Later today we will celebrate my son’s eighteenth birthday. I will be called upon to offer some words of wisdom. What can I say? Do I possess any wisdom worth offering?
Well, it is an exciting time, that’s for sure. I can sense Sam’s excitement. He is eager to discover what life has to offer. He wants to be an actor and has gained a place at the Oxford School of Drama for this coming September. A couple of days ago he received details of everything he needs to do in preparation – how to sort out accommodation, what books he needs to have read, movies watched, plays researched, what clothing and equipment he needs to buy. It is all becoming real – he will be leaving home soon and he will be making his own way in the world. Everything is possible. The world is out there for him to discover.
So, my first words of advice are to Never Let Go Of That Sense Of Excitement. The world is an astonishing place. The possibilities are limitless. It is there to be discovered. Go out there and experience it all. Life should be full of surprise and wonder. Life is not a sentence, it is an opportunity. Make the most of it. Embrace strangeness. Seek out the marvellous. At least once, every day,be stopped in your tracks and astounded by Life’s richness. Notice the small things – the miracle of birdsong, the beauty in a smile. Be excited by the elegance and mystery of it all.
Along with the excitement, I also sense some trepidation. It is a big step – leaving the security of the nest. Into the great unknown. A little caution is wise. It can be a big, bad world out there. As parents, we have experienced some of the pitfalls. There have been hard times. Really hard. Part of us wants to protect you from the bad times. Wants you to never have to experience pain, sadness, trauma. But another part knows that you have to go through the darkness too. That is just the way life is: Light and Dark. Up and Down. You are about to get on board a roller-coaster.
The thing is, and my second piece of advice, Never Let Fear Paralyse You: Just Jump On Board and Try And Enjoy The Ride. You may get injured, you may bear the scars for the rest of your life, you may die. But it is better than sitting on the sidelines wondering what it would be like to be on board. It is always better to regret something you have done rather than something you have not. Better to seek forgiveness than wait for permission.
Number three is closely related but worth high-lighting: Never Allow Yourself To Stay Doing Something That Offends You Soul. Too many people live lives of quiet misery because they are afraid to change. Afraid to let go of what they know and take a risk. Prepared to keep on living a life that does not make them happy, simply because they fear the unknown. Trapped by thoughts of what might happen, what might go wrong. Forever worrying, forever running possible scenarios through their heads. Forever weighing up the pros and cons. Be Brave. Trust Your Gut. Your instincts will tell you whether a job, a relationship, a life decision is the right one for you. You will know. Have the courage to follow your convictions and live with the consequences. If you want to be an actor, Do It! You have our blessing. You may never be rich, but you will be happy and that is far more important.
Which leads me on to Number Four. Trust Your Heart. Not Your Head. The Mind is fantastic at what it does – Basically sifting through possibilities, sorting information. But, it has severe limitations. Do not expect the Mind to make decisions. It can sort out all the factors acting upon a situation but it cannot actually make the decision. That is the job of the Heart. Instinct. Gut. Feelings. Call it what you will. It is infinitely more complex, subtle and complex than the Head. Learn to trust it. Not easy in a modern world which elevates the Head, gives the Head an importance beyond its capabilities. Just remember not to be too impressed by Cleverness. Rather, seek out Wisdom. You will know when you find it. Wisdom often seems Simple. But it is never easy. It has to be earned. Cleverness is easy. It can be bought. Wisdom cannot. Cleverness is quick, mobile, it changes according to its situation. What seems clever one day, may seem dumb the next. Wisdom is unchanging, immobile, a rock. Wisdom is something you can hang on to when times are rough.
And so, finally, to Number Five. This one is the tough one to grasp. But it is the key. Do Not Expect To Have Control. This may seem to contradict my earlier advice yet it is essential to them all. Because you cannot act upon them until you understand this: You Are Not The Centre Of The Universe. Reality is far more complex and wonderful than we can ever understand. We are just a tiny part of a vast cosmos. We are not that important. So, Be Humble. Serve Others. Give Away All You Think You Own. It Was Never Yours Anyway. Be Grateful For What Life Gives You. Trust that It Will Always Give You Enough. And, with this trust, comes Freedom. A Freedom from worry and care. A Freedom that is priceless. Understand that you cannot control what Life throws at you. But you are free to choose how you react to what comes your way. You are free to see your life in many different ways.
Some see Life as a Test to pass. Some see it as a Competition to win. Some as a Trial to be endured. Some, a Puzzle to be solved. Some, a Prison to escape.
My advice would be to view Life as a Dance, but I know that you don’t like dancing. So, view Life as a Wave to be surfed. Sure, there are moves to master, skills to be improved. Yes, you will be dumped – more than a few times. Sometimes, a current will take you out to sea and you will have to swim like crazy to avoid drowning. But, the point is to get back on the board and enjoy the ride. It will be thrilling and crazy and scary and the most fun you have ever had. Enjoy it all. Laugh. Laugh lots. Laugh most at yourself. Enjoy the Freedom. Love Your Life.
Stay Excited. Be Brave. Stay True To Your Self. Listen to your Heart. Embrace the Chaos. Laugh and Enjoy the Ride.
Happy Birthday, Son.
This is so beautiful and needed! Wonderful advice, wonderful messages of encouragement. Sam is a lucky guy!
Thanks Paula. I am enjoying your blog in Nepal very much. I hope Sam will get to visit there one day. It is a magical place.
Very wise words, written beautifully. Happy birthday to Sam. Xxx
Words of wisdom indeed, if Sam reads this from time to time he will be on the right path through his journey.
Thank you Andy, I cried! I hope I have the presence to conjure such wisdom when my own son is 18. Thank you!!
Thanks, Jeff. I am pretty sure that you will.
Excellent advice, live each day as if your life has just begun. It’s great but does have ups and downs.
You are right there, Judith.
Hi Andy, I wish my parents had been able to impart any tiny part of the wisdom you have for your son. I was still young myself when my own children came of age and had not learned as many lessons as I have done in the last two decades. I endorse everything you say and hope lots of people read it.
I came to read your blog first because of your great piece in the latest edition of Dark Mountain. We are fortunate enough to live in two lovely places and one of them (where I have my garden) is just over the Welsh border on the Long Mountain facing Corndon across the Camlad valley. The piece was excellent and as it related (in part) to my locality I identified even more with it. Many thanks.
Thanks Nina. I am very much enjoying discovering your own blog. Your garden sounds wonderful and your philosophy of working with Nature to grow food for the body and soul strikes a chord. My wife is the gardener in our house. I just do as I am told – I have learned over the years that she just has a talent for making things grow that I am in awe of. My role is researcher – I like finding new ideas and approaches to run past Jo. We have always grown some of our own food. We have had a variety of gardens and allotments over the years. I am interested in permaculture and forest gardens. I would love to visit your garden some time.
Hi Andy, you would be very welcome to come and visit us and the garden. If you email me on email@example.com we can arrange something. Best wishes, Anni