Life Lessons to Live By (From a 32-Year-Old Who Learned the Hard Way)
Tired, hungry and heartbroken; that’s how I’m spending the first day of my birthday week.
I turn 32 on Saturday, July 12th. I figured that in the midst of my anguish I may be able to dredge up some wisdom to impart on those who are younger, those who are my age, and those perhaps older who still don’t know why things go wrong so often.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned in the past 30-odd years.
1. If you are really, really lucky you will end up with a handful of actual friends.
These are the people that you would call at 3 a.m. if you haven’t slept in a week. It’s good to have friends, and we all like to accumulate them on Facebook, but that is not reality. Some of them will listen to you and some of them will even help you out from time to time. That isn’t the same as telling you things you don’t want to hear. That is not reining you in when you’re acting a fool. Real friends do those uncomfortable things, too.
2. It’s okay to question who you are from time to time.
This keeps you in check. It isn’t okay to have an existential crisis every two years. You may need a yogi or a therapist.
That’s okay, too.
3. Stand up for yourself.
No one else is going to handle your business quite like you. It’s alright and cool to let your friends buck up and end a scuffle, and it’s often even funny to watch an unsuspecting drunkard get molly whopped after starting a fight with someone he incorrectly assumed was alone.
That isn’t what I’m talking about. Stand up for yourself when you feel like you’re being abused, taken advantage of, walked on or disrespected. Don’t throw a tantrum; grow up and communicate like an adult. Say what the hell is on your mind.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Your perception is your perception.
Reality is a state of being in which we all universally agree that things occur. What you take away, what you learn from the things that occur, is unique to you. You have your own views, and while they are similar to other people’s views, they’re yours.
This creates a problem because everyone experiences life in his or her own little world. We have a tendency to ignore the fact that life is happening to everyone all at once, everywhere. If you think about how much you are suffering or how happy you are, someone out there has it better or worse at the very same moment.
As far as I know, we only get one shot at this life thing. Maybe our energy transmutes the intangible barriers between parallel universes and our essence is reincarnated into another form of life, but as far as we know, this is it.
In the end, you’re better off enriching your limited existence by sharing your perceptions with as many people as you have the chance to so than you are doing more than viewing the world through your own private bubble.
5. Occasionally, life does indeed suck.
There isn’t much to be done about this fact. I think that we all agree that life should suck less or, ideally, not suck at all. We remember our lives by the ups and downs.
Try looking at it another way.
Downtime is time to retreat and regroup. Instead of wallowing, go do something outside. Call your parents. Put on music to suit the mood. Go for a long drive. If you desire company, grab a friend for your long drive, pick a nearby town you’ve never been to and share a meal somewhere by the water. Have a couple cold beers or soda pop, if that’s your thing, and talk for a few hours.
If this doesn’t improve your mood, see #2 again, please.
Sometimes you need to change your point of view and your venue. Having a comfortable chat with a friend in a town you don’t know might just help get your face off the emotional pavement.
6. Keep doing things that you aren’t quite ready for.
You’ll screw things up. The simple truth is that until you’re actually present in the moment, doing whatever it is you’ve been preparing for, you’re only theoretically ready.
I’ve found that, so long as you’ve done your due diligence and prepared to your satisfaction, you should be fine. A little anxiety keeps you on your toes. Too much means you either need to see #2 again or it means that you didn’t prepare at all.
I’ve always had the most success being mostly ready and running for it. You’ll either strike out, learning a valuable lesson about what you missed or ignored, or you’ll knock it out of the park.
7. There’s always going to be more.
More good, more bad, more ups and more downs. Life doesn’t stop anywhere on Earth just because you had a bad day, week, year or existence.
Find your strength wherever you can and keep going. Whether tomorrow sucks or not is largely up to you, as is whether you get out of bed or not. You can wallow in self-pity or you can get up and live your damn life.
I choose life. Good or bad, its mine.
8. There’s a time to party.
This probably isn’t it. It is probably time to make something, or exercise, which everyone should do more of.
9. Sleep longer, drink less often, move around more and eat smaller portions.
That’s about it. No further elaboration needed.
10. Create goals, write them down and then meet them.
Start simple and then level up, like a video game.
Every now and then you find a power-up. Life’s like that, too.
11. Whenever you have the urge to build/draw/write/make something, start immediately.
Unless, of course, you happen to be driving. Then, voice-dictate your ideas to your smart phone.
Which reminds me…
12. Technology is your friend. Learn to embrace it.
I still learn new tricks my five-year-old laptop can do. My tablet is twice as tricky and I just barely am beginning to apply its use to daily life. My phone can do things neither my laptop nor my tablet can do.
It’s pretty amazing living in this era of enormous technological advancement. There are certainly a myriad of social issues to consider and problems with the structural institutions upon which we rely that must be addressed, but if you look around for a moment and think about the kind of innovations that are happening around the world, it becomes clear that we are living in “the future.”
Things are only going to grow more in this area from here on out, so it is time that everyone starts becoming proficient with technology. Learn how your devices work. Use them to your advantage. If you know how to make them part of your daily life, it’ll increase your productivity and give you more time for # 11.
Here’s a recent one…
13. Learn to cook food at home by following simple recipes found using #12.
This does a few things. I guarantee you’ll neglect your kitchen less (unless you’re a slob). Aside from that, I’ve got nothing for you.
Cooking is calming. It’s like any other task with set steps. To lose yourself making food is really enjoyable and it just might make you healthier. It’s worth trying out. Also, I’ve got much more money to spend on other things I like doing. So it’s win-win.
14. Speaking of which, stop eating shitty food.
It’s going to fucking kill you. I really have little else to say on the matter. Once in a while, sure, whatever, but you know how you’re going to feel trying to poop later.
Don’t blame Arby’s. You ate it. You knew what it was and you fucking ate it anyway. Were you high?
15. Also, stop smoking.
Switch to vaping. Switch to gum. Do something else, but it’s time to start giving up awful habits.
Sure, some folks live to be 90 years old drinking bourbon, smoking cigars and filterless Lucky Strikes, but most people die in horribly painful situations wishing they’d worked less and travelled more.
16. When in doubt, listen to music.
As with #9, not much more needs to be said about this. It’s just good form.
17. Tattoos are cool.
I think everyone should have a couple, but keep it classy.
18. Dress how the Hell you want to dress, so long as you wear your damn pants correctly.
Everything else is negotiable.
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