To my dearest American youth,
Because you will walk a perilous gauntlet through a life full of naysayers, cynics, sadists, narcissists, pathetically pedantic power trippers, Orwellian control freaks, insecure megalomaniacs, absurd moral authorities, exclusionary asswipes, deceitful cretins, bland bureaucrats, and garden-variety bores, I am in no rush to begin this irreversible process of soul-crushing disappointment for you. There will be plenty of time for all that.
Before you get the living snot beaten out of your dreams — before the bright flame of your creative spark is snuffed out by those who’ve failed before you, and who require the replication of failure within you to justify their own inadequacies — go forth and play with wild abandon. Ignore the received wisdom; brush off the rule-makers and the clever fakers; avoid all aggressive attempts to imprint you with necrotic values of the corrupt and cowardly in slavish service to their own destructive ends.
You will see connections in all things, but be instructed to forget them. You will be groomed to guard your most treasured gems. You will be indoctrinated by society and state and stockholders to abandon your beliefs, reject your calling, and divest of your purpose. You will be many times convinced that you have passed every test, only to meet new inspectors at every turn, and in every guise.
Until all those days confront you: cherish the unbridled freedom to experiment, to gambol, to be unstructured, to explore this life as if it were infinitely open-ended — while it still is. Relish the small wonders that become smaller somehow; more difficult to notice in the onslaught of obligation. Dwell deeply in your idealism, so that later it may inform your pragmatism. Learn the joys of solving problems with and for others, and cultivate the joys of learning. Imperfectly it shall go, but go it shall all the same.
For my part, I pledge to listen more and talk less. Forgive more and chastise less. Appreciate more and neglect less.
I will pay more attention to your tears, and be more patient in assuaging your fears. I will catch myself from projecting my regrets onto the pathways of your unfolding. I will bite my tongue in remembrance of my own scolding, and the withering shame it brought — the ways in which it diminished me. I shall not reduce you but lift you up — high on my broken shoulders for you to see over the madding crowd. For you to outthink them; outpace them; outrun them — yet look back in compassion, for together we are stronger.
Your destiny is a world I will never see. It will be difficult for me to let go; to pass the torch; to hand over the keys to the kingdom — yet I promise to try: clumsily, begrudgingly, and excruciatingly slowly. It is meager, what I have wrought — but such as it is in tatters and rags I hand to you. A peaceful transition of power this shall be, for the unsightliness of contested control endangers all our futures.
May it serve you well: if only as fodder, or tinder.
Pray light the match, while you still have spark.