You are 14 today. Fourteen. No longer a little boy, and well on your way to becoming a grown man. In a few short days, you are off to high school – out of the little bubble and into a whole new world full of choices and decisions and some of the best and most lasting memories of your lifetime. These are special years, indeed. At this point, all I can do is hope I have built you a solid foundation. The rest is up to you. Well...mostly up to you. Hopefully, you are ready to face the teenage hurdles and roller coaster ride ahead of you.
Before you step off onto this next path, I want you to remember a few things. Just some simple advice I have gathered for you after going through my life as I watch you spread your wings into becoming your own person.
Go with your gut. It won't let you down. It never has. You will always have the right answers within you. Trust. And let go.
Remember your family. They will be here. No matter what. And remember that family can be defined any way you choose.
Trust yourself. You will make the right choices. You always have.
Speak up. If someone is doing something they shouldn't be, say something. To them. To me. To someone who can help. You will always find someone willing to help.
Respect yourself. Respect your body. Treat it well. Don't feed it junk. Brush your teeth. Floss. Shower. Take care of yourself. Rest when you need it. Exercise as much as you can. Be in tune to it's needs. It will tell you everything you need to know.
Respect others. Respect their space, their land, their customs, and their cultures. This world is full of all sorts of people. We are only a small portion of that.
Stay curious. You won't stop learning this year. Or in college. Or as an adult. And just so you know, learning gets better with age. Never lose your curiosity.
Stay creative. Everyone is creative. Not just artists and writers and chefs and scrapbookers. All jobs require a level of creativity. It's a necessary part of life in any field - motherhood, fatherhood, doctors and road workers. Everyone needs a little creativity.
Love deeply. It will hurt sometimes, but it will also be the best thing you've done.
Have a plan, but don't be afraid to wander a lot. It's important. Having a plan let's you have a roadmap as to where you sort of want to go. Write it down. But let it change. And don't be afraid to wander. You will always always always end up where you were supposed to in the first place.
Have confidence. But don't be cocky. Know you have got whatever it is you want. That test. That job. That new belt in karate. Half of the battle is having the confidence to say that you can do it. The rest is up to hard work and perseverance.
And last, but certainly not least...
Don't let this world change you. Don't stop being kind or considerate or compassionate. It's who you are. It's why you exist. The Graham I know was born to love hugely and feel deeply. That's a good thing. That essence will project you into the human you were meant to be. Don't let life take that away or change that part of you. Don't let anyone tell you who you are supposed to be other than who you are in that moment. Not me. Not your teachers. Not yourself. YOU DO YOU! And the rest will take care of itself. Remain authentic and the world will rise up to meet you.
I love you, big guy! Happy 14th Birthday! I can't wait to see what this world has in store for you!