Today you turn 18. They haven’t invented a word yet that even begins to describe the rush of emotions coming at me right now. Pride, confusion, joy, nostalgia, excitement, fear … the list is a long one … and counting.
Pardon the cliché but it really does seem like only yesterday that your dad and I were bringing you home from the hospital and adjusting to life with a (very colicky) new baby who would change our perspective on everything from nutrition and hobbies to politics and personal relationships. My primary goal from that day forward was to make your world as happy, healthy and safe as I could.
It’s crazy how much has changed since you were born. Back then, people were still rewinding VHS videotapes from Blockbuster, logging onto the internet with dial-up service and worrying about Y2K. Advanced “technology” enabled us to print out written directions from one destination to another to take in the car with us thanks to MapQuest. And Britney Spears was just dropping her first single.
So I guess you’re not a baby anymore. But you will always be my baby, my child, my son. And, for that reason, I wanted to take a moment to share a few pearls of wisdom with you on this momentous occasion in your life. (Notice I didn’t call them diamonds. I’ll save those for your 21st birthday.)
- Be you … and don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing. You’re moving through life at your own pace and you have years … decades ahead of you to see all of the places you want to see and do all of the things you want to do in life. There will always be someone who appears to have it all in the palm of his hand. But chances are … another someone is looking at you from afar thinking the exact same thing.
- Social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s a powerful tool that can be used in many positive ways, but it can also end friendships, ruin opportunities and change lives forever. Remember that what you see there is all highlight reels and bragging rights. Nobody ever shares when they stay home one night to prepare for an Econ exam or clean out the closet … but, believe me, everyone does these things.
- Choose your life’s path carefully. Once you’re in college, the last thing that should determine your career choice is length of curriculum. Trust your mother, a journalism major, on this one. You’re at an age when you feel like you want your life to start as quickly as possible. But a fast-earned, throw-away degree just doesn’t cut it anymore and it won’t carry you nearly as far as a more professional choice that will support not only your hopes and dreams of today but those of your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
- Beauty is skin deep. As you navigate through life dating different girls, remember that a pretty face is only part of the package. Keep searching until you find someone who is also kind, intelligent, witty and like-minded with your interests and opinions. Oh, and remember, she needs to measure up to my standards for you. And I’ll warn you in advance. That’s not going to be easy.
- Family is forever. Sure, we all drive each other crazy sometimes. I think somewhere that’s actually one of the published definitions of family. But the thing with family is … we’re always, always here for you. The door is always open, both literally and metaphorically. There’s always a place at the dinner table, a spot on the sofa, a gift under the Christmas tree, a slice of the birthday cake, an extra ticket to the basketball game, a burger on the grill, room on the vacation or just an ear waiting to listen to you at this house. Please remember that as you finish up your last year of high school and plan to head off to college next year.
In short, I love you … more than any letter could ever express. My life changed for the better the day you were born and, since that day, I’ve been trying to do the same for you.
And I will never … ever stop.
Because how could I not use Bear in the Big Blue House to commemorate this occasion?