Dear Son Of Mine…

Inspired in part by http://makeitmad.com/2011/09/13/a-letter-to-my-future-son/ and the fact that it was pitch black and I was in the middle of nowhere…

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I’m sitting here in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, thinking of you. There is no possible way these words can convey how much you mean to me. I suppose that while I still have my faculties all together, I should put down some thoughts and advice for you.

I make no claims to know it all; as a matter of fact, I’ve gotten more wrong than right up to this point but thankfully I’m still around (as of right now) to see you grow up. This letter is by no means all-inclusive but more just an attempt to solidify some thoughts and hopes for you. I don’t want you to be me, either, but to be your own person. I will be proud of whoever you turn out to be.

ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
These are messy. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Relationships have always been a crap shoot. I consider myself blessed and lucky to have met your Mom. Every relationship I’ve had, up to your Mom, never made it past the googly-eyed mushiness level. This is in no way a knock on my previous attempts at relationships, but your Mom and I have made it through the initial romance and are friends as well as romantic partners. Your Mom still looks beautiful to me and can make me laugh, 11 years after I first met her. She also has fire in her eyes that I hate seeing when I’ve put my foot in my mouth and make her angry.

I guess what I’d like to tell you is to guard your heart and save your love for the person who truly deserves you. You may stumble through multiple relationships, each more bizarre than the last, but when you know you’re in the right one, you’ll know it. There’s no hard and fast rule for getting the right one, and you may constantly question if you’ve found them, but don’t think so hard about it. If this person makes you happy, laughs with you (maybe sometimes even AT you), and blows you away when you see them all cleaned up, just roll with it. Likewise, if the relationship you’re in does nothing but hurt and confuse you, get out and find someone who makes you happy. Granted, you won’t be happy 100% of the time with ANYONE, but more often than not you should look forward to seeing that person.

MANLINESS
It is extremely frustrating to me how manliness is portrayed now. Manliness is not seeing how many women you can bed down with. Manliness is not kicking in as many teeth as possible before you take your dirt nap (although some of my favorite movies involve teeth being kicked in!). A real man takes care of his family and responsibilities. A real man gets up every day and works to support his family. A real man shows humility instead of constant bragging and boasting.

One of my best friends, when we left for the Navy, said that it was time for him to support himself. His parents had taken care of him for the first 18 years of his life and now it was time for him to give them a break. It’s sad to see that mentality diminishing so rapidly that it’s almost completely gone. In the world you’ll be growing up in, kids stay under their parents’ care until they’re into their mid-to-late twenties. Real men forge their own path instead of waiting for someone to direct them down the right one. You are legally a man at age 18. If you need our help due to schooling or something you’re welcome to it, but don’t take advantage of someone’s support and kindness if you’re perfectly capable of supporting yourself.

FRIENDS
You’ll have guy friends your whole life. Some will come and go, but a handful of them will stick around through everything. Do your best to surround yourself with the type of men who will drive you towards doing your best. If you stick with guys who have no energy or desire to improve themselves, you’ll end up the same way. Find guys who you can learn from. Know this; it’s perfectly normal and OK to complain sometimes. There are times you and your friends will feel like things aren’t going the way you want. As long as you don’t wallow in self-pity, but instead use those feelings to push you forward, the complaining is fine.

Another thing about friends. A real friend isn’t going to bully you into sharing their same opinion or doing what they’re doing. My best friendships are with guys who disagree with me on certain things. Don’t be a sheep to your friends. Don’t be the bully, but don’t be a victim of peer pressure. If it doesn’t feel right to you, go ahead and take a step back.

SELF-IMPROVEMENT
I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m still not where I wanted to be in my career OR my personal skill set. Make the most of the curiosity you feel about things. Ask why things work the way they do. See how you can improve on those things. As long as your Mother and I are financially and morally able to support your goals, we will. As I write this you’re still a young boy but I’ve noticed you give up too quickly when something gets hard for you. Stop it. The things you work the hardest for are the things that end up meaning the most to you. Trust me on that one. At the risk of a cliche, if it’s hard then it’s most likely worth the effort.

Don’t ever stop learning. You should have a long life ahead of you so why not use the time you’re given to educate yourself? Don’t think that college is the only place that qualifies as higher learning. You’ve got Youtube lectures and all sorts of websites available to teach you for free.

JOBS
I’ve had an interesting life, I will say. At certain points since leaving home at 18, I’ve worked every shift of the day in several types of jobs.

I served on a United States Navy missile cruiser that saw a good chunk of Europe, Iraq, and Kosovo. I’ve stood in water up to my chest on that ship. I’ve walked on the walls of that ship as it rolled back and forth. I’ve gone ashore, drank beer, and eaten food in countries that I may never see again. When you get older, I’ve got some great stories for you, both foreign and domestic. From my time in Chicago and San Diego to my overseas port visits, we’ve got a few things to discuss. I’ve met some of the best guys I’ll ever know on that ship. I’ve lost contact with quite a few of them but the memories are still rattling around in my head.

As a Border Patrol Agent, I’ve been scared of the dark in places most people will never see and have tracked groups of people through that same darkness. I’ve gone from watching a fence rust to sprinting full-tilt after drug mules. I’ve gone from wrestling the sandman on mid shift to hallucinating on hikes under the sun because I ran out of water and wasn’t back to the truck yet. I’ve helped to carry a dead body over some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen firsthand the damage being done to our country by those who choose to sneak in under cover of night.

Something else to know about a job; someone will always be better at it then you. No matter which job we talk about, there is always someone who has more experience. Don’t let it get you down because there is probably someone watching YOU and thinking that you’ve got it all together. Don’t be afraid to try a new job. If you stay in the same line of work for 30-40 years, you’ll be “safe” but most likely wistful. Try different things. Don’t be stuck wishing you would have tried something when you’re too old for it.

Don’t do a job strictly for the money. Money won’t make you happy permanently. Yes, it will provide things to make you happy and comfortable but a job that makes you miserable will seep into every other aspect of your life, dragging them all down.

Don’t think a job is beneath you either. If you have a family to support, a minimum wage job brings in more money than no job at all. On that same note, don’t think a job is ABOVE you. If you think you can do it, by all means get what you think you deserve. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen without preparation though. Some guys fall into jobs by sheer luck, but don’t rely on that. Most of the time, hard work is involved. There’s still opportunities that present themselves, but proper preparation will always give you a better chance.

SELF-AWARENESS
Don’t buy into what the news tells you. Don’t buy into what every political mouthpiece says. Do your own research on subjects and stay skeptical. Don’t let your heart ruin your logic. Political parties are not the end-all be-all. I have some common beliefs with both of the big ones and i would hope you keep an open mind when it comes to that stuff. So many people with the opportunity to put something out there in the public vein choose to eschew logic for the pull of heart strings. Cold, hard facts will always be cold, hard facts. Emotions change every time the wind direction does. Don’t be swayed by claims of racism and hatred just because you may disagree with someone on an issue. It’s easy to deflect an argument by painting the dissenter as a xenophobic hate-monger. Easy? Yes. Appropriate? Not at all. Don’t resort to name calling if someone doesn’t agree with you. Nobody respects THAT guy and you stand to lose valuable friendships that way.

RELIGION
As a kid, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever religious beliefs your parents support (or don’t support, for that matter). Up to a certain point, that is good. One of our jobs is to lay the groundwork for you. There will come a certain age, though, when you need to figure out your own thoughts on religion, faith, and spirituality. I, myself, have strayed away from God and come back to him multiple times over the course of my life. Thankfully, I’ve never gone so far away that I couldn’t come back though. As I get older, I find comfort in reliance on God. I constantly wrestle with my faith and my human weakness, but I know God loves me and wants the best I can give him. How do my thoughts on religion relate to you? I WANT you to question things. I WANT you to wonder why God allows things to happen. I WANT you to stray away (hopefully not too far though) so you can see how much comfort there is under the umbrella of God’s grace and love.

DISABILITIES
Don’t ever take for granted the fact that you can walk and talk. When you were in your Mom’s belly, we knew you would have a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Thankfully, we had access to good medical care and had contact with doctors who specialized in that sort of thing. There are babies born all around the world without the ability to have their clefts repaired. They have no specialized medical care or facilities. Believe it or not, there are still cultures who keep disabled people in the outcast area. Be so thankful that you’ve been blessed and be mindful that all our abilities we take for granted can be taken away in a split second. A car accident. A stumble and fall. An act of violence. All of these, and so many other unthinkable tragedies can take away your senses or abilities. Your aunt Leah went without oxygen for just long enough to suffer brain damage. If it wasn’t for those few oxygen deprived minutes, she would be in her late twenties and you would’ve had a chance to meet and get to know her. All I’m saying is be appreciative of how good you’ve got it. Never ridicule, or be a party to the ridiculing of, those people who were born different than you. Everyone has something to contribute, whether it feels like it or not.

TV/MOVIES/VIDEOGAMES/BOOKS
Food for thought; all television shows, movies and video games have, at one point in their development, been written down. Books are an infinite, timeless source of entertainment and keep you sharp. Anyone can sit and watch a screen. It takes a thinker to read and write. As much as I enjoy TV and movies, books are where it’s at. Don’t let your reading go by the wayside. Honestly, there’s nowhere near the amount of thinking involved in vegetating in front of the TV as there is when you create a reality in your head of the story you’re reading or writing. If you’re looking for suggestions, I can say with complete clarity; Vladimir Nabokov and Cormac McCarthy will never disappoint.

If the power goes out, you can always light a candle and dig into a book. You can’t do TV or movies with no power. Just saying.

That’s it for now, buddy. I love you and hope to write more of these letters to you.

Love you,
Dad

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