A letter to my niece on her 21st birthday

some life lessons in a letter to my lovely niece on her 21st birthday

21! Wow! How and when did that happen?  Blink of an eye.  I still think of you as the little girl who cunningly sneaked into my suitcase every time I was packing to leave for the US.  Yes, I am stuck in time as most of us old farts are, but you? That’s another story.

From a naughty eyed little toddler with an infectious laughter to a tomboyish young kid. From an often-loving but sometimes-distant young girl to a warm, mature-beyond-her-years, incredibly talented artist, Illesha you have come a long way. Did I say stunningly beautiful?

As adulthood arrives, so does trepidation. And questions.  Lots of them.  Will things change now that I am 21?  Should I be behaving differently? Am I making the right choices?  What should I do with my life? Will Gus ever grow up J?  Will my family finally stop harassing me? These are perplexing questions with no certain answers except perhaps for the last one.

Leshu, as you stand at the cusp of adulthood, I thought I would share some advice with you instead of the usual expensive gift – Twizzlers cost good money you know. What’s heartening is that given your fiercely independent nature we don’t run the risk of you actually taking it.

Health is wealth – Yes, I know. That’s probably the worst start ever but since I am now approaching middle age I have earned the right to say corny stuff like that.  Seriously though, life is 10X better when you wake up feeling great.  More than sweating it out at the gym find a sport that you love and play it 2-3 times a week (Candy Crush is not a sport).  You will be far healthier and happier. It’s taken me all of my 35 years to figure that out.

Don’t define yourself – Acid will not liberate you J, being in tune with yourself will.  Beyond the physical impressions that we call the body and the mind, there is an intuition that is you.  Hone this intuition and trust it more than anything else. Some people use Yoga, others use meditation but I suspect in your case it will be your art.  Use your art to discover yourself but don’t define yourself as an artist. Don’t define yourself as a girl either. Nor as a Hindu or as an Indian.  In fact, don’t define yourself by any man-made boundary.  We have created more problems in the world through narrow definitions than we have solved. You are more than all these boundaries put together.

Stress kills, literally – More people die of stress related issues than any other disease in the world. Nothing is worth losing your peace and your sleep over, ever. Remember, our natural state of being is relaxed, not having an agitated mind. Observe a kid and you will know.  It is external expectations that put us in a restless state.  You do not need to over-intellectualize this.  Just find little tricks that can help you destress quickly and get back to your natural state of restfulness.

Claim your life – Life is not that complicated but it can be pretty confusing. Almost everybody you meet will try to tell you what is right. They have no idea. They are simply seeking validation. Look deep within. You already who you are and what you must do. You just need to realize it. Every year, take a week off for yourself. Find a place that puts you at peace and retreat to this place whenever you are faced with the big questions or feel weighed down and distracted.  When you need to get back in touch with yourself. When you need to shake off the impressions you have picked up along the way. The answers will present themselves.

Stay 21 forever – Here’s a technical fact.  If you can get old only if you stop growing, then the opposite must also be true.  Don’t stop growing and you will stay young forever.  As you achieve one milestone after another, maintain your humility and know that you have much to learn. That way you will keep exploring and keep growing.  You will become mature and become wise but you will not become old. Couple this with the enthusiasm of a child and life will be wondrous.

So, Happy Birthday Leshu and I hope you have a blessed year ahead.

Oh, one last thing – If it all gets much at times and you feel you need a rest, my suitcase awaits.  I will happily carry you along for as long as you like.