Advice From An Unqualified Sage
Life is full of those, “I wish I knew that (insert arbitrary amount of time here) ago,” moments. Humans have a way of continually reliving the past and still finding things we could have done differently. We learn as we live and the cycle continues. Generations come after us, only to make the same mistakes we have.
Well, it seems I am always another year older, and (I think) another year wiser. I am perpetually looking back and thinking, “things could have been different if I knew then what I know now.” Since I do not have the ability to time travel, shake my younger self’s shoulders, and bestow her with the most sage advice, I will share it with you instead.
Flex Those Muscles
All my life, I had a plan: what I was going to do with the weekend; with my every minute after school; with my summer break, and every moment in between. I knew (THOUGHT I KNEW) where I wanted to be in five or ten years, and I knew (THOUGHT I KNEW) how to get there. Here is what I did not know--one cannot foresee future events; one can predict outcomes, but with no certainty can one absolutely know and understand every situation that will take place in his or her life.
The thing I learned about certain tidbits of advice is that you cannot accept them. You must find it on your way. I had to make my own mistakes, and I had to be in a place without a plan, without an idea, and without a goal to realize what I needed:
Flexibility (n.)--known as the ability to change with life, with yourself, even with the tides. The dictionary defines it as: “the quality of bending easily without breaking” (How perfect is that?)
The plans that I had five years ago are worlds away from the life I am living now. And while sometimes it can be scary to not know what is coming next, I would not want it any other way. I am open to the events of each day, and I am ready and willing to face what life gives me. When you are flexible, you are surprised by the joy of living. Everyday is an adventure because you are not constantly overlooking the present to analyze the future.
Contemporary World Issues--AKA Texting from my Jacket Pocket
Before I arrived at college, it was easy to let this section of my education fall by the wayside. Generally speaking, no one in high school cares about the news or what is going on in the world, but that changes when you get to college, or the real world for that matter. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who were voluntarily educating themselves about things that were not assigned to them by their least favorite teachers. I kept wondering when I was going to start taking an interest in these things. I used to feel like I was silly for thinking, “you will just wake up one day and care,” but then I actually did. I swear, it was overnight, and I cannot even identify exactly when. I woke up one day and was concerned about the world, about politics, about educating myself on new topics and trending concerns.
1) Do not worry if you are not a news fiend and you are not concerned about the interruptions in the Chinese Stock Market.
2) Try to find topics that do interest you, and find time to learn about them. Follow the news as best you can. Take an interest in current events worldwide. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the farther your wings can spread. Being educated allows you to reach more people and to understand the world around you. Knowledge is your base for morals, values, passions, and opinions. Embrace that so that you can fully embrace yourself.
Round and Round the World We Go….
Every day the world gets smaller. As technology develops, it becomes easier to reach people in every corner of the planet. There is no longer an excuse to not know the world. Again, I urge you to work on getting to know this planet. It is so easy to get lost in your own bubble. I have lived this many times. It is comfortable and familiar, and it offers you a place where you don’t necessarily have to get out of your comfort zone or challenge yourself. The world is small now and you do not have to be afraid to enter into the greater bubble of our planet as a whole.
Even as the world gets smaller, it remains quite large and varied. While technology aids in making the ends of the earth reachable, we should still strive to understand people who cannot afford this luxury. If you are reading this, you have most likely been granted a #blessed life. Not every person has been so lucky to be born into the same circumstances. Remember that there are those in this same world who do not have the luxury of living the way you do. Treat people with care and compassion. Always. Treat those living among your level of luxury with care and compassion. We cannot understand everyone's circumstances; therefore, we must always treat them kindly. No one wants to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Is this the set of Les Miserables?
When you are unhappy, I advise you to say something. It is as simple as that. To ensure that you are living (actually LIVING) life, you need to put yourself first. It is okay to be selfish sometimes. It is even necessary. If you want to change a part of your life, do it. You cannot continue to complain about something if you are not willing to do anything to change it. I understand that it will not be simple, but I guarantee that it will be worth it. If you only get one life to live, you may as well give it your best effort.
Be Yourself, B-E Yourself!
There is a place for you to be who you are. And I do mean completely. You will find a place, someday, that allows you to unabashedly be yourself; to unleash the weirdness; to cultivate those things that make you YOU; to mix and mingle with others who accept you and encourage you. I know at times you can feel alone, you can believe there is no place for you in this world, but you are wrong. Your time will come. It is different for everyone, but rest assured that one day, you will walk into a room and everything will click.
50 Shades of Bullshit
Do not let anyone’s negative comments shape who you are on the outside, or influence who you are on the inside. You should choose how you develop as a person. Do not allow people or their words and opinions to challenge the foundation you have been growing. As young women and men, we have trouble with confidence. The need to fit in overpowers the need to be individuals. I am sure that as some people grow older, they continue to follow the path of those around them, but those who stay true to themselves and challenge the mold, they are the ones who go far; who make a difference; who are able to know others, because they know themselves. Stay strong in the river of backhanded compliments, snide-remarks, side-eyes, and disapproval. Words can never hurt you…or rather, they should never be allowed to. Your body is beautiful because it is a body. Think of all the cool things it does every millisecond to keep you alive--RAD! Your opinions, values, and morals are perfect because they are yours and every person has the right to have those things. There is not a part of you that should be changed by the negativity of those who cannot see beauty in their fellow humans.
“Slow Down, Grab the Wall”
Perhaps the advice I most wish I could give my younger self is to always make sure that the work you are doing is for yourself. I am probably still butthurt (yes, I am still using that word) about this, so excuse my rant. I busted my ass in high school and at the end of applying for probably 25+ merit-based scholarships, I watched them go to the slackers of my graduating class who had merely skated through the last four years. I eased up a little in college but still remained very involved on campus and in the community. My resumé looked good, and I had a ton of experience to back it up. However, that did not help convince over 100 potential employers that I was worth a job, or even an interview. There were a lot of things that I did for myself that still look good on my resumé, but I spent too much time worrying about what would get me ahead, only to learn that in the end, it is mostly the luck of the draw. Hard work will get you places, but those places may not always be the ones you had your sights on.
I believe that I am in the right place today, but I did not come to it without disappointment. And now, even those internships I worked hard for and those Teaching Assistantships I begged for have no relevancy or application to what I want to do. The resumé boosters that I can apply to my future positions are those that were fueled by my passions in life. Some people are
lucky enough to know what their passions are before they enter college, some people watch their passions change, and others do not find those passions until long after they have exited school. My advice is to be guided by those passions (discovered and undiscovered) rather than potential careers. Build your resumé so that you can live the life you want to live and not be nailed down to an over-achieving position you felt expected to take on. You do not have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at age 21. But on the way to figuring it out, think beyond the piece of paper that seems to define young professionals.
The Actual Love Bug
Even now, as a super duper wise and grown ass woman, I think I know things. But I do not. What you think you know now, you do not actually know. This nugget of truth applies to many situations, but one in particular: love.
You do not love him and this is not the rest of your life. Perhaps this is the hardest advice to accept, even when it comes from within. When we are young, we think we know what love is. We think we know how to love to someone. We think we know how to be loved. We do not. If I tried to live a stable life with the boy I first “loved” the whole world would go up in flames.
That is not how love works. In the moment, I thought what I felt was love, and it may have been, but it was not the right love. It definitely did not match the kind of “forever” conversations we had. I allowed myself to believe I loved him and because of that, I pledged some secret loyalty to the relationship. That was stupid. When you are 20 years old and in a relationship of three years, you should NEVER have to convince yourself to make things work. You should not have to sacrifice your happiness for your partner’s. We were young and virtually responsibility free. We knew nothing of how it was in the real world, and we probably knew close-to-nothing about ourselves as individuals. Yet there I was, convinced that this partnership had to be forever because of our “love.”
Love is many things, in many ways, and I recognize that it is different for everyone. However, I think that at a certain age (perhaps between 15-25) everything we think we know is a sham. We are developing as individuals and getting to know the world around us, free from our parents’ and teachers’ views, subject to only our interpretations. How can we know about forever when we don’t even understand now?
I would have found comfort in the knowledge of the ever-changing state of life. It would have granted me perspective on the future. I could have seen that my first love, while important, was not all love. I could have freed myself from something that dragged me down. Be open to the possibility of being wrong. I will repeat this again: Knowledge is your base for morals, values, passions, and opinions. Embrace that so that you can fully embrace yourself.
I realize that some of this advice may be contradictory, obsolete, or total garbage. It is what I have learned through the years and things that may have helped me through different tough spots in life. If only I could go back…I would not. We all need to learn from our mistakes and shortcomings. These snippets of advice give me peace of mind because they show me that I have learned something. They show me where I came from and hopefully where I am going. Maybe they can give you something to relate to and something to look forward to, or maybe I am just someone other than your mother who is giving shitty advice.
Feature photo VIA Kaboompics