First of all, you won’t be this cute forever so prepare for a dose of reality little one. As your uncle, I feel privileged to never have to discipline you and appear as the fun one of your mother’s siblings…but the privilege I feel is unique to your life which is just beginning. I cannot wait to watch you experience new things with courage, curiosity, apprehension, and levity. I’m amazed by your power when you kick whoever is holding you; your determination when you scream to get what you want; your unbridled joy when you look into your parent’s eyes; and your innocent laughter. The world is yours and you will affect so many lives with your own and I find that, and you, fascinating. I’ll always be here to distract you when your parents need a break, to pretend like I know what I’m talking about when you need advice, and to listen when you tell stories about your days at school. I’m excited, not as excited as you are when mommy gives you a bath, but buddy we are all in this together so let’s make the most of it!
There will be times in your life when you want to ask why. You don’t understand why your mom and dad are just right or why things are the way that they are. Never lose that skepticism. Embrace the question why like your favorite stuffed animal. None of us have all of the answers and you won’t find them either, but to not seek answers to your questions is opportunity wasted.
You will play with kids and people that are different from you. Different skin colors, cultures, and backgrounds are great ways to understand how people live and think. If you avoid the heinous temptation of allowing those differences to reinforce your own status quo and, instead use them to expand your horizons, you will make the world a better and more tolerant place.
You will meet someone that at first you like and maybe will love. If it’s a girl, let her be her own person despite what the archaic gender stereotypes dictate your role as a man to be. If it’s a boy that you love, don’t let the world tell you that who you are is unacceptable. Unconditional love is a function of understanding the relationship between yourself and the world around you and embracing what you have to offer it and what it offers to you.
You will have interests and hobbies that may or may not lead to what you study in school or what type of job you seek in adulthood. If your work is separate from what drives you, don’t let it change your mind about what makes you passionate. What interests you is more important than any occupation. Success is not defined by your income or job title. Happiness is not defined by material wealth. Pride is a dangerous thing. Learning and education teaches you how to be tolerant, how to serve your neighbors instead of be served by them, and doesn’t define its pursuits by a money driven bottom line. You will have money concerns at some point in your life, so why devote your life to its proliferation? Your life could pass by and no swipe of a credit card will change that.
Go outside. By the time you are my age your friends will probably want the iPhone 19 but trust me, the 20th one will come out soon enough after! Hike, bike, climb, explore. Life is about balance and there is no better way to counteract the forces of daily life by being in nature and actually experiencing what is above, beside, and below you instead of what is on a screen in your pocket.
Travel. When you are old and retired, it might be too late. Meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise met and try food you wouldn’t have otherwise eaten.
You will have ideological debates swirling in the politics of your day. Stay aware, but most importantly, try your best to separate what is political and debatable and what is a question of decency and morality. The “right thing” is not right or left winged. You will know how to answer the question of what that is each and every time, but you have to have the courage to ask it amid a competitive, finger-pointing world.
People will try to convert you to their religious beliefs. You don’t have to convert to or deny anything. When the time comes in your life when you have doubts, questions, or emptiness, seek what is rational and true. No matter what conclusion you reach, understand that full-fledged devotion is silly. Worship is not required by a worthy God, nor is admonishment required by reason and logic. Be respectful, kind, and understand your place in the universe and you will be fine on Earth and wherever else you class of 2031-ers will end up.
When you get tired of listening to your uncle talk about factoids and historical tid-bits, be inspired to emulate the difference-makers whose stories I am retelling. The coolest way to be famous is for doing what history needed you to.
The two most important things you can do in life are listen and learn. You will have opinions you will want to express and don’t be afraid to, but why will you think the way that you think? What topics will spark your interest? The only way to further your future explorations is to keep your mind open, your predispositions dormant, and your ears tuned to hear voices that no one else values. For all you know, your own might be that same faint tone to another.
Owen, your uncle is really weird. And, as your uncle, I hope you are too bud. If you truly embrace the life ahead of you, then you’ll turn out to be peculiar, fascinating, understanding, and intelligent. The slate is clean for you Owen, so go crazy, make it filthy, and don’t worry about cleaning it up. As soon as you try to make sense of the mess you’ve made, you’ve lost all the passion and ingenuity that helped you create such a unique and captivating life which is about to unfold in front of my eyes and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you.