Message for a Young Friend

by Bill Brenner on January 13, 2011

Two old friends have a son who’s been through the meat grinder too many times in his 12 short years. Some think he should settle in for a lesser life than he’s capable of. I say bullshit.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6a9WmfFKs8&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999]

My young friend’s name is Mark. He lives in a city on the North Shore of Massachusetts. That’s all I’ll reveal about his identity. But his parents will know this is for him and will hopefully share this with him:

Dear Mark,

Because of the mental and physical challenges you face, some grownups think you should set your sites low. They think you’re not cut out for college or a career as, say, a scientist.

They mean well. They know what you’ve been through and they don’t want you to get hurt. But if I’ve learned anything in my own journey through hell, it’s that you can’t always hide from hurt and disappointment. Life is hard. But it’s supposed to be.

It’s how we find out what we’re truly made of.

Item: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a pampered child whose world view changed when he was crippled by polio in 1921. A lot of people would have given up right there, but he rebuilt his life, became a mentor to other polio victims and was the longest-serving president in history, dealing with war and economic calamity that could have broken the spirit of healthier leaders. Through it all, he carried on an outward cheeriness that put people at ease.

When I was a kid there were plenty of roadblocks. I missed a lot of school because of Crohn’s Disease and lost a brother when I was only a year older than you are now. My studies suffered, and I was put in a lot of the classes where they put the problem children.

Things worked out, though. I got married and had two kids that are much smarter than I was at that age. I have a job that’s allowed me to do a lot of excellent things (excellent to me, anyway).

You shouldn’t settle for anything less than the life you want.

Item: Abraham Lincoln suffered crippling depression his whole life and lost two of his four children, all in a time before anti-depressants were around. He led the Union through the Civil War and ended slavery.

There will be setbacks and those can be discouraging, but you CAN survive them with the right perspective.

Item: The drummer from Def Leppard had an arm ripped off in a car wreck. A lot of people thought his career was over. Twenty-six years later, he’s still drumming.

So just keep trying, and never give up on yourself. Nobody can hold you back. Only YOU can hold yourself back.

One more thing: Having a good life doesn’t mean you get to live without the bad stuff from time to time.

It’s easy for people who fight mental illness and addictive behavior to go on an endless, futile search for the happily ever after, where you somehow find the magic bullet to murder your demons, thus beginning years of bliss and carefree existence.

There’s no such thing as happily ever after.

That’s OK.

I believe in you. Your parents certainly believe in you.

The rest is up to you.

–Your friend,

Bill

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

pennywrites January 14, 2011 at 3:18 am

Hey Mark… I don’t know who you are and that doesn’t matter. Believe it yourself, your terrific, fabulous self. It’s OK to have disappointments as long as you don’t let them be the victors. Lean on your family friends when you need to (seems to me like you’ve got a good one in Bill) and don’t ever stop dreaming of your next accomplishment. Give it hell.

Paul Piva January 14, 2011 at 5:50 am

Bill, that was a great post. You offer some very sound advice to Mark and to other’s that suffer challenges in life. I remember what it was like to be 12 and it’s not easy even under the best of circumstances. You are a inspiration to those who struggle with life and mental illness. Don’t ever stop.

Sharon Shapiro January 14, 2011 at 7:59 am

Bill, what a beautiful letter to Mark. That letter will mean something now, but will also gain meaning to him as he continues on in life. Good read for all of us who want everything to be okay and not have to struggle.

Nancy Casey January 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Bill,
thank you for that. i really liked it. i have printed it out for Mark, i am putting it in a special binder for him so he can always keep it and look at it in times of hopelessness..he goes through times of depression and loss of esteem and this is just the thing he needs.
again, thanks and he told his school counselor when asked if he had a mentor, he said, i have a buddy Bill that i can email or call if i need it. he believes in me just like mom and dad and some others..Then he added that anyone else could go to hell..LOL

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