Dear Mum, I can’t change the world.

Dear mum, dear dad, dear school, mostly dear mum,

I can’t do it anymore. I can’t change the world. I can’t be famous, or a number 1 Best Seller or photographer. I can’t do it. It’s too much. It’s exhausting. It’s too much. I admit it.

It always felt like I had to. I suppose that’s why I used to read obituaries of famous people, desperately looking for the secrets to how they got to be there, in the papers – the height of recognition! Though ironically they were dead.

But I can’t strive for all that anymore. All that striving has led to exhaustion, and lack of self-esteem as those Great Expectations weren’t met. As I looked around for praise and fame that would make me think I was doing enough.

So I can’t do that any more. But what I can do is all this:

– Be satisfied with all I’ve got, which is so much!

– Be happy with what I’ve done so far with my life, which is already so much!

– Be calm, nice, quiet, and pass quietly through life.

– Be grateful, happy, and enjoy simple things in the present moment.

– Do what I love, what makes me smile, without a single expectation of greatness.

– Stop running, striving.

– Stop feeling inadequate and accept myself as I am, that this version of me is wonderful and enough. I am enough, just like this. There’s no need for more.

– Carry on watching and actively participating in the wonderful unfolding of life, which will all on its own bring as many wonders and adventures and surprises as I’ve been lucky enough to have already.

Dear mum, I hope you understand. I think you do.

Lots of love,


I often write letters to my mother, even though she died 8 years ago. It’s wonderfully therapeutic. About this one, that I wrote a couple of months ago: her parents, my grandparents, were on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Set, the Virginia Woolf literary crowd in 1920’s and 30’s London. Ever since then, that side of our family has been expected to move in such circles, but we don’t. Our whole private schooling expected it too. I think that’s where all this comes from. It’s been a recurring theme in my life, striving-for-great-heights, that’s finally calming down. That’s why I share this here, because I have a feeling it’s common to many people these days.

21 thoughts on “Dear Mum, I can’t change the world.

  1. Why on earth anyone wants to be famous is beyond me. Why on earth anyone places more importance in being recognized for good acts more than the acts themselves is beyond me. Why anonymity is considered bad is beyond me. Why the simple act of living isn’t enough, is beyond me. Why not just live, be kind, be as good as one can be, and not worry about the rest? It’s just a thought. We all choose our path, but eventually, all find our way.


    1. I couldn’t agree more. I went to a talk recently by a wise man in Madrid, who talked about ‘el arte de pasar desapercibido en la vida’, the art of passing unnoticed in life. Which is without doubt a worthy thing.


  2. Nice post but…

    Errr…. you ARE super famous! You are Ben from Notes In Spanish… you made it!!!

    You are one of the very few….

    If you don’t see it that way, then your world view is screwed up… the problem is your inability to see it, not your inability to reach it.

    Love the blog, keep up the great work!



    1. John, your comment has made me smile enormously 🙂

      Yes, we have achieved mild but sufficient internet attention with Notes in Spanish to be incredibly fortunate, but I wouldn’t call that famous! – but more importantly, yes, my world view is screwed up! You’re spot on about that!

      That’s the thing with the letter – it’s a request for peace, inner peace! To say, as you point out so perfectly, that enough is enough and no more is necessary, but there is that nagging sensation drummed into us at school, “keep climbing, keep going up! Achieve more!” That’s the screwed up world view I find so exhausting and I’m slowly de-programming!!

      Thanks for making me (and Marina) smile 🙂


  3. There’s this quote from Martha Graham that I love:

    “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”


  4. I totally agree with every word of it!You have put it down in words so well. And I’m really happy that I feel like this now that I’m 22.
    Some people think that if you are totally content with what you are and what you have, you won’t move forward.But i think a calm state of mind makes you want to be a better person and do everything you do better each time.Probabely not the common definition of moving forward, but that is the real improvement to me.


  5. What John said! There is nothing more important than really living YOUR OWN life. There’s an old Irish saying, “It doesn’t matter how tall your grandfather was, you’ve got to do your own growing.”


  6. Emm, there is going to be una exposición en la Edificio Plaza Mayor de Universidad Autonima de Madrid, 15 abril-7 mayo.I follow this photographer on instagram and I saw the notice today. I think you will like it.Just wanted to let you know. 🙂


  7. Ben,

    I enjoyed this “letter.” I too have felt some of what you describe and it surprised me to have someone else verbalize similar feelings. Your mother is somewhere and couldn’t be prouder of her son as he has achieved much in far bigger things than being of notoriety or “famous” (I live in Santa Monica, CA, around a lot of that “famous” stuff. It is highly over rated!).

    I have immediately become a huge fan of Notes in Spanish. I studied Spanish for a year in Salamanca -hmmm- many years ago (okay, Franco was still in power). I use Spanish often in California and am lucky enough to use it in my work. I enjoy the sound of Castillian Spanish and truly enjoy your conversations with Marina, not just for the Spanish, but for your messages and your “ser”. I train employees in Spanish and listen to your advance podcasts as I drive to the clients’ office so I can be thinking in it when I arrive. I love the grammar tips – so useful to me. I will become a member even if I don’t have much time for the worksheets, but because I believe in what you’re doing and to help support you and Marina. I admire how you have carved out a business for yourselves with this work that is meaningful to (I hope) many – certainly to me. You ARE a success.
    Kind regards, Carol Hastings


    1. Dear Carol,

      Thanks for such a lovely message. I’m so glad you get so much out of our Spanish materials too. Un abrazo desde Madrid,



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