i wrote you a letter once and i’ve thought about you a lot since then, mainly because life continues to present its experiences to me and i like to think that we are here in this world learning together. i like to imagine the two of us meeting in a coffee shop with mismatched furniture sipping on our favorite hot tea and exchanging bits of wisdom learned from the struggles we have endured, the tears we’ve cried, and the moments we have celebrated.
i think the thing about advice is that we can share it, but only through experience and overcoming our individual struggles do we ever really understand. i think pain, discomfort, heartache, uncertainty, and raw emotions are necessary for our growth and important in realizing the richness of life. perhaps the lessons learned from my pain will be different from the ones you learn in yours; and maybe we offer these things to each other so that our individual discomforts can be different, although shared, and somehow that is comforting. and so i’ll give you my words in hopes that you’ll get from them something that you need and in hopes that you’ll know that wherever you are, we are both here.
i hope you are always learning, dear stranger. that you look at the world through eyes filled with wonder, curiosity, and imagination. i hope you fail frequently and continue to try. that you view the simplest pleasures through the earnest eyes of a child. i hope you create beautiful things and use all of your senses. that you read interesting books, seek out new adventures, and have deep conversations with someone you hardly know. i hope you listen to the news and read things that challenge your beliefs, i hope you write down poetry and sing silly rhymes. i hope you paint. that you walk. that you touch nature with an explorer’s heart. i hope you listen more than you talk and that you love before you judge. and i hope you know the world to be simple, complex, and wonderful.
dear stranger, we let go of so many moments in our rush to get to the next one. i’m always learning that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss out on this moment. i hope you don’t wish time away. you’ll miss kindness in the eyes of the cashier, the sound of a small child giggling, and the crunch of the leaves underneath your shoe. when we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the sickness that is busy, we don’t slow down enough to experience the rise and fall of our breath, witness the sun set, or smell the scent of a cool summer’s rain. we don’t hear what our parents are saying, feel the love that other people are offering, or notice a stranger’s attempt at connection. although i understand the lure of the future, the draw towards tomorrow, and the excitement of what will be, i also recognize that we do so in exchange for the now. what i know is that it is about today. right now. this exact moment is your life.
when we constantly reach out for distraction, use our time for mindless scrolling, and focus on the world through a screen, we give away the opportunity to practice patience in moments of frustration and to understand how we truly feel. dear stranger, please put down your cellphone and live in what’s real, in what’s right in front of you. when you are with your friends, family members, strangers, on the bus, driving in your car, in a work meeting, trying something new, eating dinner, relaxing before bedtime, or celebrating something momentous, put down your phone. i worry that pretty soon we will have lived a life of moments captured, but not truly enjoyed. and we will be left with a life that is unlived. unnoticed. and unappreciated. turn off your phone for a while, my friend…. we don’t get these moments back.
i’ve been learning about quality in this last year. the quality of the relationships i have with friends, family, and my community. who i call and who calls me back. quality work, lessons, experiences, and tasks. i’ve come to understand that part of developing quality is about being selective and that it is also about time; choosing how you spend it, what you give it, the amount offered to it, and whom or what we give it to. you don’t have to accept every task, article, or thing to do; you don’t have to accept every argument or conversation. decide what will add value to your life, who will enrich your worldview, and what will bring happiness and then do these things. gently let go of the rest.
pay attention, my friend. notice what you offer the world and yourself through the words you mutter underneath your breath, in the background noise of your mind, and in exchanges you have with people you love and the people you don’t know. focus on the quality of the time, energy, and effort you offer to the world and notice how it comes back to you. are you here? are you present? what message are you sending? what lessons are you teaching? what energy are you allowing to fill up your soul? what relationships are you giving of your heart and your time? and is this the way you would like for it to be?
and when it comes to love, i hope you have the courage to let go of somebody who doesn’t love you. that in your search for a companion, you get to know yourself first, accept your shortcomings, and make peace with your flaws. i hope you let love come when it does and in the meantime you celebrate the wholeness you already are. i hope you don’t accept misguided attention to escape your loneliness, and when your heart gets broken dear stranger, i hope you know that you are still complete. and when you are in fact lonely, i encourage you to seek out connection rather than half-hearted attention. connect your heart to someone else’s, someone who understands your worth. recognize that you are enough and start to learn all of the ways in which you convince yourself that you are not. take time to listen to the background noise that plays throughout your mind and learn that you don’t have to believe every thought you think. and remember that your value is not dependent on another person’s acknowledgment or acceptance.
i hope you take some time to look for the cobwebs that may exist in the corners of your heart and decide to let them go, clean them out. past anger, unforgiven hurts, and feelings of inadequacy or not being enough. listen for those whispers that cloud your mind with feelings of anxiety, disappointment, sadness, or hurt. replace them with self-love, compassion, empathy, and gratitude. and remember dear stranger, other people’s happiness and successes are not the absence of your own.
i hope you don’t let your dreams pass you by in exchange for the easier route. i challenge you to create routines and put forth the energy needed to accomplish your heart’s mission. nurture self-discipline and foster the habits necessary that will lead you to your goals. i hope you find something that you are passionate about and live it. i hope you fight for something that is larger than yourself and become all that you already are. and while you are on the way, take care of yourself and tend to your own garden. wish others well. give yourself permission to be strong and in the same breathe, to be soft, to be unsure. take the time to practice being you and drown out the unnecessary noise that tends to clutter our lives. and most importantly, show yourself some kindness as you grow.
dear stranger, give out pieces of your heart without attachment or expectation. share your love, give out kindness, and shine your light.
remember that it’s all beautiful.