zoo before, and that’s when you start becoming a person. You’ll see them in pain and you’ll feel pain. Some of these people will make you sad and some will make you so happy you want life to stop because it’s so beautiful, but it’s not about you. Or not only about you. The best times in your life will be when other people’s lives brush yours in these lovely, magical ways. The times of greatest learning in your life will be when other people’s lives brush yours in these painful, devastating ways. This isn’t the cost of doing business – this is the business. This living business leaves scars –and remember that you can leave scars too on other people. Step lightly.
Okay, more later. Now try not to wake up your mom too often in the middle of the night. She’s had a hard week. And try not to be so late next time.
I love you already,