Goodbyes can be bittersweet affairs in lives well-lived, and are worth the trade-off. That is the case for this dad saying goodbye to his much-loved son as he heads off to college, out-of-state but far from out-of-mind. It’s been 18 years since you entered our world in the flesh and turned our household into a family, and I fully expect you to continue to bring joy in my and your mom’s lives, except that now it will occur from a different venue and on a separate path, as you complete the bridge from teen to man.
This is an exciting time. Still, it hurts letting you go.
As a dad, I can’t let you go without a few last shots of fatherly advice. Perhaps you have already imbibed my points below, making them superfluous. But more likely, you’ll find them helpful over the next few years as you go forth into a Brave New World. So in no particular order:
1. Take ownership of your thoughts. If they are good, wholesome, and true, then so will your life be. Owning your thoughts is the key to owning your life, and either you will consciously assume ownership or others will. It’s far easier to allow the latter, and most of us are encouraged to do so from an early age. Freeing your mind, and taking the proverbial red pill, means being an exception. Be an exception.
2. If you want to be entrusted with big things later in life, prove yourself as someone who can be trusted with small things now. (This advice falls under the “Make Your Bed” theory of success.)
3. If the crowd is doing it, don’t. Enter through the narrow gate.
4. History favors quality, but for most of us there are diminishing returns to perfection.
5. Take risks, lots of them. Push yourself. If there’s one lesson derived from your accomplishments thus far in life it is that personal growth develops through struggle and hardship, so don’t avoid them. But not all risks are the same. Don’t take stupid risks and don’t pursue risks as ends in themselves. There is a purpose to your life. Welcome risk and even discomfort to fulfill it.
6. Fail. Learn. Grow. Repeat.
7. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Approach life daily with the sense of gratitude it deserves. The division of labor produces civilization, and each day it results in several people, many of whom are perfect strangers acting in their own self-interest, to exert time, effort and resources to improve your life. Pay them when appropriate, but say thank you every time.
8. If you spend more than 15 minutes a day on social media you are wasting your life. Use it as a tool or not at all. Instead: Walk outside. Meet new people. Read books. Take risks (see #5 above). Change your friends to change your life. The loneliest of lives today are often formed that way by sad souls who can’t sever their faces from the screen.
9. Avoid manipulated movements, orchestrated campaigns, or passing fads. Revel in spontaneous orders found in anarchy, but focus on the permanent things. Defend the family and you defend civilization.
10. Momento mori.
11. What you do, and not what you wear and what you watch, will define what you become. For Bilbo, it took a journey. So seek out and do good actions, and always do love.
12. There is a difference between wisdom and intelligence, and federally-funded, post-modern education favors the latter at the expense of the former. Yet intelligence’s saving grace is its natural orientation towards the truth, and since the intellect governs the will, the will is oriented toward the good. So ground your intellect in truth. Those who don’t tend toward disordered lives and are often found in therapy, legislatures, and prisons.
13. Despite the outliers, pop music must by definition cater to the lowest common denominator. Think about it.
14. Back up your data. Use long passwords and change them on a regular schedule. Try short, foreign phrases with strategic misspellings. Never assume data saved online, including innocent emails, private chats, and encrypted files, are ever completely secure, especially as the Internet morphs into a panopticon.
15. Develop low time preferences now to live better in the future. The next market correction will be severe, and until it happens, be wary of the bread and circuses. Even if you enjoy them on occasion, note their purpose.
16. When you have a clear vision about where you want to be, it will dictate what you choose to do now. Without that vision, you can become like a ship without a rudder, and you’ll tend to overwork, or work in pointless directions. Think about your vision daily, and refine it as necessary. Once you achieve it, adopt a new one right away.
17. Life is hard. It’s harder without your family.
There’s more to say, but there always is. Besides, it’s time to go, and it would be more bitter than sweet not to let that happen. See you next month at Parents Weekend. Until then, AMDG,