As the final installment of this summer’s blog, I thought it best to end with a reflective piece. This has been a life-changing summer for me on many levels; a roller coaster ride of ups and downs with lifetime experiences sprinkled in. I met new and wonderful people, did new and wonderful (to me) things, and did the type of work I was hoping to have the opportunity to do when I decided to come to grad school. At the same time there were (and are) a bunch of things I’ve been juggling mentally with family and personal life which have made things pretty tough. But I really learned a lot about myself this summer, and in many ways crossed some thresholds from kid to adult. You know how they say writers “find their voice” after years spent refining their craft? I think this summer I began the process of finding my voice as a human being.
To spice up the format, I thought I’d one-up Tupac and write this post as a letter to all of my future children. Here goes:
You are really lucky to have a Dad like me for doing something like this. If you’re anything like me (and you have to be, you have 50% of my blood!) you are probably really excited to be reading this letter. It’s like a time capsule of thoughts and feelings and reflections and it really gives you a sense of what I was like when I was younger. In fact, if I have stuck to the plan I have in mind, you are probably reading this at around the same age as I am now, 25.
Before I get started with what I wanted to tell you, I also wanted to make clear that despite what you might think, your Dad was really a cool guy when he was young. I mean really cool. Ask your Jay Kaka and he will concur; your mom might be too jealous to admit it though. For example, what did you think about that Tupac reference? I’ll bet you didn’t think I listened to rap. And shame on you if you don’t know who Tupac is; if you don’t, look him up on the handheld computer you keep in your back pocket. But probably at the time that you’re reading this rap is considered only for old timers and cool music to you is some sort of robot instrumental and nonsensical vocals set over tribal drumbeats sped up 3x. Just a guess.
Anyway, I wanted to write this letter to give you a couple lessons learned from this summer, which may be handy for you at this time in your lives. I’m assuming you’ve read the rest of the blog and/or asked me about my experiences, so you have the background. In many ways this summer was a turning point for my life and so I think some of the things I have to say may be worth keeping in mind.
1. Cultivate your Inner Voice
Besides what you may think your parents want or what you think you wanted during college or even what you think you want now, there is a voice deep inside of you that should really be driving what you should do with your life, who you are, etc. My point is societal and family pressures often cloak your real inclinations and suppress who you really are. I think I’m still battling that now, but my experiences so far have shown me that you really are best off going with the inner voice. And if there are doubters (even yourself), you are probably on the right track because it means you are pushing the boundaries.
2. Value Stillness
If you haven’t already started incorporating silence and stillness into your daily life, not only are you behind the times, but you should take immediate action steps to do so. There is an incalculable value to silence and calmness of mind; it will enable you to be a better person during those times of intense activity. Focus, concentration, even-mindedness… these are skills that need to be cultivated, and they are best acquired through regular practice of silence. While we’re here, you should also be exercising regularly.
3. Don’t Be Afraid
This summer was a first step for me in breaking some barriers between my life trajectory and what really makes me come alive. It’s a scary process, and honestly I’m not sure how things are going to turn out. How do you balance service to society and personal needs? How much faith do you put in the universe to provide? What type of lifestyle in terms of personal comforts are you willing to accept or can handle? How flexible are you to change? How resilient can you be to mental adversity? How do you develop as a leader? These are some questions going through my mind after this summer, and for most I don’t have good answers. But I do have some ideas and I am resolved to not be scared about it. Fear is your enemy, because fear comes from ignorance.
4. Have Fun
Don’t be so serious in life, or take yourself so seriously. Take time to laugh and crack jokes. Be a friendly person, it really goes a long way. Value your family, and look after them. Multiply in love, and share your joy and triumphs with those who have indirectly played a part in them.
You can read all the other stuff in this blog and my other writings about my work these past three months, but I would say the important stuff is all here. Actually it isn’t all here because a lot of it is inexpressible and also caught between the lines. But if I had to sum it up to a one-liner, I would have to say my main message to you is this: Have faith in yourself.