This post deals with my response to: Letters of Note: Things to worry about.
I have pressed this letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his eleven-year-old daughter, because it struck me as so odd, so very different from my experience.
I am sure that if I had received such an intense letter from anybody when I was eleven years old, I would not have been able to fathom it. I suppose all children worry about something.
I do not believe that at that age I was worried about any of the following things (paraphrased from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letter): popular opinion, dolls, the past, the future, growing up, anybody getting ahead of me, triumph, failure – unless it comes through my own fault, mosquitoes, flies, insects in general, parents, boys, disappointments, pleasures, or satisfactions.
Neither did I receive instruction to worry about (more paraphrasing from the same letter) courage, efficiency, or horsemanship, the latter being inapplicable in my case. My sister and I were required to be clean and neat most of the time, but we did not have to worry about it. We simply had to be those things.
I do recall a certain preoccupation at that age about improving my technique when swinging on that lovely long rope hanging from the tall Jacaranda tree in our back yard. I did worry a little when my sister shrieked, since we were under strict instruction from my mother to scream only if we were dying. The irony of her screaming this particular instruction at us still makes me laugh. I still cannot manage a proper scream, though. Bellowing, I can do. Screaming? No. I am incapable in that regard. Am I worried? No!
While my father is not a literary man, he does like his library books. He has a generally cheerful, philosophical outlook on life that has not changed much over the years, yet has stood him in good stead. He worked hard all his life until retirement at age 73, is always honest and down-to-earth, has a great capacity for laughter, and does not believe there is much value in complaining about the hard stuff.
I received two letters from my father so far in my life. The first was in response to a crisis of confidence I had as a result of homesickness a few months in to my great life of independence at university. The second, similarly motivated, was to help me out of a depression (although it was not labelled thus) a couple of years later.
I would not like to hazard a guess as to where those letters are now. What I do remember is being overwhelmed by the love they conveyed. Both contained the same simple message: Don’t worry; just be yourself.