My Dear Daughter/Son,
I don’t know how long I still need to wait to meet you but I know that I am ready and when we do meet, I will be the happiest person in the world!
1. As I imagine who you would be, I feel the need to start with imagining what you would look like. And I know that Vanity is not the first thing that I should start with, but to picture you, is to picture a beautiful child and a beautiful person! After all, there has to be some kind of advantage of having two beautiful parents, right? Although I do want you to understand, that good looks are an advantage but it does not give you the right to feel superior. And please also do not take it for granted. Practice self-care but do not mistake it with surface-level vanity. I’m sure you will grow to understand the difference.
2. You need to take care of your health, both your physical health and mental health. With both of your parents keen on fitness and nutrition (well, especially your dad), we expect that you will also live a very health-conscious life. Beyond strength, physical health will also teach you how to be consistent and how to persevere, which are the personal traits that will keep on benefiting you for your entire life.
The other side of health is mental health to which a lot of people do not pay enough attention. I want you to learn, from a very young age, to be resilient and authentic. This means not to be afraid of showing your vulnerability but also know how to protect yourself. Be true to who you are (which can be the toughest thing to do in the world…), believe in your mental strength, and share your compassion and love with everyone, I mean EVERYONE, even the ones that hurt you. It is difficult to explain right now, but you will come to understand why it is important to not grow hatred in your heart. It traps you in your own imaginary narrative of being a victim which will prevent you from liberating yourself to focus on what truly matters in life. I wish that you would get the strong physical immune system from me and a strong mental immune system from your Dad.
3. Be curious! Even overly-inquisitive! I want you to ask all the questions you have in your brilliant little mind. I know it would take a tremendous amount of patience from my side to deal with your question bombs, but keep challenging my patience and help me stretch my comfort zone. I don’t care (although, I understand that it might be easier said than done).
The sad truth is that Humans, in general, are afraid of what they do not know or do not understand. So they might dodge your questions or invent something mythical to explain why things are the way they are. But build your analytical system and make your own judgement. Remind me when I lack the courage to face my own ignorance and when I lack the clarity to make sense out of things because you need to be shown how not to be afraid of the unknown, and how not to be afraid of offending people in order to get to the truth.
Maybe sometimes the answer is not as important as the question itself and that is totally okay. Life is full of unanswered questions. This circle of thinking, asking, and pursuing the answers, is what propels the world forward. Do not let schools or society train you into an obedient worker who takes instructions and answers without examining or filtering them first. We have enough people like that in this world and we really do not need more. Question the authority whenever necessary, and learn how to handle the situation in a diplomatic way. On the other hand, be careful not to grow into someone who does nothing but going around and telling people arrogantly that they are a fool. Henry Ford once said “Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.”
I am not asking you to be rebellious with no good reasons. Be smart, be fair, be objective, and more importantly, be proactive in finding solutions.
4. Live an intentional life and always be aware. You need to learn how to observe, analyze, and connect the dots. It is not an easily obtained skill but definitely a very useful one. Try to catch things that other people ignore or take for granted. Try to listen to what people are NOT saying. Try to see things as they truly are instead of what you would like them to be. Try not to waste anyone’s time, including yours, by having a purpose for everything you do and say. We are not talking about a one-off activity. We are talking about a lifelong habit. And honestly, this would take a lifetime to master, but know that we are with you and we will help you to the best of our ability.
5. Be generous. You might grow some ego and possessive nature before you truly learn how to share with genuine love and happiness. That is okay. It took me a while too. The good news is that, once you’ve learned it, there’s no turning back. The more you share and give without hoping for anything in return, the more you will see yourself receiving. This is not the purpose but just what happens.
6. Don’t take things too personally. What I am about to say is very much against my belief in my early years, but please have a thick skin! I used to be a very sensitive and sentimental person. I could take everything and anything into heart even when they were not targeted at me at all. I was easily influenced by external stimulus and got crushed by insignificant situations all the time.
It took me a long time to really understand the consequence of letting other people dictate my own happiness. My hope for you is to not have to struggle this much. Be the master of your own mind and your own life.
7. Be confident. Believe in yourself and your potential. Do not let anyone tell you that you are not good enough, not even us. You also don’t need anyone to tell you that you CAN. You already know that you are capable of more than what you think. At the same time, please feel completely safe and secure and do not have any shame or discomfort to ask for help. We will try not to interfere with your process of exploring yourself, but we are always here to support you when you need anything.
8. Be courageous and adventurous. Well, this is an easy one. With the father like yours, it would be difficult to be otherwise because courage, spontaneity, and an adventurous spirit are just too contagious to be ignored. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I’ve changed after I met your father, from a super rigid and reserved girl to who I am now, whatever that means… So for a malleable mind like yours, I won’t be surprised to see you taking it to the next level.
What might come as an obstacle to being truly free, however, is the fear of failure and embarrassment. Everybody has it. But have a growth mindset, which means that you will never take challenges as threats to your intelligence or identity. On the contrary, you will take all failures as an opportunity to learn and to do better next time. Break that barrier and you will become limitless!
9. Focus on abilities, and not just knowledge. Knowledge is important but knowledge is not all there is. Getting good grades and passing standardized tests only prove that you have the ability to learn. It does not determine who you are or what you are capable of. (China breaks my heart when I see how “good students” are favoured by the teachers and “bad students” are bullied in school.)
It is not yet a readily accepted idea, but the education system we have right now, especially as we understand it in India and China, is broken. It is not obsolete, but it has huge potential to improve. A person with only knowledge but no idea how to apply the knowledge, how to generate real insights from his knowledge, or how to innovate is bound to be left behind soon after he steps outside the school and into reality. A simple example, in exams, you have in total four options ABCD to choose from. But who is going to give you four options in life when a problem comes? You will have to find your own solutions and judge which one is the best. You might easily find ten solutions and be overwhelmed, or you might struggle to come up with even one. If exams can prepare you for the real world, then very well. Otherwise, I need you to understand that knowledge does not equal ability – Ability to learn new things, to solve problems, to form good habits, to think independently and critically, to make decisions, to listen empathetically, to work solo as well as in teams, to take risks, to bounce back from failures, to negotiate and convince others, to create win-win situations and so many more are all crucial. I want you to be prepared for life, and not just for the exams.
10. Do not aim for perfection; aim for your personal best. It is true and comforting to think that we are all humans, so no one is perfect. But it is more important to realize what harm it can cause to chase after perfection. To be perfect means that there actually is a stage of perfection where nothing needs to be or can be improved anymore. It means that there is a limit for people and for things. But that is simply false. There’s always room for improvement and there’s no ceiling to what we can achieve. THAT is the real reason why perfectionism is so harmful. Do not believe in limitations! Simply do your personal best, learn from every attempt, and improve upon your previous experience. Then it would be impossible to be constrained by the man-made boundary of perfection.
11. Be loving and grateful. You will grow in an environment that is full of love and compassion. You will, in turn, become a person full of love and compassion. Do understand that when people share their unconditional love with you, it does not mean that you can take it for granted or that you are free to squander their love. Always be grateful for what you have and you will find that life is so abundant.
12. You will inevitably come across people and things that baffle you in the sense that they seem to demonstrate the opposite of love and compassion. When that happens, please keep in mind that there are all kinds of sufferings in this world and not everyone has learned how to embrace the world with all the positivity that you believe in. So here comes the last but not the least point that I am going to make. Whatever you choose to do in life, do not contribute to any further suffering in this world. Understand how your actions might impact humans, animals, or the environment. You might have to reinvent yourself and your beliefs. If that is what is required, don’t be afraid. Of course, it will not be easy, but it is worth it to help reduce suffering and make the world a better place for all. It might be difficult to understand it right now, but I know eventually you will.
It is impossible to list out all your wonderful qualities.
I just want you to know that you are such an amazing person and the most beautiful thing that has ever happened in my life.
I love you so much.
(with significant edits from your loving Dad)