Dear Reader, Today is my 22nd birthday. That’s 11571120 minutes of life. For this year, my last birthday before I graduate college and find myself in the big grown-up world, I am giving myself (and you) a present. I know it’s not particularly original, as there are variations all over the internet, but I’ve come up with 22 “wisdoms” – philosophies, quotes, life lessons, and stories that I think are important to remember as I move forward. I started them as a New Year’s resolution, one which I am quite happy I kept. I definitely can’t say that I follow all of these 100% of the time, but just knowing I want to follow them is a step in the right direction I think. So without further ado and in no particular order…
1. Sometime the things you miss the most are those which you fear are lost forever.
I can’t really say I miss home when I’m at school. I know it’s right there, an hour’s drive away, with my mom, my brother, and my dopey dopey dog just as they’ve always been. I know anytime I need home, it’s there. Saying I missed home would be like saying I miss my right hand – It’s vital to my existence, but it’s never far away.
My grandpa, on the other hand, I miss very much. He died in June 2012, and there’s a part of my heart that is permanently broken. He was a huge part of my life, and it’s very unsettling to think the only way I’ll see him again is if we meet again in whatever life exists beyond this one. And that’s if there exists a life beyond this one. Lot of uncertainty there…
2. Don’t be afraid of loving people, but don’t be afraid of letting them go either.
My mom has told me before that I jump into relationships with both feet, not being cautious or careful about how fast I fall for someone. I acknowledge that she is 100% correct. And though it’s caused me some serious heartache, I wouldn’t change that part of my personality for anything. Love is not something that should be saved and horded away like rations for some kind of emotional apocalypse. You can always make more love, so I say go for it. It’s not like the world doesn’t need it.
However, I would change how long I tend to cling to people who are more poisonous snake than human. I have sat through some very terrible storms, hoping that a rainbow lay on the other side instead of running for shelter. You should never be waiting for someone to love you or to treat you well. They should want to because they appreciate the love you’ve given them and want to reciprocate the gift.
3. Being happy is less work that being miserable.
I’ll admit, there are days when I have a tough time remembering this one. It can be so easy to wallow in self-pity and paint the world in all dark and dirty hues. I’m not saying you should force yourself to never be sad, but don’t let one setback lead you to look for more evidence that the world is a joyless place. If you’re unhappy, be unhappy; let it out like a splinter in warm water. Don’t let the unhappy moments cover up the happy ones, because you won’t be able to get them back. I have never regretted letting happiness overshadow sadness, but I have regretted missing out on feeling happy because of a cruddy moment in my day.
4. Before you ask “Why?” determine what you plan to do with the information.
This has a twofold meaning. First, it’s another way of saying “pick your battles.” If you’re asking the question just to be contrary, you’re wasting time adding grumpiness to your day as well as the other person. Not cool, brah.
Also, this could be read as “don’t ask a question unless you’re prepared to hear the answer.” Pretty self-explanatory. Unless the answer will help you in some way or you’re prepared to act on in it, just leave it be.
5. Treat others how you want to be treated.
Yes, I’m aware that I sound like a Sunday School teacher and/or your mother. I’m okay with that, because I really do love this rule. The more you judge others, the more you tend to judge yourself, and then you put down others to try and make yourself feel justified in your judgments. It’s a terrible cycle that does no good for anyone. However, if you can’t manage to follow this wisdom all the time (God knows I can’t), don’t worry. We are human, and human’s make mistakes. It’s how we learn 🙂
6. “We are infinite.”
This is a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We could debate what Mr. Chbosky meant with this line all day, but for the sake of my list I’m putting my thoughts. I have lived 11571120 minutes. That’s a lot. And I’m only about 1/4 of the way through my life. And if I divide those minutes into moments, that number just explodes. One could say that it’s…infinite. I am made up of infinite moments – some wonderful, some sad, some shared with others, but all unique.
7. Remember your friends.
This one comes straight from a letter I wrote to my 18-year-old self in the second grade. Wisdom from the mouths of babes, eh? Every friend I’ve ever had has had a profound effect on my life. I can’t say that it was all for the better, but, if I may quote Wicked, “people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn.” So remember the bad friends, because there was a reason you gave them your friendship in the first place, and if nothing else they taught you a valuable lesson. And remember the good friends, and keep them close, because they’ve always been there for you and you love them as your own soul.
8. Know the difference between what you do and who you are.
My about page gives a pretty good example of this. What you do can change very easily for the most part (Once I start drinking a lot of coffee, I have to wean myself off slowly). Who you are, however is a different matter. Who you are determines what you do, how you think, how life affects you. It’s much easier to know what you do than who you are, unless you are extremely self-aware. If you are, I envy you my friend.
9. Don’t let anyone else tell you who you are.
This is related to number 8, and came directly from some of my friends thinking it was their place to tell me who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to feel. Not only did it push me away from them, but it was completely wrong. A person’s life can’t be forced, no matter how much someone else wishes it. This also relates to all of the RIDICULOUS ideas the media puts into your head on a daily basis. Your dress size, hair color, and desires are under no one’s control but yours. You should never apologize for who you are under the pressure of someone else’s demand (the things you’ve done, however, are a different matter).
I think Herman Hesse said it best: “There’s no reality except the one contained in us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.”
10. If you can’t define what something is, start by defining what it isn’t.
Examples include love, parenting, and mathematics. Sometimes a task or idea seems completely daunting, but chipping away at everything that shouldn’t be attached to it eventually makes it more manageable.
11. Things usually work out better the less you force it.
This applies to cooking, relationships, and car keys. If you try to force a sauce to taste good instead of understanding what ingredients work best with that kind of sauce, chances are that you’re going to end up with one funky tasting concoction.
If you try to force a relationship to be what you want it to be, it won’t work out because you’re pushing in the wrong direction. I had an ex-boyfriend who didn’t want to be in a relationship (it went against his selfish nature to have to think about someone else), but I forced and pushed until he agreed, and I ended up being far too miserable for far to long. On the other hand, I dated a guy for a summer, and when we were both getting ready to head back to school, I didn’t try to force a relationship to last or try to hold him to any promises. We ended up staying pretty good friends, and I know that wouldn’t have happened if I had demanded a relationship.
Also, a word of advice: If it’s below freezing outside and you’re trying to unlock your car with the key and the key won’t budge, don’t try to force it. The lock needs thawed because it has frozen shut and you’re just going to bend your key.
12. If someone is willing to hold and comfort you while you sob uncontrollably, keep them. And someday be one of those someones.
I know this one sounds a little depressing, but it’s also important. Understand that these kinds of people are willing to put aside everything, in some cases even their own hurt, and hold you up when you can’t manage on your own. I remember when my Great-Grandpa died – I had just turned 6 and this was my first experience with death. I didn’t want to walk up to the casket because I didn’t want to see what death looked like. My older brother held my hand and told me that Papa Andy was just sleeping. He kept saying it until we walked by. You have to understand that my brother isn’t always the most expressive being, so that day is seared into my memory forever, not because of how sad it was, but because, without thinking, my brother put aside his own feelings of loss to help me get through that line.
I also feel the need to give props to one of my best friends in the world. After I ended my friendship with the people mentioned in number 9, they started to get nasty, and quite mean. They said hateful and untrue things about me to other people. Now, I’d like to pretend that I took it with a stiff upper lip, but not only would that be a lie, but it would be shameful for me to ignore my friend who hugged me while I screamed and cried (yes, I know, I’m a biggest of babies). Sometimes all you need is to know one person is on your side. This is not to say that he was the only one on my side, but at that moment I felt very isolated, and the physical presence was comforting. So be on the lookout for people who need someone on their side.
13. “How do you know when it’s over? Maybe when you feel more in love with your memories than with the person standing in front of you.”
This quote comes from the debut novel of Gunnar Ardelius, I Need You More Than I Love You and I Love You to Bits. I think this fits very well with number 2. It gives way to a lot of self-reflection: are you really in love with someone? Or are you just in love with who you perceived them to be when you first met? This can even be generalized to friendship, because we love our friends. People grow in their own ways, and you have to learn to recognize when you are growing in a different direction than someone else.
14. “Forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
I got this one from the following picture that a friend of mine posted on Facebook:
This is a poignant message because it points out that anger doesn’t just hurt the person you’re angry at, but you as well. Every minute you spend being angry at someone is a minute that could be spent loving someone else. And the more you hang onto your anger, the more likely it is to consume you. “When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you,” as Nietzsche said.
15. Always assume that whatever you say about someone else will get back to them.
It can also be read as: “Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t be willing to say to their face.” Here we have wisdom straight from the mouth of my mother. Following this has kept me out of more than a couple of scrapes. Usually when someone confronts you about talking behind their back, they expect you to get angry and defensive, or even deny it. But if you turn around and own it, they will be surprised 99.44% of the time, especially if you tell them why you said it. Not only will likely gain respect, but honestly, do you want to be known as the person who talks about people behind their backs?
16. What you want should never come at the expense of somebody else.
I’ve seen this happen far too much in my lifetime. In school I’ve seen the shy smart kids picked out, offered false promises of friendship or veiled threats of hatred in exchange for answers to homework questions. I’ve seen “friends” use each other to get to a boy, a party, or even other friends. In life there will always be people who think that the way to make it is to beat down the competition around them, pushing everyone else down so they can feel a little bit taller.
I implore to not become one of these people. True, there have been times where I missed out because someone else was willing to slit a few metaphorical throats. But I feel as if I must have been a samurai in some past life, because I see no honor in a dishonest victory. If I achieve something I want it to be because I did the work necessary, not because I removed someone else from first place. I have no right to say that my dreams and desires are more important than anyone else’s.
In a past post I mentioned a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy. In his speech, he says: “Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings.” Next time you look at someone, see not a competitor or a step-stool. See instead your brother, or your mother, or you best friend, or whoever you love in this world. Could you hurt them and cause them pain if you knew it would get you whatever you want?
17. Some things are not better than nothing.
Another wonderful nugget of wisdom from my mother, given after every falling-out with dysfunctional friends and one or two dysfunctional boyfriends. Think about a simplified example: If you really wanted chocolate, but the only kind around was chocolate covered cat guts. Would you eat it? (I’m assuming, of course that you don’t like chocolate covered cat guts) The same applies to many, many other things.
Having no friends is better than having friends who treat you poorly and bring you down (I’ve had both, so I can confirm). Having no boyfriend (or girlfriend) is miles above being with someone who doesn’t treat you exactly how you want and deserve to be treated. Scroll back up to number 6. See how much time you have? You have all the time in the world to wait for someone who is exactly the person you’ve been looking for. (Also, for any of you who is still convinced that you have limited time to find love – do you really want to waste time being with the wrong guy (or girl)?)
18. “Everyone thinks the phoenix rises from the ashes, gleaming and unscathed. Until they know better”
This is my favorite line from one of my favorite books: Skin Deep. If ever I were to get a large tattoo on my shoulder, it would a phoenix, for this line. (The one here is absolutely stunning.) Sometimes, the finished product comes after hardship and messy, back-breaking effort. In the book, the finished product was pottery which had been rakued and needed layers of soot scrubbed off before the beautiful glaze could shine through. In life the finished product can be many things. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what exactly those things are.
19. Change your mind.
Caveat: I don’t mean this to be read as an endorsement for indecision. I mean this more as a lesson of open-mindedness, and to say that we are not held captive to the decisions we made yesterday (Legal contracts? Yes, generally. Whether or not you like lasagna? No).
In science, theories change based on new information. It wasn’t until 1897 that they discovered there were particles smaller than the atom. Let that sink in for a second. During the American Civil War, they still thought that an atom was the smallest piece of matter in existence. Now we have found there are particles even smaller than the electron and proton.
As you get new information – about people, about the future, about anything, really – feel free to adjust your way of thinking of things. If you find out the company you’ve wanted to work for since you were 5 years old requires all employees to kick puppies and small children every day, feel free to find another company. Life changes every minute, and so do you. Don’t feel the need to be cemented in place by who you were yesterday. Just so long as you understand how your actions of yesterday influence today and tomorrow.
20. “There are times when silence has the loudest voice.”
Number 20 splits the credit, as I found this exact wording in a fortune cookie, but my mother used to say something similar when I was younger. I explain it to you the way she always explained it to me. Have you ever met someone who yelled, like, all the time? Even if they aren’t angry, their volume is always on max. How much attention do you willingly pay to the person? My guess is you either learn to tune them out or think about where you can find some duct tape. But what about the guy who talks pretty sparingly, and when he does, he speaks very quietly. Whenever he speaks, you always stop to listen because you don’t want to miss what he has to say. So while you love that tight little neon green number, maybe it’s better saved for the weekend?
21. Don’t look at how far you have to go – look at how far you’ve come.
While I’m not the biggest fan of fitspo, I just love this little gem: I’ve found this true when I’m 4 miles into a run an going uphill and all I want to do is lie down in a ditch for a couple of minutes, and I turn around and see the great expanse of road I’ve already run. It never fails to give me a “How in the hell did I do that??” moment. It’s very empowering. It’s true in life, too. If we look back at all of the things we’ve made it through, it almost seems impossible that we were ever that strong. But we were. We are.
22. “Comfort zone are overrated. They make you lazy.”
This last bit of wisdom is a quote from another one of my favorite authors. It’s from Melina Marchetta’s book Saving Francesca. It’s probably one of the most difficult things on this list to take to heart. It’s so easy to take the path that is familiar and easy, instead of trying something new or blazing your own trail. I’m not saying that you should conquer your fear of new things. That’s something completely different than what I’m going for hear. I’m saying that instead of saying “I can’t” or “It’s impossible,” admit that what’s really going on is that you’re scared, and then go and do it anyway.
Last year I had the opportunity to take a driving trip to the reservation in Zuni, New Mexico with 11 other students and 2 professors. It was a three day drive, there was no cell reception in the two-room house we stayed in, and it was the farthest away I had ever been away from home by myself.
Unlike Samwise, however, my adventure was amazing from start to finish. I could write an entire book just on that 3-week trip. So I encourage you: go find your own Zuni.
And one to grown on. “See what no one else sees. What everyone else chooses not to see, out of fear or conformity or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.”
One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies: Patch Adams