Ti Ti is Sweet Seventeen
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Ti Ti. Don’t tell your parents, but I think you got a lot of your IQ and good looks from my side of the family. Let’s just keep that to ourselves. Regardless, I want to wish you an incredibly Happy Birthday. You changed my life when we first met. That was when you were just a kid.

Ti Ti, if I told you that I am proud of you, would you believe me? Okay, you know that I think that you are the crème de crème. Now, if I told you that you are brilliant, beautiful, driven, sweet, caring, charming, helpful, artistic, and an excellent student, would you believe me? This is where we have a problem. You don’t accept that my statement is accurate. You think that I am exaggerating about your giftedness. Ti Ti, that is your Achilles’ heel. You must accept what PaPa Al says. Hey, I’m your grandfather.

Fatty refuses to call me PaPa Al, insisting upon using the name Bo Bo Gyi, which is a nat in your religion. Bo Bo Gyi means venerated grandfather or great grandfather. He was into alchemy but also wanted to help children.

Bo Bo Gyi

I can’t make gold, but I can help my grandchildren. You know all about Bo Bo Gyi, but some of my readers have never heard of him. Whatever name you, Snow, or Fatty call me, I love you all and want to help you and your siblings as you journey down your yellow brick roads of life.

So, I have outlined a shortlist of things that will assist you in life. I know; I have made numerous lists about you over the years. This is merely an updated one.

  • Dream dreams and then transform the dreams into reality. The most important mentor in my life was Bobby Kennedy. He paraphrased something that George Bernard Shaw wrote in his play, Methuselah. This is Bobby’s version, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Without dreams, what is the purpose of living? Life is more than merely existing. I wrote to you about what you wanted to do after college. Essentially, you provided a litany of your dreams. Ti Ti, dream on, young lady, dream on.
  • Now, as a dreamer, I have had thousands of dreams on my journey down my yellow brick road of life. Most never came true. In hindsight, I’m glad that some never did. As for some of the other dreams, I still dream and hope that someday they will come true. My first trip to Myanmar was to interview the Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi. I failed at that attempt even though I genuinely worked at that goal. It wasn’t in the cards. However, I met a young lady who wanted to play Scrabble with me.
  • Speaking of interviewing people, Barack Obama is another failure of mine. I wanted to do a similar interview with him as I wanted to do with the Lady. Essentially, I wanted to discover what made them tick. What were the things that drove them? I’m also dreaming about talking to Oprah Winfrey. However, it is about what makes me tick, not what makes her tick. I want her to interview me so that I understand more fully what drives me. That interview is just for me. It is not for a TV program that millions watch; it is purely personal. I know you are reading this and thinking, how is PaPa Al doing in that endeavor? Well, Ti Ti, I haven’t succeeded yet. However, my dream is an example for you. When you don’t realize your dream, try again. When you fail at something that you feel is important, what should you do?
  • Enter Bobby Kennedy, again. Bobby said, “Hang a lantern on your problems.” Let others see your problem of obtaining your dream. Ti Ti, write down a dozen of your dreams that haven’t been realized. Many of those dreams aren’t known by many outside you or your family. So, let others know what and why your dream is essential. Hanging on a lantern your dreams might cause someone to help you.
  • Success in life is more dependent upon failure than good luck. While that sounds like an oxymoron, it is the truth. Napoleon said, “You become strong by defying defeat and by turning loss and failure into success.” No one succeeds in life merely because they lucked out. Success is always tied to some sort of failure or problem. My family’s moving from Pennsauken, NJ, a nice middle-class area where I was above average student to Mt. Lebanon, PA, a wealthy community and the 19th best school system in the country, was traumatic for me. I learned two things while at Mt. Lebanon; I was dumb and poor. Once I realized that wasn’t as dumb as I thought, that is when I really got into teaching. I don’t want other students to get burned by feeling less adequate than they are. Ti Ti, this applies to you also.
  • It is in giving that we get. This is another seeming oxymoron. The giver of anything gets as much as the one that is given something. Whatever the gift that the giver gives is secondary to how the giver feels. Do you want an obvious example? I’m writing this essay about you, and I am delighted about my feelings about you. I’m doing this article for your benefit, but I benefit as much as you do. Trust me. When I return to visit my family, we can argue about which of us got more than the other.
  • Plan to write something each day but write. It can be a short story or just a paragraph. What I want you to do is to create your version of Articles on my webpage. You can also put pictures that you took that relate to your writings. You are creating your own archive or collection about your thoughts and idea. I often look at what I wrote decades ago.
  • Along with prose, write poetry also. Pick something that someone wrote that you like or that helped you and memorize part of the poem. I was required to do that in high school, and I hated it. Nevertheless, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t remember parts of poems that I memorized. That is the one thing that benefited me more than anything else during my high school years. I memorized Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas six decades ago. Today, it is my mantra. This is the first stanza.

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Ti Ti, I picked this poem for you. Amanda Gorman wrote The Hill We Climb. She read it at President Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. I missed watching much of the inauguration due to getting my first Moderna shot for COVID…on my birthday. While I waited in line for my injection, Amanda recited her poem to America. However, her poem applies to all people in all nations.

  • When things settle down in your country, you will go back to formal education at Gusto. In the meantime, take classes online even if they aren’t for your degree. All forms of education are critical for everyone. However, education is essential for women. It won’t guarantee that you will get equality in life, but waiting for equality to be given to you by men won’t work. It hasn’t worked since Homo sapiens evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago.
  • One remaining suggestion to you. It is the lesson about life from Gilgamesh. He went on a quest to find immortality. He wanted to live forever. Therefore, he visited Utnapishtim, the only immortal in the world. That immortal told him about a unique plant that would provide Gilgamesh with immortality. He took the plant home. However, a snake ate the plant first, from which Gilgamesh learned an important lesson about life. He said, “Forget death and seek life.” Gilgamesh went out and helped others in life rather than worrying about his immortality. This is another oxymoron. Gilgamesh lived 5,000 years ago and is still remembered.

Ti Ti, Happy Birthday. I’m proud of you. Take care until we meet again. Oops. I forgot that Ginger wanted to say, “Happy Birthday.”