The following list consists of realizations or lessons that I’ve learned being alive for 30 years. Oh, and profanity. I’m not trying to promulgate them as universal truths or anything like that. It’s just a list. Mostly for me. I hope you enjoy it.
1. I don’t need all the shit I have.
Seriously. I had too much stuff when I had this epiphany. Do I even know all the stuff that I have? How many of the clothes that I own do I actually wear? I have been wearing the same T-shirt size since high school. Some of the T-shirts I had were still from high school. I didn’t wear them but I had them. They were mine in a way so I’d just kept them. Moved them from place to place and didn’t consider it. Am I really keeping all that clothing for when I get skinny again? Am I really gonna get skinny again? How many times have I moved that junk that I never use? Do I even know what all those cables and chargers go to? If I really want to travel the world, can I even begin to take it with me? If not, am I really going to pay for it to be in storage that whole time? Nope. Ditch it. I probably won’t miss it. Turns out that I haven’t.
2. Anger is a great force.
It is said of anger that if I can control it, then I can do a great number of things. If I can’t, even the most miniscule task will seem insurmountable. Ever been frustrated about traffic and then come home and try to cook dinner only to make a mistake and then intentionally burn the house down because fuck all the ngto3e[qjhgp0tbqj0nh]0qa *destroys keyboard* ……………………… *pulls new keyboard from stack of keyboards to replace smashed keyboards* I mean, I haven’t but I’ve been close. I try to now make sure that if I’m angry, then I’m angry about the right things. We should be angry about all the actual injustice in the world and not about how slow our phones are being as they SEND AND RECEIVES SIGNALS FROM A SATELLITE IN FUCKING SPACE.
3. The world doesn’t revolve around me.
For many of us, it can be difficult to view the world from a perspective other than our own. After all, everything is usually happening to me, is it not? Remember that I’m not the only one stuck in traffic. Or the crowded grocery store. And I’m most certainly not the only one who can have a bad day. This is something of which I used to be incredibly guilty. Less so, now that I remind myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Nor does it revolve around anyone else. We’re all in this together.
4. Make sure it’s what I want.
This goes with a lot of different things. Relationships. Work. Food. Stuff. Make sure that something is what I really want. Don’t just buy a thing because it’s a thing and I’m excitable. Am I going to even want it later? Could I wait two weeks to decide if I still want it? Am I going to regret ordering Chinese food when the electricity bill comes due? Yes. Does this look like it’s going anywhere or is it just sex until we both realize it? Would I do this job if it didn’t pay? Making sure that something is what I truly want has helped me check and rearrange certain aspects of my life.
5. You are not your stuff. You can’t just “buy” in.
I’ve been guilty of buying into things to try and become someone else. To try and change my life. Oh, I’m a Minimalist now? Buy all the books. Life guru? Buy all the books. Want to travel the world? Buy the clothes, underwear and guess what else? More books. That will get you there. Want to lose weight? Buy the fitness clothes/equipment. Why didn’t I lose weight? Must have bought the wrong shit. “Buy the stuff, be the thing” isn’t a solution and it certainly isn’t sustainable. Or healthy. You are not your stuff has been a big realization for me. Having a guitar doesn’t mean you’re a guitarist if you don’t ever play it. I would know since I’ve had one sitting in a corner of my room since I was 16 years old.
6. Stop. Just for a moment.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing one thing after the next. There’s always a dream to chase, a goal to reach or a distraction eager for your attention. Make sure to pause and take time to enjoy the moments worth enjoying. Look around the dinner table and note how happy your family is or how much fun your friends are having. Step outside and really notice how nice a day it might be. Joshua Fields Millburn calls it “being on the mountain.” Mostly because you don’t reach the peak and immediately plan your descent. You stop to take in the view at least. Auto-pilot is responsible for me not stopping for the moment. Ever drive to work and not remember how you got there? Auto-pilot. Going to visit grandma? Hug and kiss, same stories and laughs then it’s goodbye without any real interaction? Auto-pilot. Wake up. Eat breakfast. Same coffee shop. Same cubicle. Oh crap, is it Tuesday? Where did Monday go? Or my weekend? What happened? Spend your whole paycheck before the bills came in? Auto-pilot Consumer Suckah. Stop. Take part. Focus. Be aware of your life. Live it. For, as far as we know, it’s the only one like this that we get.
7. Change is part of life.
Things are going to change in your life. People will change. Jobs will change. You will change. You can change. You can choose to change. Change is a part of the growing process and it’s not always going to be pretty. When you can see change as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, then that uncertainty starts to feel more like variety. These are the moments when you grow. I’ve changed a lot over my past 30 years. I mean, at one point early in my life, I was shitting myself every day and now it doesn’t happen that often.
8. You’re the only one in your way.
The only person who stops you from being the best version of yourself is yourself. When you doubt yourself, it hinders your dreams.
9. Honesty is easier.
Honesty. Merely, telling the truth seems to be growing increasingly rare. As a result, it’s all the more important that you do it. Honesty with yourself and towards others will lead you to being more open. It will help you be true to yourself and stay real in the eyes of others.
10. Hedonic adaptation will fuck your life up (if you let it).
Why do you want that big promotion? Because your life is gonna change once it happens, huh? So you work hard to get that promotion. YES! You can finally get out of debt. You can start eating kale and really turn things around. You’re happy and you’ll be happy for a few days, weeks or months. Then you’ll fix some perceived “injustices” like not having any nice shoes to wear or not being able to go out to dinner when you want. You’ll decide you deserve to trade in your old car for a financed new one that you want because you want it and you deserve it because you work hard. But what you really want is that big promotion. Why? Because your life is gonna change once it happens, huh? So you work hard to get that promotion…to finally get out of debt… kale…wtf? This has happened before. Yep. Hedonic adaptation will fuck your life up (if you let it).
11. Let shit go.
I used to be a master of keeping track of those who wronged me and to whom I should stay resentful towards at all times. What a miraculous waste of energy and time that was. Makes me exhausted just thinking about it now. I can understand that, for some people, it might not be easier to forgive just yet or even at all. My default emotion was anger for a long time in my life. Something about a broken home and guilt or whatever. So it was just easier to be angry. To be misanthropy incarnate. Forgiveness will become easier once you realize that it is for you much more than it is for them. It will be easier to become happier once you start to forgive.
12. You don’t have to say everything you want to say.
Think for a second before you speak. You can save yourself time, embarrassment and perhaps even keep an air of mystery around you if you keep it shut sometimes. Not every thought that comes to your brain needs to fall out your mouth-hole. Whether it’s true or isn’t true is often irrelevant. A lot of times the truth will be known eventually. I mean, did your mom always have to say something for you to know you were in trouble or could a look convey just as much information? Shut it.
13. Just because a co-worker is friendly, doesn’t mean they’re your friend.
Be careful what you talk about with people at your job. Someone is always willing to cut you down to get ahead.
14. Hard work beats talent.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at something if you don’t use your talent(s). If you won’t use them. Choose not to. Talent is sometimes squandered by those who have it. I think it’s better to learn how to work hard instead. I’m a quick learner when it comes to certain things. During college and in my career I never studied for things. Never had to takes notes even. A lot of times I just understood the subjects, took the tests or did the job and moved on. There are a whole bunch of times, however, that I didn’t pick something up right away and those moments were a nightmare for me because I never learned that part about the diligence and patience required to work hard. Picking up the guitar I got at 16 didn’t instantly make me Jimmy Hendrix. “This sucks” and I put it down. Often, this thinking lead me to giving up on something far too soon because it wasn’t easy from the start. Hard work. Practice. Studying. Patience. These things makes a world of difference.
15. Every decision matters.
This has been something that I have been told over and over again by my seniors but it took years to root into my thoughts. Every decision matters. Throughout various aspects of life. Relationships. Education. Money. Are you going to the bar every week and drinking your woes away? You could stop that habit and put the money into investments, savings or to help you pay your bills on time (which would probably help your woes). That barista isn’t going to date you regardless of how much coffee you buy and small talk you make, is she? You should probably cut your losses and make coffee at home. Maybe now would be a good time to go back to school and finish your education by taking those classes you’re not interested in. You probably should think twice before eating a whole pizza. But you won’t do that, will you? Then you can’t blame the rest of the world for not getting ahead. Every decision matters.
16. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
It took me a long time to get this one but my life grew better once I did.
17. It’s all small stuff.
We get very few, if any, moments in life that will show us how small our problems actually are. You know or have seen people that have had some close calls in their lives. Whether it’s a war returnee, suffering refugees, cancer survivors and a million other tragic occurrences that people are subjected to. Seeing people subjected to real, life-crippling experiences can give you perspective and correct your thinking that your problems are so overwhelming.
18. Avoidance is not a solution.
The list of things you can avoid until they go away is much smaller than the list of things that will not go away despite how long you ignore the shit out of them. For me, most of this stemmed from conflict aversion or simply procrastination. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. Better to face it and fix it than just trying to sweep it under the rug.
19. You can fake it until you make it.
For someone who used to default to anger, realizing that I could fake a smile until it became genuine was life-changing for me as a younger man. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t express how you’re feeling but, if you’re not sure why you’re so upset, try smiling a little to see how it feels. You can always go back to grump face if that feels better.
20. People are fighting battles you can’t see.
I have a medical condition that results in hormone imbalances. Hashimoto’s, yay. For the last several years, things have felt “off” for me. I didn’t really feel much like myself until this past year when my medicine stabilized. My family has noticed the changes the most because they have the longest period of interactions with me. Newcomers or distant friends probably just thought I was an asshole or that I’d become someone else. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to other people that have no frame of reference on these types of things. However, this situation reminded me that people are sometimes fighting battles that I can’t see. Personal struggles. Invisible illnesses. Things that I have no idea about could be going on and maybe, sometimes, I should give people the benefit of the doubt.
21. Humor is incredibly important.
Learn to laugh. Laugh at yourself. Make fucked up jokes if that’s what it takes. Remember what Josef Stalin said “Dark Humor is like food, not everybody gets it.” I mean, he didn’t really say this but you get the idea.
22. Attitude is incredibly important.
It is incredible what a positive attitude can do to your day. Or your week. Or even, off and on, a whole year. Your family, wife and even people you work with will take notice. The kids will be happy that you’re around and not dread when you come home from work or wherever. No one likes a shitty attitude. Not even you. So why carry one around all the time?
23. Platitudes and aphorisms can be incredibly important depending upon the person, place or context therein involved with said platitude or aphorism.
Seriously. There’s a lot of great advice out there that we become numb to. I think that sometimes we’re just not in the right place in our lives or the proper frame of mind to hear it. Let alone understand it.
24. There are only two situations in life.
In life, there are two possible situations to encounter. Only two at the core of everything. One is a situation in which you cannot control or influence the outcome. In which case, there is very little benefit to be gained by being stressed or fretting about. The other situation is one in which the outcome can be controlled or influenced by you. In which case, you should do everything within your power to bring the situation to your favor and then stop stressing and fretting about. You’ve done all you can and that’s all you can do. Let it be.
25. Good relationships are important to survival.
Your support system is comprised of your friends, family and those closest to you. These people can make or break you. It’s been said that you’re the combination of the 5 people that you spend the most time around. I know that’s pretty intense to think about but consider if the people around you are lifting you up or holding you back. This goes for family too. If they’re bringing you down all the time, dump ’em.
26. I suck at money.
As a matter of fact, I hold the opinion that most people suck at money. But we can suck less at money. With some effort, education and defined goals. I refuse to be bad with money any longer.
27. Develop a passion.
Most of us aren’t born knowing what our passion is. We have no idea that we love art until we try art. And try it again. And maybe even again. Fuck up a painting and so we paint another one. Write a horrible song, love it anyways and write another. Compose a sonnet. Whittle a widget. Developing a passion is a process like many of the other things we are going to do in our lives. So do it but be patient with yourself. Be patient with your passion. Try some shit. Find the thing you love doing more than anything else and do more of that.
28. I believe most people are inherently good.
I have been asked many times what beliefs I hold. My beliefs are as follows: I believe in people. I believe that people who are truly good exist and perform good actions because they choose to, not because they expect a reward and certainly not because they fear post-mortem reprisal. Most of us know, in our hearts, what is just and unjust. We are born with such moral equipment. We must continue to act this way for our children’s sake. So that maybe one day they will know a world without suffering, without hunger, a world unified in the same causes, to live and make better the lives of one another.
29. Time is worth your consideration.
“Time is free but it is priceless and cannot be bought or sold. Time never stops and cannot be stored to be used at a later date. We can never regain the time that we wasted or lost. We must use our time wisely because when the hands of time run out we will not be able to gain one more minute.” – David L. Hill
Everything has a cost. That cost is not always money. Time is always a factor. Money given in exchange for your time at the factory. It’s not the cliché “time is money.” No. It’s “Money (Paper) = Life Energy/Time you can never get back.” Time is really worth considering since you never know exactly how much you have left.
30. I’m still learning.
I can’t pretend that all these lessons will apply to you. Hell, they may not even help you at all. All I know is what has helped me. But I still don’t know all the shit and there are plenty of lessons to come. Yep. Even after all these years, I still don’t know everything. I never will. I can only hope to continue to learn and live every day the best way that I can. I hope you can do the same.