Wednesday, August 8, 2012

6 Things I've Learned Along the Way

  Growing up ain't easy.  There are so many things you learn in such a short span of time that sometimes it's hard to grasp it all.  Some life lessons are obvious ones, and your parents or some other adult in your life can at least warn you of them if not fully prepare you for them.  This list of things I've learned along the way is by no means comprehensive or authoritative.  I'm quite sure that it's also far from complete.  It's simply a collection of lessons I felt like sharing.   Make time to notice your place in the world, and how it may or may not have changed since the last time you stopped to take note.     
Enjoy the ride.

    1.  Pick your battles.
Life is too short to spend all of your waking hours arguing with people whose minds you will never change.  Even a brief introduction into the real world as a young person will have you reeling at what you, at that time, perceive to be the absolute ignorance of your elders.  If you're opinionated AND outspoken, it can get even harder to resist the temptation to bite at all of the bait that will drift your way.  My advice?  Only pick the juiciest, plumpest bait that has the greatest potential to enable positive change to occur.  Resist the urge to engage in the same, tired debates about issues that will likely remain controversial for many years to come.  That doesn't mean you have to give up entirely though.  Chances are, there are a lot of other people who think like you, and chances are even greater that they organize to do something within their community.  Get involved!

     2.  You can be humble and self-confident at the same time.

There is a special place in Hell reserved for the people who started making other people feel dumb for being smart.  I know that you know what I mean if you've ever been surrounded by others that are threatened by your intelligence.  Since when did stupid become the new smart?  I don't buy it.  This economic pit of despair that our country is currently languishing in has clearly shown us that education is one of the most clearly defining factors that separates those with the jobs and those without.  So be proud of your smarts, and remember that education is a lifelong process.
That being said, many of those same 'educated' are equally languishing in their cesspools of student debt, which leads me to the next portion of this lesson: Be humble. You may not immediately start working in the field of your dreams, and you may have to do some less than desirable jobs along the way to getting there, but never, never quit.  Self-confidence and humbleness don't make quitting an option.

  3.  There are certain things in life on which you do not skimp:
  •   Haircuts- There is a reason people go to school to learn how to cut and style hair.  Choose a professional!  You might spend a little more on the cut/color, etc. but people notice your hair, and as one of my favorite sitcom characters Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock says, "After all, your hair is your head suit."  I don't mean this in a superficial way, and of course I know that hair will grow, but it's hard to feel self-confident when you're worried about your hair.
  • Toilet Paper- There's a reason that those singular, paper-wrapped rolls are so cheap...because they will rub your ass raw!  Seriously, when it comes to hygiene, splurge a little.  
  • Pet Food- Crappy pet food can KILL your precious animals and even make you ill as well.  Choose pet food that is made without grain, corn, or soy. 
  • Your Food- You really are what you eat, so eat a vegetable or two.  When it comes to olive oil, buy organic extra virgin olive oil.  I know it costs more, but so what.  Simple, fresh ingredients make the best food, as I've said time and again.  Quality over quantity generally always applies when it comes to something that is supposed to nourish and sustain you.  Plus, you'll probably save money if you buy more produce because it usually doesn't require any packaging.  Did you think companies wouldn't pass that cost along to you, the consumer?  Think again.
  4.  Edumahcate yourself, aka, Read a Book!

  Learning doesn't stop the minute you graduate from high school.  If you didn't even make it there, then I don't need to tell you how hard life is, you already know.  College is not for everyone, but education IS.  Be informed, stay informed, get empowered.  If you plan to reproduce, just know that 50% of your genes are going to be passed along to your offspring.  You should also know that children born into homes with less-educated and/or parents living below the poverty line have lower vocabulary levels, tend to struggle more in school, and have less access to health services.

  5.  Find a purpose, benefiting yourself and hopefully others, and do it.

  This one isn't exactly easy, but it is essential to a life well-lived, in my opinion.  Maybe it takes you awhile you figure out where you fit into this and how you can make a difference in your own life and the lives of others, but chances are you know what you're passionate about.  Sometimes it takes doing something you loathe to find what you are born to be doing.  Maybe, hypothetically, you once worked for the Homicide Department in a large, metropolitan area and day after day were confronted with violence, suffering, and rage.  Then maybe one day you had an epiphany and realized that you'd much rather be a librarian.  You figured out what it would take, and you did it.  While this does not define your happiness, it does shape your future.

  6.  "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."  -Randy Pausch 

  Without being too cliche, sometimes what you want isn't always what you need.  One thing I am sure of is that all we are is a result of how we react to what comes our way in life.  You can run the gamut of emotions- you can be upset, you can be bitter, or you can take things in stride and grow from the defeats as well as the triumphs.  Even the beautiful lotus blossoms up from the mucky depths.
   What have you learned along the way?

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