I know things get hard
But girl you got it, girl you got it there you go
Can’t you tell by how they looking at you everywhere you go
– Drake feat. Nicki Minaj
Last week, I watched my baby sister graduate from high school. The experience was surreal. For nine years I had anticipated this day, but in my mind, I saw it going differently. Those were my own delusions though – my own missed opportunities, and mistakes. This day was about Mace. Her accomplishments and her future. And as I sat there, sweating my balls off and swatting bugs out of my face, I couldn’t help but think…
“Gosh, I hope she makes better choices than I did. I hope she learns from my mistakes. I hope it doesn’t take her nine years to learn all I have learned. Humm, maybe I should write it down for her…”
So, I did.
The chapter you just closed, well, it really shouldn’t be considered a chapter at all. It’s more like a preface or a prelude to your story. Sure, the first eighteen years of life help mold you into the person you will inevitably become. But soon, you will realize, those adolescent years aren’t the ones that define you.
Someone (or something) has carved out the path for you up until this point. You have been guided, and pushed, and ushered in specific directions according to the beliefs of those around you. Now, you must make your own choices and pull your own weight. You must decide who you are, what you have to offer, who you want to be, and what you will contribute to the world. This is what I’ve learned…
- Happiness cannot be bought. It does not live inside of any one thing, or one place, or one person. Happiness is everywhere. It is in everything. However, it is not free. It takes effort. Do not expect joy to just “seek” you out. You must own your own happiness. You must live a life receptive to receiving pleasure. Refuse to live life on auto-pilot. Do not put your happiness off until the weekend, or after work, or on vacation, or when you are with certain people. Be aware. Be present. Try to find good in everything – even the smallest of tasks. People gravitate toward positivity.
- Loyalty and respect are two of the most coveted virtues you could ever possess. Protect your heart from those who are not capable of one or both, because without loyalty and respect, you have nothing. No trust, no love, and no partnership.
- There will come a time when you must decide between what is best for yourself or what is best for someone else. Choose wisely. Often times, over the past ten years, I put the needs of others first and my own needs second (…or third, or fourth, or fortieth…). I lost myself along the way. I lost my light, my hope, my purpose, and a whole lot of time. Try your best to think objectively yet emphatically when you find yourself in these types of situations. There is a right way and a wrong way to make self-motivated decisions. Be considerate of your loved ones. Protect important relationships. Explain things in a way that make others feel you have thought long and hard about your decisions. In the end though, only you know what is right for your soul… and you really don’t owe anyone anything.
- Always, always be generous and kind. You have no idea what people are going through. Help others when they are in need. Smile. Hold the door. Say, “Hello.” The smallest of gestures usually leave the largest impact.
- Appreciate all you have and all that is given to you. You are not entitled to anything. Your relationships, your friendships, your family, your education, your things, your home, your tomorrow, your… everything is a gift. Treat it as such.
- Go see the world. Never – ever, ever – pass on an opportunity to go somewhere new. Eat Spaghetti-O’s and peanut butter sandwiches for months, if you have to (I have…). Every inch of this earth has something to offer… something beautiful to see or magnificent to experience. Make it your personal mission to seek out as much of that beauty as you possibly can.
- Be honest. Be yourself. And be set in your ways. Those who cannot appreciate your true being do not deserve you. Be proud of who you are. Compromise your character, your beliefs, your wants, your needs for no one… unless they are willing to do the same for you.
- Which brings me to my very last point: love should not be a burden. It should not restrict you. Love is not a parasite, or a chip on your shoulder, or a weight holding you down. It should be an extension of yourself – kind of like an extra arm, or leg, or hand. Love should invigorate, inspire, and excite you. It does not compete, or cause pain, or create insecurities. Love is considerate. It should serve as your nucleus of strength. Love does not consume or control – it compromises.
Mace, don’t let ten years go by before you realize you can be any person you want to be… be that person now. Set goals for yourself, meet them, make new ones, and get rid of the ones you no longer find important. Life is fluid. It flows. It is smooth and forgiving. When you find yourself wandering down a path you aren’t happy with – take a left turn. Take a right turn. Hell, make a U-turn, for shit’s sake. At no point should you ever feel obligated or confined by your own choices. Of course, there will come a time when you must “grow up” (e.g., pay bills, get health insurance, have a 401K, etc.) but you can do so in your own way.
And lastly, never forget that you can start over at any point in time. Do not allow others to guilt you into a life that isn’t your own. When things don’t turn out the way you had anticipated, remember, you have the power to change how you react. Do not sit back and let life pass you by… grab it by the balls and make it your bitch.
I love you. I love you more than you will ever know. I will support you. I will support you in every decision you ever decide to make as long as it makes you happy. I vow to always be your biggest cheerleader, your shoulder to cry on, your hand to hold, the other half of your inside jokes, your partner in crime – whatever you need me to be, I’m there.
I am your rock and your wings.
Here’s to the next 100 years…