Letters to Jack

I once told a dear friend of mine that when I finally sat down to face the undertaking that would be required to re-birth my very dead blog, I’d write a post about her journey through motherhood and dedicate it to her little boy named Jack. I had no idea what that post would look like besides a catchy tagline, but a recent discovery of several old notes housed in my cell phone offered the delayed inspiration that was missing for about a year or so.

After trashing an absurd amount of grocery items and to-do lists, I tackled the many reflective ideas, questions, conclusions, and trauma-laced lessons that had sat there collecting dust for too long. I swear if I ever get around to authoring the unpublished book I’ve talked about writing since age 10, I will have nothing but Apple’s built in “Notes” feature to thank.

And so, on this frigid December morning I will attempt to unpack some of those more substantial ideas (aka those not related to your local produce section) with the hopes of fulfilling the promise made during another shift spent helping customers, shooting the shit and contemplating the meaning of life.

If I wrote a letter to my younger, more inspired, less jaded self, (or sweet Jack) — I imagine it’d go something like this.

Dear Jack,

There’s is a movie quote that I cling to when I find myself lost in the world’s noise.

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

-Dead Poet’s Society

Before you reach that magic age when the world starts telling you who to be, I hope you remember the complicated and beautiful gift you already are. You are your mama’s little game changer. And if the world’s noise ever starts to dim your light, I hope you don’t lose sight of these important truths. I hope you don’t let it.

You will meet many people over the course of your lifetime. Personally, I believe that every experience we have has meaning and every life on this earth, a purpose. While I’d encourage you to always look for the good in people, I also want you to be prepared for disappointment. A handful of them will let you down.

Still, don’t ever stop believing in good people and love the ones that keep showing up for you no questions asked, extra hard.

You have the right to have a bad day, but you do not have the right to ruin someone else’s.

Do not shrink in the face of fear or afford anyone the power to negate how you feel, because anyone who makes you feel small, criticized or ridiculed, is not anyone that belongs in your life. Do not entertain anything that insults your soul.

The world can be hard and heavy at times, but your body and soul are your most precious possessions. You must protect your inner world endlessly and refuse to let anyone steal your peace of mind. Fight for your truths and be loud about the things that are important to you. Chase your dreams, love your story and write it down.

I think it’s important to write things down because there will always be someone out there ready to listen. They’ll find fascination in all of the intricate details that make you you and got you to where you are on your journey. It may be a lover, it may be a friend, it may be a grandchild, it may be a stranger. But since the very beginning humans have been blessed with an amazing superpower called empathy and it is within our nature to be drawn towards the art of storytelling.

As I write this in fact, I am reminded of a book I once read called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book offers an approach to navigating the world based on ancient Toltec wisdom. He says living by the Four Agreements will ensure freedom from self-limiting beliefs that can cause suffering in a person’s life. Don’s worldview is probably more eloquently articulated, since he’s got me beat in both the books published and years lived categories. And so, I’ll give credit where credit is due.

…For the CliffNotes summary the pillars and commandments required to lead a life worth living, please see below.

Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.

The Four Agreements

If I haven’t completely lost you at this point, and you still care to hear the rest of what I have to say, first of all thank you and second of all, feel free to read on.

*My much more wordy much less concise commandments continued*

A judgement from someone will only hurt if it’s a judgement you already hold against yourself. Your own subconscious can be your closest friend, or your fiercest enemy. The way you speak to, and think about yourself, matters too.

A positive attitude will take you far. Refuse to settle on an attitude of defeat. You’re not always going to be a shining example of success, but you will always be fully equipped to repair the bruised parts of who you are. Life is a series of trial and error. A series of falling down and getting back up again. Of making it up as you go along.

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

One’s efforts are more telling than one’s promises. People will show you their true colors and your circle will get smaller as you grow up. But the special ones who know the value of the space you allow them to take up in your life is precious. Keep the raw and honest humans, places and things close to your heart.

To make big things happen, you have to take risks.

Be stubborn in the pursuit of your dreams, because if there’s one thing and one thing only that that I will call bullshit on, it is societal expectations. Never pawn off your non-negotiables to appease someone else’s selfish needs and desires.

This world can be busy and brutal, find nature and settle in.

Life can become more overwhelming the older you get. Life will try to test you, it will try to weather you. Find something that makes you laugh. Even though life gets testy, you only get one; so don’t forget to get caught up in the thrill of it all.

Quick wit and a cheap sense of humor go a long way. Surround yourself with those kinds of people, because laughter that leaves your belly aching is the best cure for a broken spirit.

You will fall in love. You will fall out of love. You will have your heart broken and I already know you are going to be a little heart breaker yourself. But love whomever, and however you want. Play by your own rules and love in abundance.

Since we’re on the topic of love and loss I’ll give you two more truths I’ve learned only recently; true forgiveness doesn’t dig up what it agreed to bury, and you will never fix what you are not able to face.

Sometimes the way you’ve been taught to do things won’t work. There will never be a perfect time to start doing things differently. Start now.

Don’t be afraid to seek answers, question why, and wonder how, but the world we live in is vast and unpredictable. I’ve found extended periods of uncapped curiosity can get really confusing. It can blur your vision. Don’t do what I did and ask so many questions you wind up bitter and cursing the universe when you come out empty handed.

Finally, I hope you never ever wish away time or worry too much about planning ahead—because nothing will ruin your years more than thinking you need to have it all figured out. Cherish your time here, so you can go out with a full and happy heart. 

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