I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who you will be when you’re older. There’s so much I want for you in this world, but I think that more than anything, I just want you to be good. Because people who are good, and who embody genuine kindness, are the happiest. And they help blot out the ugly and the cruel.
So I’ve been thinking about what it means to live a good and true and genuine life. Here are my wishes for you.
1. I hope you’ll be the kind of person who waits patiently behind the 80-year-old woman using 52 coupons at the grocery store.
I know you’ll be annoyed and in a rush. But she comes from a different time, a time when pennies were worth something. Sometimes I wish we lived then. Don’t sigh in irritation when she counts out change. Smile and wish her a good day.
2. I also hope you’ll be a good tipper and patient with people in training—in any profession.
Your mother was a waitress long before you walked this Earth. I’ll tell you from experience—if you are waiting on your food, more than likely, it’s not your waitress’s fault. She’s probably facing 4-letter words being hurled at her from an overworked cook every time she returns to the kitchen. Just be patient. You’re not actually starving.
Your mom was also a cashier. And a pizza flipper. And a dishwasher. And a myriad of other service positions. They all took training and the patience of people like you giving her a chance. Be kind and tip well.
3. I hope you never leave a hotel room trashed or neglect to throw away garbage because this is the job of cleaning staff and custodians.
No. These are human beings, like you. And while they have a job to do for which they are paid, they deserve respect and dignity. Please pick up after yourself wherever you go in life.
On that same note, I hope you have jobs like these. Wash cars to make extra cash. Deliver pizzas. Babysit. Wait tables and wash dishes. That’s how you’ll know and appreciate all that these jobs entail.
4. I hope you have self-awareness.
I did not really develop mine until adulthood, so I don’t expect much when you’re a kid. But at some point, I truly hope you realize that you came from a place of privilege. Your nation of birth, your skin color and your socioeconomic status provided you a great deal of privileges and opportunities. Learn about what that means. Understand it. And do something good with it.
5. I hope you read, read, read.
Learn about your world, its history, and its cultures. Get lost in a murder-mystery that you can’t put down. Read books that make you cry. And think. And feel inspired.
6. I hope you get to know people who are different from you.
Different religiously, ethnically, racially, economically, politically. Listen to what they have to say.
7. Please do things that make you feel uncomfortable.
Try weird foods. Go places that don’t have chain restaurants. Go somewhere where you have to learn a new language or culture. Get out of your safe bubble or else your life will be suffocatingly boring.
8. I hope you take care of your body, because you only get one.
Nourish it with good stuff. Eat apples and broccoli. But for the love of God, eat the cake and drink the wine too. Especially at parties, weddings, and on vacation.
9. Don’t be a martyr.
Work hard, but neglecting yourself achieves nothing in the long run.
10. I hope you learn to fail.
It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. You need to learn how to accept the gut punch of failure, grieve, be pissed, and then get back up and go again. No one—and I mean NO ONE who is successful has gotten there without failing along the way.
11. I hope you assert yourself.
I want you to be respectful, but also stand up for yourself and for others. Nobody is allowed to put you down and make you feel lesser than.
However, if you were wrong, apologize. And mean it.
12. Let go of anger.
It only hurts you. I am sad to say that you will be wronged and mistreated in your life. I hope you find a way to let it go and lift that burden off of your heart. It is far too heavy and will keep you from living a life of joy. The moment you forgive, you’ll feel love seep into the cracks and fill you up where the anger used to be.
13. I hope you’ll always have each other’s backs.
There are three of you, so you’ll always have someone to call and to count on. Don’t forget that when you all grow up and move all over the country chasing your dreams.
And finally, I hope you don’t fight over who gets Mom and Dad when we are old and decrepit. There’s plenty of us to go around.