I have this friend who recently found out that her 18-year old brother got his 16-year old girlfriend pregnant because her parents told her "that's the only way you;re going to get out of this house." So at 18 this boy has chosen to be a father and husband--they;re getting married in January.
Anyway, my friend wrote her brother a letter thatI think is right up there with the Kurt Vonnegut graduation speech and deserves to make the rounds of the internet until no onw knows where it originally came from. This is my part to make that happen.
My dearest little brother:
This is the closest thing you’ll ever get to a lecture from me. I’ve found long speeches tend to be wasted breath.
You’ve made the choice to become a father, and presumably a husband soon. The life you’re facing now is nothing like it is on TV. I know you want security that you didn’t have at Mom and Dad’s, but that doesn’t just happen because you’re away from them now. You have to make it happen.
Make education a priority. Learn from people who have lived their lives with some measure of success. Realize that just because you’re not following someone else’s bad example that you’re not going to find yourself in trouble.
Here are the things I can tell you about life. I admit these are all just my opinions.
1. Nothing is fair or just. Things that should fall into your lap don’t. But, every once in a while, you’re surprised by unexpected kindness. Just don’t make a habit of expecting someone to save your ass. If you live your life like you’re the only person who can save you, you make your life easier.
2. That said, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you ask for help, though, be prepared to show how you’ve helped yourself. And when you can be of service to someone else, don’t let that chance pass you by. Being good to others not only is kind, but it also shows you you’re tougher and more valuable than you think.
3. A lot of times when you think you’ve got someone else fooled, you don’t. And even if you do, it’ll catch up to you sooner or later. So, it’s better to just be honest, even if you think it’ll make you look bad. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to not make them over and over again.
4. Don’t expect the person you’re in love with to always make you happy. Relationships work best with two happy, independent people who share their lives with each other rather than those who make the other person his or her life. That person won’t always be there – whether through choice, or sickness, or death.
5. Manage your money. I don’t do that very well myself, and it’s caused me more sickness and grief than anything I’ve ever experienced. You’ll find there are things you don’t want to spend money on – gas, car maintenance, house maintenance, your health – but investing in those things makes the rest of your life easier. Yes, it cuts into play money, but it’s better $30 here and $100 there than hundreds or thousands of dollars down the line.
6. Have friendships. You’ll find that friendship as an adult is much different than friendships you’ve had as a teenager. Eventually, your body starts telling you it’s time to stop partying. Do you want to hang around with people who don’t respect that and only want to be around you because you allow them to be high? Or, do you want to foster relationships with people who truly care about who you are and what you’re going through? Talk to Dad sometime about the people he thought were his friends. The minute he stopped drinking, those people who were at our house every weekend just stopped showing up. They didn’t want a friend, they wanted someone to tell them it was OK to be irresponsible.
7. Think about the person you want to be 10 years from now. Work toward being that person. If you can’t imagine that person, think about the person you want your son or daughter to see you as.
8. Remember, again, that you are your own person. That means taking time to do things you like to do, by yourself. Talk a walk in the woods. Go fishing.
9. Remember, too, that a successful relationship includes together time. That doesn’t mean watching a sappy chick flick or making her watch hunting shows and not talking to her. Go out. Watch the stars. Play some games together.
10. You can’t hear what someone else is saying if you’re yelling and screaming. The loudest just looks like the biggest asshole, not the winner of the argument.
11. What’s important to you? What interests you? What do you want to do as a vocation? Please don’t think you have to take a crappy job to just get by. That’s what mom and dad did, and they’re miserable. Be the kind of person you can respect. Find a job that makes you glad that you did the work.
12. Make taking care of yourself and your family a priority. That means not engaging in behavior that endangers yourself or your family. I know I personally have a “hands-off” attitude when it comes to recreational drugs, but the fact is: they’re illegal. If you get caught with an ounce of marijuana, you’re looking at a class A misdemeanor the first time. The next time is a felony. Felonies typically carry prison time and prohibit you from getting certain jobs or going into the military. Anything harder than marijuana, and you’re looking at an automatic felony.
13. Life is going to be full of unpleasant truths. You can’t conquer obstacles by ignoring them. You have to face them, plan for them and tackle them. Becoming a father and a husband sounds romantic, but there’s nothing easy about it – even if you’re rich. Parenthood is time-consuming and expensive. It’s also rewarding, but you have to appreciate what a hard job it is. Your child will get sick. So will your spouse. So will you. They might die sooner than you’d like. You might die sooner than they’d like.
14. Never take out your frustrations on your spouse or child.
15. Don’t take all the blame for something that isn’t all your fault.
16. Try to learn something new. Take up an instrument. Don’t let your mind become lazy.
17. Realize that Mom and Dad are just people. They’re not perfect, but they’re not your enemies either.
18. Don’t rely on Mom and Dad to rescue you or pay your bills.
19. Figure out where you stand on religion and politics. Realize that both these things are important in the scheme of the way the world works. Sure, they’re not as interesting as sports or who Britney Spears has slept with this week, but you better believe the people who run the world have a frightening grasp on those oh-so-boring topics. And while people are paying attention to cotton candy TV fluff that won’t mean anything in two years, those politicians and religious leaders are making decisions that affect you. They count on you not to pay attention.
20. Smart people know they don’t know everything. They also make it a point to try to learn what they don’t know. You’re a smart person, whether you want to believe it or not. It’s easy to be ignorant, but it’s also an unforgivable choice.
That’s it. You’re your own person now. Really, you always were.
Am I disappointed in some of the decisions you’ve made? Yes. Do I wish you would have waited to become a father? Yes. At 18, you should still be deciding who you are and who you want to be, and now you’re having to shape the life of a little baby.
I remember when you were born. I was hoping you’d turn into a ballet-loving, Nietzsche-reading intellectual. Instead, you turned out to be a boy.
I’m still your big sister. I’m here whenever you need advice. And while I can’t always promise I’ll tell you what you want to hear, I do promise to be respectful and listen to your opinions.
You know how to get in touch with me.