Now that I’m dead, I want to tell you a few things.

Charles Bukowski often wrote of an emotional core that he kept hidden from the cruelty of the world around him. He described it as a bluebird, as a fire, but really it was an inner kernel of kindness, passion, empathy, and hope. Call it heart, call it soul, we all have something like this – this little glowing thing that will allow you to see beyond yourself, to reach out and do amazing things. Life is often wonderful, but just as often it is boring, depressing, or mean.

Someone will break your heart. You will be denied a job or some other prize you think your future depends on. You’ll have a hard time paying your rent. You will say the wrong thing at the wrong time and look stupid. Someone will tell you are too fat, or too skinny. Despite setbacks like these, you should continue to live as fully as you can every day. It is ok to make mistakes. It is ok to feel sad, or ugly, or dull. Chances are the person sitting across from you either feels the same way, or isn’t paying attention anyhow.

Learn to play guitar. Sing in the shower every day. Sing in the car, or while walking down the street. Don’t be afraid to dance in front of people, even if you’re not good at it. Listen to punk rock, and dance by yourself. Swim in the ocean. Get a sunburn. Get a tattoo. People worry too much about danger – forget about it. Keep your head most of the time and safety will work itself out.

Read widely and often, anything you can get your hands on. Read poetry. Live in a big city – New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin – even if it’s just for a summer. Try not to worry about money. Love someone who doesn’t love you back. Help people just by really listening to what they have to say.

Study revolutions: the fight for democracy, the fight for worker’s rights, the fight against slavery, the civil rights and women’s rights movements. The people who fought for our current way of life were willing to suffer cuts and bruises, hungry nights in jail, and sometimes death to improve things for us. Learn about these people, people like Angela Davis, Mary Wollstonecraft, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ben Franklin — and emulate them.

Sleep outdoors. Live in the woods for at least a week. In a tent, or a cabin, whatever. Just get away from electricity and slow down. See what it’s like to have a little dirt in your hair, twigs in your food, and bugs in your sleeping bag.

But most importantly, do things you love and surround yourself with interesting and compassionate people.

I love you. Have a beautiful life.