Hi Tom and Charlotte.
I hope you are both safe and well.
I am glad that you are both out and about and travelling the world and I want you to know that I think about you every day.
I want you to explore and have adventures and experience everything you can in your journeys and return to me enriched and wiser, but most of all safe.
I worry you know.
It is a Dad’s prerogative.
We are born and then we die.
These are the only two certainties I can assure you of.
What went before and what goes beyond is an unknown so the life that we live between these two events is all that matters.
This is my belief anyway.
The duration of our current existence is indeterminable. I have learned this from experience and as you well know, I have lost people who are close to me in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.
Losing someone you are close to sucks no matter what the circumstances are but that just is what it is.
I don’t want you to experience such losses yet but they are inevitable - so steel yourselves.
Demise is sadness in any exigency however grief is a process that is tied very much to love.
The greater the love – the more significant is the loss.
I have learned this too.
You will as well
We humans are sapient creatures who are as complex as we are unpredictable. I don’t get a lot of things and my life is littered with mistakes of my own making. I try however to deliberate and excogitate from my erring and I hope you will too.
It’s not so easy.
The most perfect things I have ever made are you two.
I never knew that someone like me could contribute to make something – some people - as beautiful as you.
My love for you is boundless and unconditional.
Don’t forget that.
When you both left for your travels I realized that when children become adults they are still your children. This realization that my children have all grown up is a strange phenomena.
It is one that takes some getting used to.
There have been some emotional conflicts with this realisation of mine.
I have this enormous sense of pride in both of you but this is also entangled with a tangible sense of loss as well.
Hope resides there with Fear.
It is a tough and sometimes dangerous world out there that has wars and bombs and earthquakes and tsunamis.
So there is worry and there is pain.
There is always worry and pain in parenting.
There is great joy too though.
There is more joy than anything else.
However there is some sense of acceptance in this realisation as well. It resides amongst all this mix of emotions. There is reflection too when I pause and think where you may be and what you may be doing.
We grown ups have all been at this juncture.
This becoming an adult.
It is a Big Moment.
I remember what it was like to feel this all-grown-up emotion when I was your age.
It was a time of freedom and confidence and greatness.
It was Special.
I need you to know though that the need to protect you my children does not diminish as you become adults.
It doesn’t diminish at all.
It is instinctive I think to want to protect you.
At any cost.
At all cost.
However there has been a letting go of sorts - by me of you and by you of your childhoods.
The realization that as you forge your own places in the world I won't be quite as close to you anymore is a wistful emotion.
There is a little ache knowing and accepting that I won't be right beside you any longer - to catch you if you fall. I can only trust now that I have taught you enough to stand strong and to stand up again if you get knocked down.
To keep standing up.
We all get knocked down at times and rising is more noble than falling.
It is more difficult too.
This letting go is both sad and happy for me.
It is both winning and losing.
I know that these feelings will ultimately neutralize each other and then I will be just left with Hope.
Hope that you can make your own way out there and that everything will be all right.
I want you both to not be afraid to mistakes - for the lessons you learn from mistakes are really important.
Be bold and brave.
You both have voices and don’t be afraid to express your opinions.
Stand up for what is good and right and decent irrespective of the opposition you may encounter.
Don’t ever just be part of the crowd.
I don’t get violence but I have been embroiled in it before.
I don’t like cruelty either and I know that neither of you do either. You will encounter it though.
All too often.
I have been both a victim of it and to my shame a deliverer too. I have felt ignominy and pain in many forms. I am perfectly imperfect and I hope that I have grown from my inadvertence.
I don’t believe in deities or in a faith that is blind.
Why would I?
How could I?
This is a personal thing however - and I am not going to try and influence you one way or another on such matters.
Make up your own minds.
I have seen cruelty and injustice and inequity that horrify me.
The current catastrophes in Greece and Syria and Iraq despair me.
Watching the daily news is a horror story.
I ask myself often what manner of god would permit such atrocities? I have discussed and debated this matter with men of cloth and monks and lamas and their arguments that man is imperfect are sound - but they don’t convince me to worship.
I comprehend the need for belief but my preference is to invest such faith in myself and you my precious children – as well as the other people who I love.
This is a big endowment but I can touch and see it.
Through grim determination I can even shape it.
You can as well.
I believe that the majority of people are inherently good but there are vocal and powerful minorities that are not - and they are the wreakers of chaos and havoc.
They are the ruination of things that really matter.
Please be wary.
I hope that I have taught you enough to understand we human beings are impaired creatures but our development is really quite a simple path of practicing compassion and compunction and lenity.
It is consideration.
It is kindness.
I understand that I am in a minority here in a world awash with religions that seem more confused than me. I think that the supposedly merciful gods worshipped by billions would be appalled by the behaviours of the extremists amongst their devout. Tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of people have perished in conflicts relating to religion.
Look at Syria.
It is why I sometimes wake in fright terrified about why you might encounter in your travels.
I truly am sleepless in Singapore much of the time.
You are both young adults now and I can’t protect you like I could when you are little.
All I can reinforce to you again is to stand strong for what you believe in - and for people less fortunate than you.
This is important.
It is really important.
To many people acts of bravery involve death and destruction and peril and I need you to understand that real bravery is actually the complete opposite of these things.
Heed this my children - gallantry is providing for people who have less than do we.
It is also tolerance and acceptance.
I have known love and hate and joy and despair and I still seek wisdom but it is so difficult to find.
I want you to be wise and you already are in many ways but wisdom is not something we stumble upon.
We accumulate it.
Through our experiences.
My search for self continues - and so too should yours - but as I age I am discovering that a purpose might be many things and there is simplicity and some satisfaction in just being.
It is my belief that we are formed by what we desire, we are shaped by what we experience but we are ultimately defined by what we do.
For others – not ourselves.
So I endeavour to experience as much as I can – and again – so too should you.
I cram my life with people and events and I move around a lot to take in what I can.
I am restless.
I am reckless.
New cultures, new people and talking to strangers have enriched me yet I still don’t know my true purpose.
Being your Dad is the most important thing though.
I know that much.
I have had a very fortunate life.
I can’t complain.
Even though I sometimes do.
I want you to know that I think that kindness may be the key to everything and life lessons relating to compassion and morality are important but empathy is something that is inherent.
Selflessness is not a natural state but it is an important one.
I want you to frequently put yourselves in other shoes.
I need you to constantly put your lives in perspective.
Please remind yourself of that from time to time
Wealth is not possessions or money.
It is goodness.
It is virtuosity.
It is righteousness and honour.
These are noble and precious things.
They may be everything.
I know where I have been but I still don’t know yet where I am going. You will sometimes feel this way as well.
Particularly as you travel.
At times you will feel lost and dazed and directionless.
Don’t let this distress you.
Just tread a path that causes minimal harm but value and cherish every experience. I want you to immerse and saturate yourself in your surrounds.
I want you to experience experiences.
They are the essence and substance of who you will become.
Remember this as well.
You both have the potential to be anything you want.
For the moment though – in these tumultuous and terrifying times - I think that just being might be enough.
Thinking of you always.
Love Dad xx