UPDATED Six weeks from today I am supposed to begin what will prove to be the most challenging job I’ve ever had: Dad. Of course babies don’t always listen to the doctor’s due dates, so I may have a week or two more or a week or two less. I’m not sure what it is about writers like myself that wish to reach out to their unborn with words of wisdom, but it seems to be a time-honored tradition. So here is my contribution to that tradition.
In a couple of short months you’ll begin what I hope will be a magnificent journey full, at first, of wonder and joy. For awhile it’ll all be firsts. I can’t wait to watch you experience the crisp colors of autumn leaves, the soft fluffy flakes of a December snow, and the salty spray of a frothing ocean. There will be time later for man-made amusements like museums and roller-coasters. It’s nature that nurtures, that connects us from where we came to where we are going. Know nature early and the journey will be richer. We’ll read stories and play together and I’ll make every effort to be a great role model. I take solace in the fact that some of the best coaches weren’t always the greatest players. Does anyone even remember that Tommy Lasorda finished his major league pitching career with a measly 0-4 record and a nose-bleed high 6.48 ERA and generally bounced around the minor leagues? No, people remember him earning four National League pennants and eight division titles in his two decades as the Dodgers manager. Does anyone remember that Sparky Anderson only made it a single season as an infielder with the Phillies and could only muster a microscopic .218 average? No, he’s remembered as the architect of the Big Red Machine and taking the Detroit Tigers to the top. With me as your baseball-loving father, you’ll learn who these people are later! And that’s not to say I haven’t done a lot that I’m proud of. I have. But I’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises along the way that I might have avoided had I watched a bit closer where I walked.
I know I won’t be able to keep you from making mistakes, nor should I really try. Mistakes are the stones you’ll trip on, but later climb on. Learn from them and they’ll be your guide, the firmness under your feet. Don’t learn from them and they become boulders blocking your way.
But I can at least show you how to build a better road. Because when you’re born there are no roads, you make your own, which is the inherent beauty of life but also its greatest peril. It’s too late for me to erase my own missteps and blunders or remake my road, I’m not certain I would if I could. I own my experiences, for better or worse, and in the end your journey is one of the only things that is truly yours. So embrace the flaws as well as the victories.
There’s so much I could say: take care of yourself, watch your pennies, exercise a lot, embrace spirituality. Have fun. But if I could only place in the earth five stones for you to step upon it would be these:
BE TRANSPARENT: Mold grows in the shadows, in dark, damp places, not in the transparent light of day. When dealing with other people and yourself, tell the truth, even if it’s painful. Often being truthful with yourself is more difficult than being so with others.
USE PRIMARY COLORS: I’m convinced that life isn’t black and white, but I’ve also learned the ungraceful way that there aren’t unlimited shades of gray either. If you make everything a shade of gray then there are no colors and life becomes like a carnival house of mirrors where you lose your way and your sense of shape.
KNOW YOURSELF AND LAUGH – A LOT: If you ever go into one of those carnival fun-houses full of mirrors, make some funny faces. Laugh. When you look in those mirrors and see your stretched face or double image you can laugh because you know that’s not really you. Knowing who you are gives you the confidence to laugh at who you aren’t. For some this is a life-long journey and they leave never really knowing who they are, others seem to know by the time they take their first steps. But whatever you do, learn who you are. We come into life with a dictionary completed for us and the words of generations before already defined. But only you get to define yourself, not others.
PERSEVERE: Follow the bright light of right. If you believe in something then hit that wall until it cracks, climb it until you scale it, dig under it, or build your road right over it. But there’s a way. If you truly believe that what is on the other side of that wall is righteous and worthwhile find a way and don’t listen to those that say it can’t be done. Because it can.
EXPECT THE BEST: When you’re scared, remember that the worst that can happen rarely happens. Yes, sometimes the worst does happen and you need to be prepared. But if you’re always worried about the worst, you’ll lose sight of the best.
Enjoy the journey.