To my wonderful niece on the occasion of your 18th Birthday:
How special it is to share a birthday with you and to reflect on how you’ve grown into the fine young adult woman who you are. You are truly a gift in all our lives. I regret that we cannot celebrate this occasion together. As you mark the occasion of reaching legal adulthood, I think back on my 18th birthday so many years ago and I remember standing on the precipice of adulthood and not being sure what that meant or what lay head of me. If I could go back, I would offer advice to that young man, but I can’t do that, so instead, I will share those thoughts with you on this special day.
Know that your life will be what you make of it. It will never be perfect and all your dreams won’t come true. It’s important to not be a prisoner of perfection. Take notice of what blessings do come your way. Happiness doesn’t come from achieving all our dreams, but in gratitude for the few that will come true and for the people with whom we get to share our lives.
Don’t be afraid. You’re far stronger than you know. You were built to survive and are well equipped for this life. You will sometimes fail, but failure won’t destroy you unless you let it. The lessons that have come from my failures have often been the very foundation of my future successes. Go out into the world and explore for the simple joy of being alive. You will learn things that no classroom can deliver. Your life is a story that only you can write.
Guard your time carefully. You only have so many days in this life. You may live to 100, but remember, not everyone gets to grow old. Make time for the people you love. Our parents and grandparents are mortal and time passes quickly. Likewise, in business and love, follow the old adage to “fail quickly” and not waste time on careers and relationships that aren’t working. Time will pass more quickly than you expect.
You will become the people with whom you surround yourself. Seek out those who bring out the very best in you. Be loyal to your friends and treat their friendship for the gift that it is. Likewise, remember that your friendship has value and isn’t to be squandered on people who don’t see that. Remember that not everyone who is nice to you is a friend, nor is everyone who argues with you, or opposes you, an enemy. Do your best to find a mentor and then do your best to make them as proud of you as possible. When it’s your time, mentor someone else and do your best to lift as many people as you can with you.
Forgive even when it isn’t deserved. Do this for yourself so that you can live your life as free from resentment and anger as possible. There is truth in the cliché that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have trust an untrustworthy person or that you have to let a harmful person back into your life. It merely means that you recognize the other people have flaws and make mistakes, and it’s about them, not you. Don’t ever forget we all need redemption sometimes.
Lastly, live a life of balance. Enjoy great food, but don’t be a glutton. Be charitable, but also look out for your own interests. Be honest, but tell every bride that she’s beautiful and every new mother that she has a beautiful baby.
With all my love,
You very proud Uncle David