A letter to my 13-year-old self

Dear young patti,

A lot of people my vintage say they wouldn’t change a single thing if given the opportunity for a life do-over. I’m not one of those people. I’d change plenty.

I mean, would I really want to make the same missteps again? The idea is to learn from our faux pas, not wash, rinse and repeat like our mistakes are a load of laundry with no consequence.

So why would I want you to copy and paste my life?

I realize life is a boiling cauldron of confusion right now. It is for all kids your age. Been there and done that. My teenage years beat the hell out of me, although I’ll spare you the gory details. I’ll simply caution you that you’re about to walk into a mine field and, as sure as summer yields to autumn, you’re going to get “blowed up real good” on a number of occasions. There’s a world of hurt waiting out there.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you, though. Oh, sure, you’ll hurt. As the Buddhists tell us, suffering is the First Noble Truth. But my hurt doesn’t have to be your hurt. Whatever it is that you think you’ll do with your life, rethink it. Do it differently. All of it. With one exception—if one of your teachers counsels you to pursue a career in writing, pay her heed. I listened to Mrs. Grieve at Miles Macdonell Collegiate, and it worked out pretty well. Just don’t write about sports like I did. Write about life. With passion, purpose and honesty.


Don’t play hockey. Play the piano.

Don’t collect bubble gum cards. Read books.

Don’t turn away from the face of bigotry and racism. Stare it down.

Don’t accept status quo. Be the difference.

Don’t follow their lead. Chart your own course.

Don’t adopt just one doctrine. Ask questions. Always ask questions.

Don’t be shy and timid. Speak up and be heard.

Don’t surrender your heart too easily. It has to be earned, because you are worth it.

Don’t arrive at conclusions. Explore possibility.

Don’t let a misdeed or a trespass go unacknowledged. Take ownership of all your wrong-doing. Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word.

Don’t allow friends to fade away. Keep them close.

Don’t collect trinkets. Collect good karma.

Don’t take up arms. Open your arms.

Find a way to believe in that which your eyes cannot see, for that which your eyes cannot see is everything you need to see.

All that transpires the remainder of your life will be linked to your next decision. Don’t regret it by allowing someone else to make it for you.

And here’s the most important thing I can tell you, young patti: Don’t hide who you are. You are not a lamp to be hidden beneath a bushel basket. Acknowledge, accept and show the world who you are. That’ll bring some pain, because others can be mean, but it shall be outweighed by great joy.

Hope this has been helpful. I’ll be watching and cheering. 

With kindness, love and much hope,,
the older patti

Karma doesn’t do our dirty work for us

We shouldn’t ever think of karma in such a way that we derive glee from another’s misfortune.

By patti dawn swansson

Some people view karma as an avenging angel.

You are the victim of an injustice and you rationalize by saying, “What goes around comes around.” Or, “Karma will bite you in the butt.”

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Sometimes karma does that very thing. Other times, not so much.

But whose butt is being bitten? If we wish for negative karma to visit herself upon another, are we not also asking negative karma to visit herself upon us?

Karma is not a blunt object to be used as a weapon. It is not the destructive mechanism of wishful thinking. We should never say “Karma will get you for this.”

That sounds too much like a threat.

Karma does not manifest itself in a threatening manner. If we wish that to be so, then we are welcoming negative karma to visit ourselves. How can we say “I hope he/she gets what’s coming to them” without negative karma visiting us? Placing a negative atop a negative produces a negative.

In other words, if you have been mistreated and wish for karma to settle the score for you, then you are wishing for karma to settle the score with yourself. Karma isn’t about getting even. You can’t cast the spell of negative karma on another without it falling upon yourself. Being the victim of an injustice doesn’t grant us license to be unjust.

Karma isn’t something we can manipulate. Karma is. Full stop.

We shouldn’t ever think of karma in such a way that we derive glee from another’s misfortune.

Karma, like most everything in the human realm, is a concept. If you make me suffer then karma will make you suffer. We see someone punished after a misdeed and we say, “He deserved it. Karma caught up to him.” But I say to you again, karma is not an avenging angel.

If we were to await karma to exact revenge for us, how long must we wait? A day? A week? A month? A year? Forever? Eternity?

We should not count on karma to do our deeds. It might never happen. Then what? Do we go to our graves or urns cursing karma for not addressing our demands and expectations of retribution?

Don’t seek retribution. Move on. If karma chooses to involve herself, she will. But she won’t do so simply because you are angry and vengeful. She doesn’t have the time nor the will to serve all those who wish to subvert for the sake of get-evenism.

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