To Neil of January 1, 2016
To Neil of January 1, 2016,
You don’t know this yet, but life is going to throw the kitchen sink at you in the next three years. A few days ago was the last time you’re going to see Papa alive. You’re going to say goodbye to him in about two weeks. You’re going to get married, and it’s going to be better than you ever dreamed. You and Robyn are going to add a pup and a beautiful miracle of a son to your family. But you don’t know these things yet.
You’re going to move into your first home and some of your closest friends will become your neighbors. You’re going to start going to church and you’re going to discover your Hindu roots, simultaneously. You’re going to write the most important letters of your life, to date.
You’re going to struggle a lot at work but contribute something real. There are going to be a lot of days that you wish you could retire.
You’re going to grieve. You’re going to make so many memories and have so many house projects. You’re going to try to function on too little sleep. You and Ma are going to struggle after Pa goes ahead, and your relationship is going to reset completely.
Your best friends are going to keep getting married and having more kids. So is your global extended family. You’re going to lose a Masi and your last grandparent. You and Robyn and going to laugh so darn much. You’re also going to cry a lot of heavy tears. Somewhere along the line you’re going to stop believing in yourself and believeing you’re good enough; those days will be dark. Some days, you’ll want to give up.
But you’re going to make it to January 1, 2019, please believe me. You just don’t know it yet.
All these incredibly difficult and joyous things are going to change you in a big way, that’s not a choice. And to be sure, you’re going to fight it. And who could blame you, a lot of what happens to you in the next three years are going to be terrible and you’ll want to go back to the way it was, at least in part. But that’s not a choice you have, either.
Don’t forget the choice you still do have - you have some ability to shape how all this does change you. You can choose whether it’s for the better or worse.
What life throws at you in the next three years could make you angrier. It could make you obese, frenetic, risk-averse, and more selfish. It could make you bitter and traumatized. It could make you turn inward and isolate yourself. It could make you lazy and dishonest. In the next three years life could make you into a man you don’t want to be, one that you aren’t. Don’t let it.
But it could make you more courageous and grateful. It could make you more honest and caring. It could pry your heart open to more love and light. It could make you more resilient and disciplined. It could make you into a better man, closer to the one you aspire to be someday.
But you have to choose, actively, how it’s going to play out. My advice to you, to us really, is to make the choice to take what life throws at you over the next three years and let it change you for the better. Fight like hell when it tries to change you for the worse.
It will be hard, but I know you can do it. Heart to God brother.