Today you turned one week, and it will be a while before you can read this, but it’s a well-known fact that “days are long, but years fly by too fast.”
Before long you’ll be reading and writing and clicking away and multi-tasking, and using gadgets and programs that have not even been invented yet. I’m excited and honoured to watch you do all that and to help you in every way I can, teach you what I know, inspire your curiosity to know even more and to be an inspiration to others around you!
A few months before you were born I watched the first Superman film (for the first time), and what struck me most about the film was Superman’s dad’s speech just before Superman is sent to Earth as a baby. Marlon Brando’s character says (I’m paraphrasing): “Everything I am, everything I know, everything I feel, everything I learned, I pass on to you, it is part of you.” It’s quite remarkable because we never really stop to think about who we are, why we do the things we do, and why we feel the things we feel, until we come to a crossroad in our path and are forced to examine our lives. It also struck me because I’ve never thought of child raising that way – as an archive of all our experiences and wisdom and love and goodness; everything we’ve struggled to understand, everything we’ve fought to achieve, everything precious in us and to us – all that is part of you now.
Your grandparents moved all around the world in search of a better home for their kids. They had given up their families of origin, their careers, their cultures, their languages, many times over, just to build the life they wanted for us. And amidst all the losses and shortages and instabilities, they managed to always build a great home for us and to create the stability we needed. Growing up watching their courage and bravery is what allowed me and your dad to not be afraid to go to foreign places and to take on challenges we needed to take on. It means so much to your grandparents and parents that you are the first one to be born in Victoria, the place they decided to make their home. It was not an easy journey, but it was worth it. And now it is your home.
Your parents also had to work hard to build their life here. They had to give up their old homes to build a new one together. They are even more courageous and brave, travelling to countries where war, conflict, poverty, injustice happen every day, and fighting for others who cannot fight for themselves, trying to make their homes better and safer, so that other kids, like you, can have the same stability and comforts. They came back better and stronger and brought all their experiences and knowledge of different cultures and people and life with them, and started a life together, building what is now your home.
You inherit all that. All the cultures, languages, song, books, films, funny sayings and quotes (“Pivot!”), all the experiences histories, memories, all the achievements, your dad’s courage, strength, and his incredible sense of humour (when we were kids, we laughed so hard that I would get stomach cramps and get hysterical and couldn’t stop laughing or get off the floor!), your mom’s sweetness, generosity (and I hope her computer skills!), your grandpa’s musical talent, and your grandma’s wisdom, kindness, unconditional love, and hopefully her cooking skills, too, and maybe my soccer-goalie skills (you’ll need that!) Not to forget your cousins and relatives in Winnipeg, whom you’ll get to visit soon (get Marco to teach you his dance moves! You’ll need that too!)
I am your aunt and your godmother and my job is to assist your parents to make your life as good and inspiring and as fun as possible. So, as my first task on the first week of the job, I decided to start a list of valuable life lessons, all of which I learned and tested – the hard way – because even if I had been taught or told this by others, I probably wouldn’t believe them until I tried it myself (but that’s just me), cause that’s what they call “the value of experience.”
1. Foster positivity, happiness, and creativity for yourself and the people around you, every day, and don’t allow negativity, sadness, or laziness take hold.
2. Take responsibility, take good care, and give unconditional generosity to all your friends and even strangers. Be courteous. Courtesy implies respect and generosity, and not just politeness for the sake of getting what you want. Make a point of making other people’s days and lives easier and better.
3. Look up the answer to every question you have, and don’t stop looking until you find it. There is little that research can’t solve. Research is the answer to the question of the meaning of life (although some claim it’s “42”).
4. Read Shakespeare. It will pay off in ways you don’t even imagine.
5. Read. Aloud. To everyone!
6. Treat every person like they are important and invaluable, at all times, not only when you need something from them.
7. Figure out what you like to do, and do it well (Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do.”) Don’t watch too much TV or play too much computer games. Try many different things, pick a few that you really like, and do them really, really well.
8. To be really good and successful at something you have to practice it for at least 10,000 hours (scientifically proven), so never give up practising.
9. There is value in hard work for its own sake. It always pays off, even if the immediate rewards are not anywhere in sight.
10. Call and check up on, and remember to tell your friends and loved ones how much they mean to you.
11. Always put yourself in another person’s position before you say or do anything. Also, wait at least 24 hours before responding to anything that makes you angry (the bad emotional response is called “fight or flight response” and it causes nothing but trouble and hurts people).
12. There is no failure; there is only a continuous succession of crises (also known as opportunities) and victories – it’s about how you react, what you learn, and how much you grow.
13. There is no winning without someone else losing. Don’t build your victories on other people’s losses.
14. Don’t pull girl’s hair at school; instead give them a cookie and tell them they’re smart!
15. Always share your food. With everyone! If you run out, make more. (Don’t steal – that’s also someone’s loss.)
16. Here is one that took me a long time to come to understand: you are not your thoughts or emotions. There is a part of you that is peace and goodness, and that constitutes the real you, don’t lose touch with that part and listen to it, it knows best!
17. Education is more than a piece of paper (regardless of what your dad might say) – it’s a way of being in the world, and its value reaches beyond imagination.
That’s all that comes to mind for today. By the time you learn how to read, I’ll add some more to this list. Then you can make your own list. Happy one week birthday, my darling!