And we’re back for Part 2 of the 31 for 31! (For those that are here for the first time and are feeling lost, you can go here to see Part 1).
Part 2 begins!
31 Things Life has Taught Me (So Far):
- Things are never black and white.* (Except for pandas and zebras.)
- Everything is a social construction. Race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, political affiliation, monogamy, how you should wear your hair, how you should dress, how you should speak, what you should eat, taboos, what is and isn’t legal, money…it’s all a construct of society. What’s considered normal to you is not normal – it’s just a social construction. Things are treated as normal or abnormal because people agree to treat it that way. The next time you make a judgment based on someone’s sexuality, what color their hair or skin is, how many tattoos or piercings they have, how much money they have, take a beat and remember that it’s all a social construct. There’s no such thing as race – we are all people. Money is only paper and metal coins – we give meaning to it. We created social constructs as a way of continuing an “Us versus Them” mentality. If we say that someone is Black and another is White, we can separate them into categories and apply value to one category over another. If we say that he is Democrat and she is Republican, we can then assign value to those terms and it allows us to discriminate, judge, and marginalize people (when usually, their belief systems align more often than not). It’s a social construct that men are revered for sleeping with many women, but women are slutty for doing the same. It’s a social construct that you should get up every day, fight traffic, deal with Corporate America for 40+ hours every week, and live your life for the weekends and occasional vacation. It’s all a social construction. It all forces you to identify, to put yourself in a category, to allow yourself to be marginalized. When you truly recognize that fact and change your worldview, it makes living in this life a lot easier, on yourself and others. Further, don’t ever let social constructions define your life. Why do you have to find a husband by age 27? Why do you have to have kids before you’re 30? Why do you have to keep your abusive father in your life? You don’t. Don’t let others bully you into following social constructions.
- Proofread. Always, always proofread. If you fight this notion, spend 3 minutes at http://damnyouautocorrect.com. It can save you a lot of headache when you’re emailing your parents, your lover, or your boss.
- You can say or do anything you want and pull it off, if it’s done with enough confidence.
- The hardest thing to do in life is to look inside yourself, face your faults, and overcome them. Holding a mirror to your demons is hard, and they fight back with a vengeance, but when you exorcise them, you come out on the other side so free. Afterward, the problems you had suddenly have the easiest solutions, the toxic people in your life are easier to let go of, and you open yourself up to a world that previously didn’t exist. And whatever you do, don’t repeatedly ask someone if they love/miss/care about you (or find you attractive, or find you funny…I can go on and on). You make your emotions vulnerable and force someone to either hurt you deeply (by saying no) or lie to you to make you feel better (which creates a dishonest relationship). Even if they do mean it, you should never have to seek validation from someone else. If you aren’t getting the validation from within yourself, work on yourself. I don’t know a single person that enjoys having to constantly tell someone, “Yes, your hair is pretty. Yes, you are funny. Yes, I totally missed you this weekend.” If they aren’t offering up this information, or they aren’t showing you with their actions how much they missed you/how funny you are, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. By the same token, it’s hard to miss someone who drains you emotionally by constantly needing to be validated in everything that they do or say. Be someone who is miss-able. Be someone who is loveable. Be someone who is funny without having to be told they are funny. You’ll be surprised how much funnier, loveable, miss-able, sweeter, and sexier you are as a person, and how suddenly that validation you sought externally will wash over you tenfold. When you truly love who you are, all things are possible. You don’t make the same mistakes, you have more respect for yourself, and you naturally surround yourself with people who are good for you. It’s for the win.
- You should always be facing your faults, because there are always more. No one is perfect, but we should always try to be better. The better we are, the better life is.
- When done with the right person, kissing and cuddling are literally the best highs on the planet.
- The Seven Heavenly Virtues are a road map to successful living. Pursue knowledge and wisdom, and be honest with yourself and others. Practice self-control, moderation, and prudence, particularly between self-interest and public-interest. Be generous, even when you have little, for there is always someone who needs more than you. Be diligent, persistent, and never give up on anything that means something to you. Be kind, have compassion and empathy, trust without prejudice, and forgive. Be brave, selfless, respectful, and practice humility – glorify others’ achievements, not your own. And when all of the above fails, and you feel lost and hopeless, be patient; the pain is temporary, and there’s someone around the corner who will show you wisdom, temperance, charity, persistence, kindness, patience, and humility, and make it all right again.
- Few people follow the aforementioned road map. No matter how difficult, let go of your anger. You are only responsible for yourself.
- It’s better to have one friend who would die for you than twenty friends who like you (but are busy when you need them).
- If you believe in something, know why. Don’t believe something because your parents, your religious representative, your friends, or your favorite celebrity said so. Believe something because you researched all the facts, weighed both sides, and came to your own conclusions.
- Have a big belly-laugh every day. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. If you don’t have anyone in your life like that, go find someone. Yesterday.
- Be considerate. When you’re going to be late meeting a friend for lunch, call and let her know. When you are driving, use your blinkers and pay attention to the road and the other drivers instead of your cell-phone or your radio. When you’ve been sitting in a long line of cars at a stop light for 10 minutes and you are now first in line when the light turns green, accelerate promptly so the 100 cars behind you don’t have to sit at another iteration of the light (instead of waiting five seconds to even start moving, and accelerate at 2mph). Hold the door open for the person with the broken leg (or collarbone) who’s struggling, rather than letting the door close in their face. When someone opens the door for you, say “Thank you.” When you bump into someone, say “excuse me.” Think about people other than yourself, and do it all the time. (This shouldn’t even have to be said, but the volume of inconsiderate people in this world is off the charts.)
- Trust your gut. Every major mistake or tragedy I’ve had in my life happened because I didn’t follow my gut. (Including breaking my collarbone.)
- Define your own rules for success. To some, success is having well-behaved children and a clean home. To others, it’s having a million-dollar home and a Ferrari. Never, ever compare your success to anyone else. Never let anyone, no matter how much you respect them, dictate what success is. Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
- Moving across the country by yourself makes you a freaking badass.*
- Never let go of your child-like enthusiasm. When I’m excited, I clap with glee, do a fist-pump, bounce up and down, and squee…regardless of if I’m at work, in a grocery store, or at home in bed. When I see someone (ahem-Jon Stewart) on television that I love, I gasp with wide-eyed joy and sit Indian-style to watch. That enthusiasm keeps you young, keeps you happy, and believe it or not, it does the same to those around you.
- You rarely regret doing something that scares you.*
- Everyone is crazy. Some people are crazy awesome, some people are crazy in a way that doesn’t affect you for more than a few minutes, and some people are toxic crazy. Relish the crazy awesome people, ignore the peripherally crazy behavior, and for the love of God, get rid of the toxic crazy people.
- Forgive, forgive, forgive. Even the toxic crazy people deserve forgiveness. They probably aren’t doing it on purpose. If they are, forgive them as you’re removing them from your life. If they aren’t, forgive them, reassess the boundaries of your relationship, and then try again. They may be living #5 above, and trying to be better. If they show that they’ve made an effort to change, give them another chance. If they become toxic again….wash, rinse, and repeat.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, and it doesn’t mean acceptance. You have a right to put the walls down and protect yourself from harm, regardless of if the person is your lover, a family member, a friend, or a boss. Never give in and let someone abuse you. You only have so much time in this life. Make the best of it, and surround yourself with good people who don’t hurt you, or drive you insane. Sometimes the only way to truly protect yourself is to eliminate the person from your life. Exhaust every other option, but if you realize you have no other choice, stand firm in the notion that you can always love them from inside your safety bubble, protected from their toxicity. Everyone deserves a second chance. If you love them enough, they get a third or a thirtieth. But insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so eventually, if you’ve made the effort to change and they haven’t, you have to let them go.
- Smile at strangers. Smile at friends. Smile all the time, even when you aren’t feeling it. It will either make people happy or freak them out, and either way, you win.
- When you know something is right in your heart, don’t waver. Even if everyone in the world tells you that you’re crazy for believing in it, believe in it. You want to start Olympic training at age 30? Do it. You want to sell all of your possessions and move to Greece? Do it. You want to adopt 15 babies as a single mom? Do it. You are the captain of your own fate, and no one is living your life except you.
- The most freeing feeling in the world is letting go of the past. Focusing on the past forces you to live there, instead of living life in the present. Pay attention to what you did wrong and what you did right. Keep doing what you did right, and fix what you did wrong for the future. Never look back, unless you plan to go that way.
- Jealousy is mankind’s stupidest emotion. Jealousy stems from your own internal insecurities, and has nothing to do with anyone but you. If you see your husband looking at another woman and you get jealous, don’t talk to him about it – figure out what is wrong with you that you got upset. The sooner you establish this, the sooner you can work on the issue and fix it. (And if the issue is that he cheated on you, why are you still with him?)
- Get some perspective. Usually when you’re worried or upset, it’s because you’ve lost perspective. In the larger picture, this one problem means almost nothing. When you are freaking, ask yourself, “Is this thing I’m worried about going to matter in a year?” If the answer is no, let it go. Worrying doesn’t fix anything, it just gives you wrinkles.
- When you love something, say so. When you love someone, say so. You will never regret saying it as often as you regret not saying it.
- By that same token, say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don’t say you miss someone if you don’t. Don’t say you love someone if you don’t. Don’t say that her dress doesn’t make her look fat if it does. Learn tact for the uncomfortable conversations, and learn how to be assertive and say what you mean for the rest. It takes practice, and it may hurt people’s feelings sometimes, but in the long run, you will be respected for being honest over being nice. (Though hopefully, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.)
- Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.
- If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. IF you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you don’t step forward, you’ll always be in the same place. The hardest part is starting. Once you start, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to keep doing it.
- When you find someone who loves you for you, unconditionally, without wanting to change you, NEVER LET THEM GO.
(*Stolen directly from Alida, because we learned the same lesson because we are mutually awesome)
What are some things life has taught you? I’d love to hear your own lessons. If you decide to make your own list, be sure to link here so I can read it!