Most people regard being short sighted as a bad thing. You've lived with it for thirteen years so you know it’s not so bad. You know I'm not talking about literal nearsightedness. Everyone wishes they could get a peek into their futures. Some farsighted people can spot trends, it’s true, but they often miss what’s right under their noses.
Everybody is looking for something out of life. Most of us stumble across that something with little or no effort but don’t realise that what we've found, or what finds us, is indeed that something and so we fail to grab it with both hands and we let it drift by. Once it is beyond our reach we can usually see clearly enough to realise that that was actually it all along but it’s too late. What I'm saying is that, yes, you should be aware of the bigger picture but concentrate on the details of your life. It is these tiny course corrections that will make all the difference in the long run. I'm talking here about opportunities. People use the expression ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ glibly but the unalterable fact is that very few opportunities come round a second time.
Decisions need to be made, they don’t make themselves and they can’t be avoided; even not making a decision is a decision. Although you sometimes have years in some cases to prepare, actual decision-making takes seconds usually, sometimes a fraction of a second, and often feels not thought through. That’s an excuse. None of the really critical decisions in your life will need to be made with insufficient time to prepare for them but it will always feel like they have been. For every action there is a corresponding consequence. In Physics that’s an equal and opposite reaction. Life is not rocket science though. Small actions can have major consequences. These should be considered but you can only think so far ahead. Your decision to become a draughtsman was the right one to make based on the evidence that was available to you at the time. There were a number of things you didn't know then and could not have been expected to. As Dad was fond of saying, “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.” So it would be easy for me to say don’t do this and don’t do that and everything will be fine. I don’t know that and you can’t expect me to. You’re not the genius you think you are and you’ll discover that long before you reach my age.
There are some basics you would do well to grasp:
● Guilt is not the driving force behind the universe nor are you the centre of it.
● Love is not the answer. Meaning is. Meaning is something you decide on after giving a matter some thought. Meaning is not truth.
● Sex does raise some interesting questions along the way but it clouds your judgement and also wastes a lot of time.
● You do not have a spiritual bone in your body. This does not make you a bad person.
● Just because something can be proved to be true does not mean it’s right for you.
● Life is not an equation—there is more than one right answer. Doing the right thing isn't always the best thing.
● Beliefs don’t need to be true although they can be. More often than not they’re there to protect us from the truth.
● Quitting is not the worst thing you can do. Anyone can take a wrong turn. You can’t see the future but you can see where it’s heading. When it’s obvious your life is going in the wrong direction get off at the next exit.
● Getting things back once you've given them up is hard at best and often impossible. That applies to everything from an old paperback, to a minute wasted, to your self-respect.
● Dad means well but he is not in possession of all the facts any more than you are. You can’t trust grown-ups. You’ll be one soon enough and that’s all the proof you’ll ever need but I’d appreciate it if you took this on trust if you accept nothing else in this letter. Experience is a natural by-product of ageing; wisdom is not.
● Pleasing other people is commendable but don’t you take it too far; it’s your life. Selflessness is more damaging than selfishness if your heart’s not in it.
● Setting unattainable goals will only make you unhappy. Achieving or acquiring things is no guarantee of happiness not that what people think of as happiness is all it’s cracked up to be. You should read Brave New World sooner rather than later.
The hardest thing in the world is to believe in yourself when you have little or nothing to believe in. You know there is a spark within you. I know you know. I felt that spark too but I chose not to fan it. I did the ‘right’ thing. I got a job, worked hard, settled down, paid the bills and then lost the lot. And it was only when I felt relief after it had all gone that I realised I had taken the wrong path. So I did it again. And a third time. That’s not learning from your mistakes. If at first you don’t succeed ask yourself how much you want to succeed. It may not be lack of ability that’s holding you back.
When I die, when both of us die, I’d like to be able to say that my life meant something. It’s an expression that’s open to a fairly wide interpretation but I know what I mean by it and so will you; you may already do, I can’t remember. But if you want a credo to live by then it’s as good a one as any. Don’t write something if it doesn't mean anything, don’t do anything that doesn't mean something.
I’d love to say that I'm waiting to see how well you do but if you do as well as I hope then we’ll never come within a million miles of each other. That would please me no end.