On the day of writing this, it is my 22 birthday. It’s a birthday in a year that’s gonna be different than the past couple of years. A year in which I don’t go to classes anymore, in which I don’t have to turn in assignments, or attend lectures. In which I work for myself, and you. That is an incredible thing to think about. In the past 6 years, a lot has changed. And with that, I mean a lot.
At the age of 16, I was stressed. Stressed to the core of my being. Bus rides to school were agony for me because I feared puking out of pure anxiety for the day. I was scared of class, of tests, presentations, assignments, everything. It all was incredibly stressful to me. I feared failure so much, and I feared losing control so much. So here is my letter to that younger version of me, during its bus ride to school.
Part One: Look at Yourself
Hi Daan, it’s you. Only years have passed. We have now spent 6 years together on this planet. We have lived through a lot and grew a lot. You are probably now on your way to school, in total agony of the bus ride. I feel what you are going through. The grip that’s around your throat. The fear that’s making your heart pound like a dance track. I know how you imagined how you would throw up in the middle of the bus, and how everyone looked at you. And I know how that made everything even worse. I know how much you wanted to get out of that place. How you wanted to learn how to deal with this constant feeling of anxiety.
Lesson one: But if there is one thing I’ve learned, that you have not yet learned it is that you have control over your thoughts. And your thoughts are the things that make you stress out right now. Those thoughts are telling you, and showing you possible future outcomes that will never happen. All you need to do is focus on your breath. On the subtlety of the air flowing in and out of your body, and keep thinking to yourself, keep repeating “I am calm, I am relaxed, I am happy.” And you’ll get out. You’ll manage the fear attacks and the anxiety.
I know that at that point you think it’s cheesy to focus on your breath. You even believe that it’s bullshit and a lie, that your breath can’t control the way you feel or the way you go through life. Let alone reciting to yourself that you are calm and happy. But it’s not a lie. It’s a way of gripping the thoughts inside your head. It’s a way of calming yourself down. Both getting into the present moment and learning to calm the mind. See it like recoding your mind. I know you are in the middle of a curriculum on web coding, but this is just like that. Only you are re-coding your own brain, by attending to your breath and reciting to yourself the things you want to become.
Look at yourself, man, you are gorgeous. You have so much potential. If you knew all the things you would be going through in the next couple of years you will know that this is but a hurdle, a small step, that’s gonna clear the path for so much more beauty. Just look within. That’s the second lesson I want to give you. Lesson two, the only teacher you’ll ever need is the teacher within. The voice within yourself. So look within. You are gonna start meditating within a few months and that is gonna change your life. Meditation has shaped you ever since and it is a practice you’ve been doing for 6 years now, almost daily. Within yourself, you’ll find all the answers you are looking for. The answers to your fears, the answer to what you like to do in life, and the answer to what your meaning on this planet is. Meditation isn’t just something monks do, it’s something you have used to uncover your creativity, to understand the world and better yourself, and to deal with problems in your life. So Daan, if you got the time, sit down for a few minutes. Even if it’s just 5 minutes. Do it. It will change your life, subtlely but steadily.
Lesson three Everything bad has something good in it, and although you might not see it right now, you will figure this major change out very soon. You are probably mad at God for taking away your uncle, and making you anxious and stressed, but trust me it has a purpose. Without those events, I would not be writing to you right now. You see everything in life turns out just the way it should. It isn’t that life deals us bad cards, it’s that we don’t know how to use the cards we are given that make them bad. This is the wisdom I’ve learned over the years. Everything has something beautiful in it. You just have to stop being ignorant thinking that things happen against you instead of for you. There are gonna be rough times for you ahead, but they will be much less painful. Because you have seen that you can take a lesson from it, and practice that lesson so that you can transcend past the bad. Don’t forget the practicing part, because I know how much you like to skip the practice and jump straight to the end goal. Sadly that’s not how life wants to be played. So instead live fully through the bad moments and keep a broad and open vision of what’s going on and what you can learn from it!
Part Two: Be You
One of the hardest things you’ll face is being you, not in class, or with friends, but at home. Telling your parents who you are, and what you want to do. They have always been amazing to you, but you have been too fearful to tell them that you have other plans. That you do not want to pursue a career in a 9 to 5 job. That you have much bigger goals.
Lesson four Speak up for yourself, don’t be scared. It’s daunting to tell your parents you hate school, that you much rather give up school and start working for yourself. You are scared because you know they will be disappointed in you, and they will get mad at you. But they will get over it. You are family and you will work things out. Family is meant to create friction, they are meant to challenge you a little. You much rather want to hear them support your vision, that they believe in your cause and that you can do it. But see the beauty in it. They don’t know if you can do it, and that to you creates a tremendous drive to keep going. That to you is an extra fuel burn that will make you take off through the heart of the storm. Speak up for yourself Daan, this will help you in everything. In your relationships, in your family, with your friends, and everyone else you’ll meet. You have to be you, you will never be happy playing someone else’s game. Figure out your own game and make a stand for it. Don’t hurt anyone in the process, don’t blame them, don’t hold grudges for those who don’t like you or don’t believe in you. Be kind to everyone, forgive easily, love unconditionally, and most of all be proud of yourself. Look at what you are doing, all the hard work you are putting in. There are hundreds of millions of people not in such a privileged spot as you are right now. And there are even fewer people who have the guts and drive to pursue their dreams as you do. Be proud of yourself.
Lesson five Don’t force anything. This is gonna be a tough one for you Daan. You don’t like to let go of control. You much rather force things than let them unfold naturally because that puts you in control. But remember this
“Everything forced loses its true form.”
That’s a quote you came up with yourself. Remember it. Because a forced door will never be able to close again. Nor will a forced lock ever be useful again. Nor will a forced relationship, or a forced love keep their true and beautiful form. Nothing forced will ever bring you any good. It’s the natural unfolding of things and the hard work that makes everything come together. Never forcing something in a specific direction. That creates the stress, tension, and anxiety you are going through right now. Let go, and don’t force anything, dear Daan. Life has a lot for you in-store, it’s your stupid stubbornness and ignorance that makes everything delayed. Stop forcing everything, go with the flow of life. Become it. Become one with your life and path.
Part Three: Enjoy Life
But Daan, if there is one thing I want you to know is that life is beautiful. Enjoy it. Make the most of it. That’s now your purpose, that’s what you are all about. It has made you come to life. Flourishing like a dandelion in the sun. You cherish life more than ever and seize the day. Carpe Diem. These are two lessons I want to give you because you want to work a lot. Forgetting to cherish the people around you. Spend time with them. Enjoy their presence, and let go easily.
Lesson six Cherish the people you meet. One of the things you as a young man get caught up in is work and passion. You have an unquenchable desire to work. You love it. You work hard. Your fire isn’t easily extinguished. It suits you, but it also makes you lose out on the beautiful people around you. You’ll have times where you are so caught up in work that you forget the beautiful friends and family around you. You neglect them and leave them aside. Luckily you are blessed to have friends and family that don’t give up easily. Those are there for you no matter what. Just like you will be there for them no matter what. You have built incredibly strong relationships at such a young age that won’t easily perish. Cherish those. Often you might think that life is all about achievement and doing something with your life. But the most beautiful thing is to share those achievements with people close to you. Don’t make the amazing people in your life leave you for your unquenchable desire to work. Live a little 😉
Lesson seven Let go of everything. Now I want to end with the hardest one of all. Which at this point you still haven’t completely figured out. That is to let go. You just don’t seem to be able to do that yet. You for some reason keep holding on to everything on your path. Trying to control it all. Trying to make life go the way you want it to go. Luckily it doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. It has its own agenda, which you will learn to tap into. What do I mean by that? You will learn to follow your heart. You will learn how to do what you love and take your time doing it. Patience is a big one here. Being patient, and trust that everything will unfold naturally. Everything happens exactly at the right time, and you have taken on the desire to control everything from your dad. Letting that go is your biggest challenge throughout the upcoming years. And to be honest, letting go will be a challenge for us, all throughout our lives.
Take time to rest and enjoy the beauty of life. Walk around the forest. Hear the birds. Sit in the sun. Drink a glass of wine or whiskey which you’ve been enjoying more and more lately. Watch some Netflix. Spend time with friends. Work hard. Do what you love. Put your heart and soul out into the world, no matter how incredibly scary this is. You will get far, I know that. Incredibly far in life. Your message deserves to be spread, and I know you will always remain humble. Be patient, love unconditionally, play as a kid, enjoy the beauties with your eyes wide open, laugh with friends, be calm, follow your breath, let go and lean back, life has got your back. So you will one day learn that at the end of your day you say Today I Lived! I made the most of it.
Thanks for reading lovely soul. Have an amazing day, and be sure to follow me on Instagram @today.i.lived or join the newsletter! Hope to see you there. Remember today you live. Make the most of it.