When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!
An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.
My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.
The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.
Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:
We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.
We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you. Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.
As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.
We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball. Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.
So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.
Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.
For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).
We love you always
And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.
What message would you send in similar circumstances?