When you’re a teenager, you know everything about life. Then you get a little older and start to think maybe you don’t know anything about life. Then you get a little older still and learn a few lessons the hard way and start to realize you do very much know a few things about life—not everything like when you were younger, but some things for certain.
Here’s what I know:
I know it takes a lot of time and work to build trust and just a moment to destroy it. Respect the position people give you in their heart and life and think before you do something stupid that could destroy everything you’ve built. It takes years to get to know someone and really learn how to love them. It takes seconds to throw everything away. Little things have the power to break down big things.
I know my perspective is not the only, nor necessarily, the right perspective. The world is huge and diverse. People are influenced by vastly different lifestyles and circumstances. It’s not fair to believe my particular lifestyle or circumstances give me the knowledge and authority to assume I’m right about everything and everyone. Yes, I hold to my beliefs and live according to what I believe is right. But in that I try to remember that I’m still learning and growing and so is everyone else. Besides, if we were all the same, the world would be profoundly boring.
I know compromise is not a bad word. Compromise is simply a gracious way of getting what you want and helping others get what they want too. Demanding that everything be done your way every time doesn’t make you powerful or put you in control, it makes you a jerk who will soon be doing everything your way…alone. If you want to be in any kind of successful relationship (work, marriage, friendship, family) then you will have to learn to give some and take some. Sometimes it’s right to speak up and have things your way when it really matters; sometimes it’s best to shut up and get Chinese instead of Mexican for dinner because people matter more than your particular preferences.
I know loving someone fully and truly is worth the heartache and risk. You can’t get close to someone and put your heart on the line without the near certainty of getting hurt somewhere along the way. But being close to someone and building a trusting, loving relationship is worth the bumps and scrapes. People aren’t perfect; they will hurt you. But people are also exactly what life is about and they are worth loving with abandon.
I know I have to take risks to accomplish my dreams and goals. Life is a series of stepping-stones. Moving from the safe and familiar into the unknown and uncertain is scary. But you cannot move forward or accomplish your goals by standing still in the same safe place. Life requires risk and fear and the occasional failure; that is how we grow. I have learned more from the stuff I screwed up than from anything I did right. So embrace the possibility of messing up and use your mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Push through the fear and do it scared.
I know life does not come to those who wait, it belongs to those who take it. If you are standing around waiting for instructions or inspiration, I’ve got some bad news for you. Life happens in the moving and the making and the people who are doing what they want are just that—doing. So figure out what it is you want to do and get busy. Don’t be afraid to try, to stop and start again, to make mistakes along the way. Fear only the time wasted not doing whatever it is you are here to do.
I know money and things can make me happy but they cannot satisfy me. People sometimes say that money can’t make you happy; I disagree. I think money can make you very happy. Money can give you freedom, choices, and opportunity. Money can buy you whatever it is you want. But here’s the thing, there’s a difference between the happiness that comes from having stuff and the peace and satisfaction that have nothing to do with material things. Don’t mistake the two. Peace and satisfaction are soulful and immaterial; they are a choice and a mindset, not a particular house or cell phone.
I know to be a little bit cautious and cynical towards the media and anybody trying to sell me something. This is not to say you go around assuming the worst about everyone and everything. But I think it’s only smart and reasonable to take caution when anyone is trying to persuade you or gain something from you. The media is trying to sell you something—a lifestyle, a worldview, a product— so don’t mindlessly believe everything they say. Think for yourself about your values and beliefs and make choices based on that, not marketing.
I know for everything I want, there is something else I can’t have. The idea that anyone can have it all is unrealistic. No one has enough time or energy for everything. So you must learn to prioritize and choose. You must put down this to pick up that or you will burn out and lose out on everything in your life. It is important to discern what matters most to you and to let go of the things that distract from your priorities.
I know saying less is saying more. The world is very loud these days and there are ever-increasing ways to share your thoughts and opinions with everyone the world over. But here’s the thing, no one wants to know what you think about everything all the time. If you speak less, people will listen more when you do speak up about the things that matter most to you.
I know the people I surround myself with will deeply influence me. The people we spend time with and listen to will have a deep impact on what we value and who we become. This isn’t a bad thing unless you surround yourself with people who are toxic. The right people can fill your life with truth, inspiration, and hope. The wrong people can slowly turn you into someone you don’t like. You are not above the influence of those around you. It is also important to know that you are influencing the people in your life too. Are you helping them or hurting them?
I know I don’t know everything and what I think I know might change :] I don’t ever want to stop learning and growing and sometimes that will mean letting go of things I thought I knew…and that’s okay.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” -Rumi