“We like to say that we don’t get to choose our parents, that they were given by chance — yet we can truly choose whose children we’d like to be.”SENECA, ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, 15.3a
He’s right, you know — we don’t get to choose our parents, and we don’t get to select from a menu of possible childhoods and upbringings. It just kind of happens to us, and a lot of it has to do with chance.
It’s entirely possible (likely, even) that our parents aren’t particularly great at some aspects of child rearing and early education. They probably dropped the ball when it came to teaching us about certain facts of life. Our parents might not have always demonstrated stellar examples when it came to decision-making, or managing their emotions, or focusing on what they could control.
The past is already written anyway. Whether you had a great upbringing and excellent parentage, or something a little more ‘average’ — as most of us did — there’s nothing you can do about the water that has already passed under the bridge.
What you can affect is how the rest of your life goes. And for that, you can select new ‘parents’, or new mentors as the author of The Daily Stoic refers to them in today’s chapter. You can choose your own mentors, and determine who you’d like to model your character and your decision-making after.
Thankfully there are many excellent choices for people you might want to emulate. Many of them are the ancient philosophers of old that Ryan Holiday references in his books. Or you might discover some great minds on your own when at the library — luminaries that challenged themselves in a way that you find inspiring. Perhaps you’ll find a person in your life that you admire and wish to learn from.
Ultimately though, it’s not enough to simply learn from them. We need to take the wisdom they’ve passed down through the ages and put it into action. We owe them that much. And it’s a great opportunity that we get to choose our new examples and then act in a way that honors them.