This is an EDITED excerpt of a letter I wrote to a friend for her birthday. I know I may sound didactic, but I really think this is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever told anyone.
So you’re 18. Actually, you turned 18 exactly two weeks ago. So I’m having a civil war in my head about whether to still greet you or not (actually, it would be considered more like a quaint little skirmish, almost just a quarrel). Whatever. The point is, I’m wishing you well.
And it doesn’t even have to be your birthday for me to wish you well. Know that every day (well, almost) I pray for you. I pray for your well-being, for your sanity (lol), but most especially, I pray for your happiness.
I know you seek to be happy. Don’t we all? Isn’t that human? And maybe sometimes you don’t know where to begin looking, and maybe the fact that you don’t know where to begin looking might make you question if happiness can be found at all, and if it even exists. It’s also possible for you to wonder if it’s worth all the trouble to go chasing after it. Or I dunno, maybe that’s just me.
But however you choose to see the pursuit of happiness, I’m sure you’ll find it. Call me foolishly optimistic, but I believe there is happiness to be found in everything, just as there is sadness to be found in everything. I don’t want you to ignore the pain that this world has. I want you to face it and come to terms with it. It’s a wolf that never goes away. It’s cunning, and brutal, and powerful. But it can be understood. And if you understand this wolf, you will learn how to live with it without letting it bite you or destroy what you love. Sort of like man and nature learning how to live as one (yes, all that zen). Accept and cherish the wisdom and even the good things it brings (because even wolves exist for a reason), but rebel against the dominion it wishes to cast on you. It is a free entity you cannot control. And you are a free entity it cannot control.
Consider yourself blessed, because you are faced with the opportunity to understand this wolf more closely than many others could ever hope to (myself included). Furthermore, you’d be able to teach others how to understand it, and how to not seek control nor be controlled by it.
Do not fear it. Do not build high walls to keep it out – because that keeps the sunshine out, too. Do not set traps and surround yourself with spears – that keeps the bunnies out, too. Train yourself and strengthen yourself so that when it does come, you can wrestle it with your own two hands, the same hands that bathe in the sunlight, the same hands that caress a newborn bunny.
Do not seek to destroy it, or the cave where it lies. Caves are caves. They can house wolves, or they can house gold, or they can house both at the same time. They are a medium. Sometimes they change residents. You need to think of people that way. And you must also understand that harboring wolves is no easy task. Maybe once you understand the movements of the wolves you can help the cave free itself of the wolves, and maybe kinder life will find a home in it.
Now, in spite of everything, when the wolf comes in the dead of night, and I say when because it really will happen, and you feel its teeth sinking in and your legs are paralyzed, I want you to remember that you are free. It has no right to control you. When it sees the solid determination in your eyes, it’ll release you, and leave you.