An Open Letter to Sabrina, The Tackling Baby


Sick people don't often tackle others. Johnny the Tackling Alzheimer's Patient was different. On the television show Scrubs, Johnny would emerge and tackle Dr. Dorian (Zach Braff) when he least expected it, screaming "Who am I?" and prompting a flurry of papers.

Physical comedy reassuring the confusing nature of the human condition, does it get any better? I submit that it does not.

Of course, the joke wouldn't work if Dr. Dorian expected the tackle. I'd probably still laugh if Dr. Dorian did a spin-move and Johnny crashed into a tray of medical supplies every once and awhile, but that's my own sick sense of humor.

Anticipating the big tackle and the big question, Dr. Dorian would be prepared with an answer. "You're Johnny the Tackling Alzheimer's Patient," he would blurt out in a high-pitched shriek. And then Johnny would stop tackling. And then he'd be confused all over again. And then he would forget because he has Alzheimer's, and be back at square one.

Us not tackling people, we're not so different. Like Johnny, our minds tackle us from time to time with the big questions. Our identity is challenged and changed every day. And while minds are meant to wander, it might seem ridiculous to ask someone else who you are. But it might only be as ridiculous as a tackling Alzheimer's patient.

On Lewis Howes' School of Greatness podcast, futurist and philosopher Jason Silva shared the idea of peopling. The idea says that "the way we come into existence is through the exchanges with others. I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am, which is really trippy when you think about it. The other is required to come to be."

I am who I think you think I am. We're tackling each other for an answer.

Johnny becomes the Tackling Alzheimer's Patient. That's what he does. That's who he is. Until he doesn't and he isn't.

Seeing my niece Sabrina come into this world this past week has given me a new opportunity to see myself. And since I'm a man of words and she's not quite the talker yet, I thought I'd write her a letter.

As much as I hate to admit it, she'll face some challenges in her life and preparing for that, she'll need some back-up. My tiny collection of wisdom at this age might help when she is eighteen and trying to run away from home, or searching for what to do and make with her life, or having a hard time with a broken heart over a boy I'm trying my hardest not to hunt down and chokeslam. The truth is everyone can use a tackle, and this is my offering:

Dear Sabrina,

From the moment your peanut head saw the light of this world, you changed me. It seems funny to say now but it was when I saw your squished little face on my iPhone! (Yeah, my iPhone, remember those?) Living across the country in California, I wasn't around when your mother gave birth in New Jersey. But in one of the first few photos I saw of you, you were crying, as babies do, and it shifted something inside me.

I wanted to stop the crying, however I could, even though I know that's how babies work. I just wanted the best for you right away. I still do. 

You made me want to be a better person just by existing. You made me want more for myself. You didn't ask for that because you could barely talk, but seeing a brand-new addition to this world made me consider once again what we're all doing here. 

You made me want to collect stories to share with you when you inevitably need it. You made me imagine you'd hunt down your wild Uncle Dan wherever he tends to be burying himself in books and experiences. You made me want to be cool even though I'm positive we have different definitions. You know that old movie Pulp Fiction? Yeah, that's my idea of cool.

I'm getting off-track. What I'm trying to say is thank you for existing. You might be having trouble right now, but you should always remember what a gift you've been to so many people. Sometimes it's easier to think about that when people are in mini form and don't talk back, but every person is a gift to someone else. We come into existence through exchanges with others. And you've changed me forever.

Now, enough of this sappy stuff, do you have any good ideas for pranks to play on your dad? Want to post that picture on the Internet again?

Love always,

Uncle Dan

It'll be plenty of time before she can read this and it's hard to guarantee the message won't change. While we both learn to grow up, I'll settle now for telepathically sending it to her baby mind.  But the idea remains - in order to change everything, you need to change the way you see yourself. Change the way you think others see you. 

Just be cool.