With a few hours until my twenty-seventh birthday I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned so far. True, it may not be profound, original, deep, nor necessarily the most important lessons I’ve learned so far, but it is what comes to mind this evening.
- Never take your family for granted. They will be with you in good times, share in your triumphs, laugh with you and love you; but just as importantly they will stand with you in the bad times, lift you when you fall, counsel you and respect your decisions. There is no force on earth quite like that of family. You never know what tomorrow will bring, don’t take those in your life for granted.
- Do what makes you happy. Find a job you love and do it, no matter the cost. Fame, wealth and prestige can fade but a foundation of happiness…well, that’s another kettle of fish. What is riskier? Working at a job for a third of your day doing something you love to do or spending a third of your day at a job that you hate all so you can make a few extra dollars. You’ll spend more of your weekdays working then you will being awake with your family, don’t waste it.
Don’t find a job with good vacation time,
find a job you don’t need to escape from.
- Believe in something. Walking through this world faithless would be so lonely. I can’t tell you what to believe in, but if I can advise you on anything it is this: believe.
- Travel. If for no other reason so you can return with a renewed appreciation for home. There are, of course, countless other reasons to travel. Such as taking photos with inanimate objects. However travel with care, you never know how it will change you. Although it’s important that you let it effect you in whatever way it will.
‘And you promise that I will come back?’ asked Bilbo.
‘No, ‘ Gandalf replied, ‘and if you do, you will not be the same.’
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Do something you never ever thought you would. Last fall I went to a comic convention in New York. Did I ever think I would do something like that? No, I didn’t consider myself outgoing enough for that. But I opened myself up to the possibility and actually had a marvelous time.
- Go on random trips. Similar to the top two, take trips that have little pre-planning or intention. I have taken a handful of these trips and each one has turned out to be exactly what I needed when I needed it. While studying abroad I whisked away to Athens for the weekend which served as a haven of calm from the stress that was end of term. Then there was a four cities in six days whirlwind road trip with an old friend. There is a lot you can learn on one-on-one trips with friends. Since she and I took that trip three summers ago (counting this summer) we’ve taken one trip together a year. Since that first trip we’ve planned a bit more, but always allow for plenty of spontaneity.
- Try new things. You’ll never know if you like something or not until you try. Anyone can say I don’t like… but you never know until you do it. Sure, it might be scary, or you might make a fool of yourself…but you just might have fun too. I don’t like solo singing in front of people, so karaoke is not something you’d think I would enjoy (despite being in chorus all the years I was in school). However, the occasional night of singing is fun. Sure, I still am terrified to go up and sing in front of people, but sometimes you just have to suck it up if you want to have the experience.
- People will judge you. Sometimes it will be favorable sometime unfavorable but you can’t let it stop you. Don’t hold yourself back based on the secret (or not so secret) thoughts of others. You can waste your time trying to please everyone or you can invest your time in being the best version of yourself and that will bring the right people to you.
Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter,
and those who matter don’t mind.
– Bernard Baruch
- Be willing to retry things. As a child I hated mustard, now, twenty years later, you’ll find honey mustard on my burgers. Let my mustard serve as a metaphor for whatever.
- Let your inner child out. There is a time and place for everything, that includes being a little kid again. Don’t get me wrong, being a “grown-up” is awesome. But sometimes you need a break from all the ties that come with the perks. At these times it’s best to indulge in whatever you’re inner-self is saying.
- Enjoy the time you have with your friends while you have it. In a world of more, more, more it’s easy to want/expect that there will always be more of everything, more time with people is no different. However as I’ve gotten older, and the time I get with my friends lessens, I’ve learned to cherish the time we carve out for one another and not to waste it. Although, at times with our antics, it may seem as a waste but each laugh and each story is special. As we move further away, as our lives change (whether it be to marriage, family or career) time together is rare.
- Read. Reading allows you to travel to far off places, fight impossible battles, or live a hundred different lives all from the comfort of your home.
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy to expect or want everyone to see things our way, but unless you’re willing to do the same, you’ll never deserve it in return. Remember, although we are all the protagonist of our own story, you might just be the antagonist of someone else’s story.
- Make goals. Whether it is to roller blade 50 miles in a month, to write a book, or to learn russian – make a goal. Don’t stagnate, continue to grow even after you enter you leave school.
- Don’t live in the past. There will be great things in your past, and although remembering the good times is fine, don’t let past glories dim the wonderful things happening in your present. Likewise, there will be things in your past that you may regret or don’t like. Do not dwell on these. Make them life lessons but don’t let the memory of them haunt you and pull you down. Things that happened over a decade ago can only effect you negatively if you let them. Learn from your past, both the bad and the good, let it advise your present, not dictate it.
- Embrace your failures. Failure is a part of life. If you wish to avoid it then acclimate yourself with the reality of living a very dull life indeed.
Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
– Henry Ford
- Laugh. A day without laughter is truly a terrible day. Even if it is something as simple as taking amusement at a clumsy moment, find at least one thing to laugh about each day. They say laughter is the best medicine for a reason. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to my parents house being a bit run down from the day, and a half hour there with them is a better tonic to happiness than anything you could try and buy in a store.
- Always have something to do. I usually travel with either a book or a notebook with me. And I don’t mean travel like vacation, I mean in my purse there is always a book or notebook. That way when I get places early or unexpectedly have to wait I’m not bored. Not that boredom is bad, I’d just rather be doodling or reading.
- Accept Yourself. You will be spending a lot of time with yourself in your life. It will be long and arduous if you spend it at war. This isn’t to say you can’t evolve through out your life, just make sure you accept and embrace yourself. You may be an athlete, a nerd, a philosopher, a song-writer or an analyst, but above all you are you.
- Make time for others. No man is an island, and even introverts need people.
- Go off-line. This is one I have a lot of troubles with, but when I do accomplish it I always appreciate it. In the technological age it’s difficult to not be connected to the internet 24/7. Sure, in theory, we are able to stay connected with one another more efficiently. However, if being connected to the world interferes with the time you are actually with people then that’s no good. So, next time you are out with friends try to spend less time instagraming your food at the restaurant or tweeting or whatever and more time talking to the people you are with. Like I said, I struggle with this one a lot, I go through phases, but over all I’m happier with the time I’m with people if I leave my phone in my purse more.
- Journal. Sometimes it helps clear thoughts, other times it helps purge thoughts. Sometimes I don’t want to write anything and sometimes I just write the same thing over and over again. But I find the periods of time when I am journaling to be a little less chaotic to those times when I am not journaling and it maybe as simple as taking that time to reflect everyday. Even if it is as simple as writing down ‘Today was _____‘ at least you’ve been able to think about the day and put it to bed.
- Sleep. So often things seem so difficult or hard and then I slip off for the night or a nap and things are so much clearer. Pretty much the equivalent of ‘have you tried turning it off and on?‘
- Exercise. I’m far from the picture of health, but even if it is as simple as going for a walk around the park I always feel better after some fresh air or elevating my heart rate, sometimes exhausted if it was a hard work out, but still better.
- Listen to others. You never know exactly what insight others can offer. No two people have the same exact experiences, listen to what others have to say (especially if you are asking for advice) and learn to take their criticism (but don’t let it weigh you down) or praise (but don’t let it give you an ego).
- Forgive people (including yourself). No one is perfect: not you, not your parents, not your siblings, not your heroes. The sooner you realized that people are human and imperfect the happier you will be. People may let you down, you may let others down, forgive them and forgive yourself. Resentment and anger will get you no where, so don’t bother with it. All it can do is weigh you down.
- Give to Others. Whether it is your time or your talents do something for someone else without expectation. Volunteer for an organization, donate blood, make a meal for a sick friend – do whatever you can for someone else every once and a while. Just this spring I was getting an ice cream at Dairy Queen and when I went to the window I was informed that the car in front of me had paid for it. I had had a rough day (hence the ice cream) and that random act of kindness put a smile back on my face.
Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.
– Frank A. Clark
There you have it, 27 thoughts for 27 years.
Until next time