Father to Son
Tony E Hansen
During high school, I was introduced to a poem by Langston Hughes entitled “Mother to Son” where the mother explains to her son about some of life’s unpleasant realities through a metaphorical approach of stairs. The lessons being taught in this poem are similar to what I am poised to illustrate to my own son because “…life ain’t been no crystal stair.” As my son turns sixteen, I suddenly found myself with a discussion about what it means to be a, or to have a, gay parent with all of the goofy “taboos” surrounding this. Thus, I pen this open letter to him.
Son, life can be tough and sometimes not so great. We are given many things in life for which we have no choice (e.g. our parents, our siblings, our athletic ability, our intelligence, our ethnicity, or our sexuality.) Some would decry these as reminders of the inequalities of life through miserable feelings about how we have been treated unfairly or destructively. Yet, I say we can find these as examples of our diverse natures and how we can embrace those differences while learning to enjoy them with a little laugh. Thankfully, we have differences because life would be considerably boring if we were all vanilla.
If we look at everything given to us as a tragedy, then our whole outlook is founded in negativity, and then, how people perceive us, in turn, will ultimately be negative. Interestingly, similar-minded people tend to congregate together and reinforce those ugly dimensions of life upon each other rather than looking at circumstances as learning opportunities or even realizing the shear comedy of our lives.
The thing is that this idea took a long time for me to understand because I felt that I was missing good role models in my life. Yet, I cannot sit and stew about what did or what did not happen.
When I found people with good nature in their hearts and learned different philosophies of life, I found an appreciation for the present moment. In that, we do not know the eventual outcome of many paths in our lives, but things do happen for a reason, whatever that might be. We cannot worry ourselves about the past since there is literally nothing we can do about that except to acknowledge our part and learn. There are many things in life that we wish we could undo or decisions we may have done differently for potentially better outcomes. We cannot agonize over what may happen in the future or what people may think since that is only a possibility. We can wait for things to happen, we can wait for that perfect opportunity, we can wait until there is more time to do something, or we can fret over the possibility of something going wrong. Yet, at those points, we are not living today because our focus is not here and now.
Instead, get busy living! You can focus your effort on the present moment, and you can do good in the present moment. This does not mean, however, to forgo planning or to always be reckless about the present moment. Good things will reveal themselves to us if we are willing to plan, to do good, to look at the whole picture, and to do that with a smile. You could worry about someone’s opinion, wait for someone to act or even agree with someone. Ultimately, you have to decide what you are willing to do and if that action is appropriate. No one else can do more for your own happiness, your own future, your own work, and your own family than yourself. That is neither selfish, nor egoistic, nor inconsiderate because with compassionate heart and action, you are promoting positive influences upon people all around you and beyond. The rest will take care of itself.
You have to decide what you are going to do to make your world a better place despite the “…splinters and boards torn up” along the way. Keep moving forward and climbing, even when life gets tough. Be proud and look up. Believe in the moment because you are destined to be in that moment, and only you can make the most of what you have here and now. Learn, grow, have compassion, work diligently, and trust in yourself. Consider what Steve Jobs said: “be a yardstick of quality” and “if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If you can affirm the first and if you can answer positively to the latter, then no matter what anyone else says, you can say today that you are your best (and the rest will fall where they may.)
I am proud that you are my son! Congratulations on your birthday and may you continue to enjoy life with a good heart and good mind. With loving kindness, Dad