Written, at the baby shower, for a sixteen-year-old boy; found while digging in a box of memorabilia, in search of my favorite poems:
You have just been born.
Until you took us by surprise, our family consisted only of [sister], me, Phineas the big fat street cat, and Ajah, the almost fully grown kitten who still has an annoying habit of sucking on our ears. We live in a modest 2-room apartment in the same complex that [sis] and I grew up in.
Now I wait for [sister] to come home from her two-week stay at mom's with our newest addition to the family: you. Your daddy, [sister's boyfriend], will be moving in next weekend.
I have a feeling our way of life is about to change.
When you read this letter, you'll be 16. (I'll be what, 37? I can't even imagine being that old!) I know how you'll see us, because it wasn't long ago that I was 16. Parents are semi-human beings who like to shout out a lot of orders and make your life in general very miserable, right? (And yes, right now I'm counting myself in as your parent, though perhaps things will change, and as your parent I'd like to apologize in advance for any unforgivable mistakes I'm destined to make...)
My point is that even if we seem old now, we were young once. We had lives...rather melodramatic lives, actually, good for a few stories when you ask. We've had struggles and heartaches. We've lived through more than you'll ever know, and we've learned a lot of lessons from the mistakes we've made.
That's what this letter is for: to tell you of the precious lessons I've learned in life before I forget, and believe me, by the time I'm pushing forty, my memory will be going fast.
Lesson #1: Never underestimate yourself. Always keep your full potential in view and act on it. You know the old cliche: "you can do anything you set your mind to"? It's very true. Don't forget who you are or who you want to be.
Lesson #2: Surround yourself with people who won't let you forget who you are or who you want to be. Don't be alone. Let your friends and family be your safety net. Be their safety net in return.
Lesson #3: Be open-minded. Be nonjudgmental. People often believe what they hold to be true, to be true for everybody, but what you believe now may not necessarily be what you believe in the future. We may all differ in opinions, culture, skin color, or abilities, but there is one thing we have in common: humanity. Never esteem yourself better than another.
Lesson #4: Never betray yourself. Know what your own values and morals are and hold to them. Respect yourself and your actions. Expect others to treat you with respect, just as you would treat them with respect.
Lesson #5: Open your eyes to the world around you. Don't be so focused on yourself that you are blind to everything else. See a person in need, and assist that person. Listen to politics, and choose a side. Notice a sunset. And darling, this is important: don't step on an ant just because it's there. Life, at any level, is an amazing thing.