Honestly? I’m not even 100% sure I know what that means to me yet. It popped into my mind one afternoon while aimlessly scrolling through Pinterest. Somewhere between all the pins about building a better blog, finding the right planner for your needs, and 12 easy moves for Michelle Obama arms, I decided that I wanted to start tracking…. everything.
For those of you who know me, you probably know that my birthday has come and gone over a few weeks ago! Although I had intended to finish my 25 life lessons before my birthday, my life was a little hectic in the week leading up to it (I was at a national conference during the few days leading up to my birthday and was busy at the conference).
In addition, I had a lot of difficulty finalizing those last five lessons. What did I want to say? What were the most important lessons that I learned in the first quarter of my life that I really thought were worth sharing?
There’s so many things that I could say or wanted to say that it was hard to narrow it down to only five. So, I didn’t…and I tried to figure out what were the most important things to know. Of the lessons I had in mind, what were the lessons that I would want my (future) kids to know? When I do have children, what will I teach them? What are some of the first things that I will teach them? Well, there are a lot of things we can and should teach our kids, but below are some of the lessons I learned that I know I will most definitely pass onto my future offspring.
Life Lesson #21: Be there. Each year, the catholic schools in my diocese have a baccalaureate mass the night before commencement. In the past few years, the diocese’s relatively new bishop presides over the mass. In one of his homilies in recent years, he talked about the importance of being there for others. He challenged the seniors and the congregation to live a life in which they would be there for others at all times.
Be there for your friends and family to help them celebrate when things go well in their lives, but also be there for them when the going gets tough. Hold out a hand to a person who is need, and be willing to offer a warm embrace when all someone needs is a hug.
I’d like to expound upon the part about being there others in things aren’t going so great. It’s easy to be there for others when things are going well and you can join in the celebrations. However, we must also be there for others when things aren’t so pleasant. When a friend is upset and questioning a life decision, or when they’re depressed about something going on in their life, we must also be there for them in those times of need for those are the times when they probably need us most. Anyone can be there for the good times; everyone wants to take part in a celebration. However, the real challenge is to be there in these difficult times.
Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being there for others especially in these difficult times. I cannot tell you how many times I went to calling hours as a child before I fully comprehended the finality of death. I know that some people would disagree with children going to calling hours at a young age, but in retrospect, I think having those experiences taught me a lot. They taught me what it meant to be there for others when they needed it most. They made it a lot easier to deal with these situations as an adult. Had I not had these experiences, it would have been a lot more challenging for me to handle these challenges.
I’d also like to think that when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’d want someone to be there for us, so why shouldn’t we be there for others during these times?
Life Lesson #22: DO something that scares you.
This is a tough one and it’s a lesson that I’m still coming to terms with. I think the lesson here is not to let fear rule your life. It’s easy to have fears and to let these thoughts or worries impact your decisions. However, you can’t live in a bubble. If you avoided everything that scared you and made decisions based solely on things that didn’t scare you, I’d venture to say that you’d probably miss out on a whole lot. This can apply to anything – whether it’s entering a relationship rather than avoiding one for fear of getting hurt, or going on a crazy adventure rather than staying inside because you’re afraid of the number of things that can go wrong. As many of you know, I’ll be applying for graduate school in the fall. I think I’m beginning to have a better sense of what I want to study which is awesome. However, with this new found understanding has come a realization that many of the schools that have what I want are all around the country from out west to the deep south. The thought of spending 4 years there and being away from my family and friends terrifies me. It’s such a scary thought and it makes me really nervous to think about the possibility of moving to one of these places. However, I know that applying to these places is the best thing I can do for my future. I’d like to think that if I applied and got into one of these schools that I’d have a better chance of being able to eventually make my way back to Ohio in a relatively short period of time. I guess you’d say that I’m following one of my previous life lessons in thinking about the future.
Life Lesson #23: Accept that not everyone will like you.
As a kid, we want everyone to like us. We want to be friends with everyone we meet (or at the very least, we want to be invited to all of our classmates’ birthday parties) and if someone tells us they feel otherwise, our feelings are immediately crushed.
I’m telling you now that it’s OK. Someone may not like you and you may have no idea why. Or, it might be because you ticked them off and you were aware of that crucial moment that changed everything. Or, it could be because of the way you look at them, or the way you talk, or the way you dress, or a million other things. It truly could be anything and there’s no true way of knowing the cause.
Don’t fret and don’t waste time or energy on these people (Side lesson: also realize that you can’t please everyone, so don’t worry about making everyone happy. It truly is impossible).
Life Lesson #24: Be someone that you would want your kid to admire.
As some point in our lives, we’ve all looked up to someone. We’ve found a role model who has led us in the right direction and have used them as a guide for how to act in certain situations. Perhaps we have multiple role models who have inspired or challenged us to be better and do better – it’s possible that this person has challenged us to do something we otherwise would have never considered. Be this type of person for someone else.
Life Lesson #25: Don’t compare yourself to others.
This one is challenging and it may be something that you struggle with for a long time. Don’t compare yourself with others. Someone will always be smarter, faster, prettier…and the list continues.
There is always going to be someone who has an edge over you in some way, shape, or form. But it doesn’t matter. Believe that you are good at what you do and fully capable of facing any challenge that comes your way.
Life Lesson #26: Always, always, always believe in yourself.
This one is simple.
Believe in yourself. Always.
Ignore your negative self-talk. Rid yourself of people who put you down. And just believe.
Bonus Lesson: Don’t think too hard and overanalyze everything. Just live your life 😉
When I was in the 7th and 8th grade, I was at the peak of awesomeness…or nerdiness.
I was a mathlete, participating and competing in math counts (an after school event geared towards making math more appealing and exciting, and allowing students to broaden their math skills). During our after school events, we’d complete many math problems as quickly as possible in order to earn stickers to put on our charts. The first person who answered the question correctly received the coveted red, shiny apple sticker for their chart (gosh-if only reinforcement were so simple at this age!)!
At some point during one of these lessons, someone must have said something along the lines, “I assume you do the problem this way…” At which point, our feisty math counts instructor taught us what happens when you assume. She became quite serious and stated, “You know, when you assume things, you make an a** out of you and me.” For some reason, I found this hilarious and laughed so hard that I fell out of my chair.
I can’t quite explain why it was so funny to me at the time (probably because I was in 7th grade and couldn’t suppress my laughter when an adult would swear in front of me-so mature), but learning that lesson is something that’s stuck with me for many years.
We make assumptions all the time. It’s easy to do. Our assumptions (or stereotypes at times) are what also us to group pieces of information or people or things together. They allow us to make sense of the world. They help us organize. They help us categorize. So, they’re a good thing?
Maybe. But only when they’re right. That’s the thing about making assumptions. Yes, some may argue that they’re helpful in some circumstances, but what if you’re assumption is wrong? Beyond making yourself and another person look like a…donkey (see what I did there)…you could be doing more damage than good when you assume things. Often times, we assume things because we don’t have enough information to make a better decision. Instead of taking the time necessary to figure things out, we may jump to conclusions and make an assumption.
Here’s an example of how we assume (from: http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/falsas11.pdf)
It is a hot August afternoon. The location is the living room in an old Victorian mansion. The 7-foot window is open and the curtains are blowing in the breeze generated by the thunderstorm that just passed. On the floor lie the bodies of Bill and Monica. They are surrounded by puddles of water and broken glass. Please close your eyes and picture the scene. Now change the picture. Neither Bill nor Monica has any clothing on. So, how did they die?
So, if you’re like me, you may have have that during a moment of passion, the storm outside had taken over and had somehow caused them to reach an untimely death. When, in fact:
Answer: They suffocated. The storm winds blew open the window, which knocked their fish bowl off the table, and it crashed onto the floor. False assumption: That Bill and Monica are human. They are actually goldfish.
Okay, so maybe it was a cheesy example, but you should get the point. We make assumptions. We look like a fool.
Two personal examples-When you see me, you see my light skin, brown hair, and blue eyes. You’d assume that I was of European descent. Though you’d be right in some sense, that wouldn’t be telling the whole story. I’m also Egyptian. You’d only have part of the story.
Another brief example. This past year has been really tough on me for a variety of reasons. I think one of things that contributed to all the craziness was related to people making assumptions. People only knew part of a story. People didn’t ask questions. People assumed they knew everything. People were treated me much differently. I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t tremendously difficult. However, it taught me a lot about how destructive it can be when people make assumptions.
So, here’s my advice:
I mean, let’s face it, we assumed the earth was flat how many years ago and look how that turned out!
I’ve noticed a trend in my reading life. There are all these books that I discount when I first hear about them, thinking that I have no interest in reading them and that I never will. Often, this rule of thumb remains true. But, every once in a while, I break this rule and decide suddenly to give into the reading trend and read the popular book(s) that I initially thought I wouldn’t like.
This happened with The Hunger Games, and anyone who has read my previous posts knows I am now a big fan of that series. So, when I saw that my local library had a new, shiny, brilliant e-media catalog, I wanted to try it out.
So, this week I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. All 1,800 pages of it. In four days.
Why, you ask?
Because I could.
Now, let me just say before you start yelling and laughing that this post is not about how amazing the Fifty Shades of Grey books are. It’s not. Because, the books are not “amazing.”
As a discerning reader, the books have a lot of issues. If I had to read about main character Anastasia Steele’s personified subconscious and inner goddess one more time I might have screamed. I also often found myself wanting to slap some god-forsaken sense into Christian Grey’s skull. But, I have to admit — the books were entertaining, and whole hell of a lot of other things too (If you’ve read them, you’ll know what I mean).
But they weren’t literary gold.
And that’s okay. They don’t have to be
But that’s just the point that I want to make.
We live in a world that is often obsessed with merits. We are a population of critics. Movies and TV shows bomb because they aren’t “critically acclaimed.” Books and their authors are lambasted for bad writing, predictable plots, and unrealistic depictions. We constantly criticize ourselves and judge others for not fitting into a pre-determined mold.
The Fifty Shades of Grey books and their author, E L James are no stranger to this idea. Fifty Shades has been a phenomenon. Started as a Twilight-centric fan fiction homage and then reworked and self published in print, the trilogy gained immense attention. That attention and popularity grew so great that the trilogy was picked up by Vintage Books and published professionally. According to Amazon UK, the trilogy’s first book has outsold the combined sales of the Harry Potter series on their website.
So what’s my point?
The Fifty Shades of Grey series, regardless of how you feel about it, is an important of example of how perfection and value are not the same thing.
Level of success does not always correspond with level of talent.
Value is everywhere. You just have to drown out the critics to find it.
Do What You Want
Life is short. Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about what others think or whether you think they’ll judge you. Embrace this idea in your everyday life, but also embrace it in your passions, in your dreams, and in your goals.
Want to travel the world? Make it happen. Want to be the next E L James and write steamy, NC-17 novels? Go right ahead. Want to be a book critic that points out all of the trilogy’s flaws? Do that instead.
I am a strong proponent of the idea that everything is a learning experience. Every single thing you do teaches you something, even if the lesson is to never do it again. When it comes to books, for example, no one has ever become stupider by ingesting information. The more you know, the more nuanced your perspective.
What you do has value. Whether it is silly, intellectual, crazy, world-changing, fun, or intensely creative. Value exists in all things.
Never Underestimate Your Ability, Never Discount That Others May Admire It
Everyone is talented. We may not see immediately recognize our own talents, but they are there. Think about it. Do you waste time drawing instead of taking notes? Do you love to cook, but could care less about proper business accounting procedures? Your talent resides in what you inherently love. It lies in how you waste your time.
Tap into that. It could be a goldmine (and I don’t just mean monetarily).
E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series may have many flaws, but it is still entertaining. Those flaws and issues do not render its value moot. Even some of the most critically panned things are still feats of creativity in their own way. While James may have not suceeded in creating the perfect novel, she did create something that kept people (including myself) turning pages. And this did not only involve the books’ extremely naughty natures.
Don’t think that you are talentless. Don’t worry that because what you do is not the “absolute best” that it is worthless. Perfection isn’t a guarantee of anything. Think I’m kidding? Ask the Admissions offices of Harvard and Yale how many applicants with perfect SAT or ACT scores are NOT accepted every year.
Don’t think that something you create, something you enjoy has no value. Others may see immense value where you perceive none.
So What If It’s A Silly Idea, Who Cares?
When I downloaded Fifty Shades of Grey earlier in the week, I said to myself, “This is so stupid. I really can’t believe I’m reading this.” But then, another part of me said, “So what? Read the damn book. If you don’t like it, quit. If you do like it, finish it.” So I did. And I did enjoy the book. I enjoyed all three of them. And yes, they are kind of silly, and a little weird, and definitely have A LOT more sex and profanity than I have ever encountered in reading material. But, so what?
Reading Fifty Shades of Grey may have been silly, but it got me thinking. It made me think about the how flaws do not negate value. It made me think enough to write this post.
The bottom line is that you never know what will make you think. The silliest, craziest, most random things can change your perspective or give new life to your thoughts. Never underestimate the value of doing something for fun.
Look at the Dames Who Dish blog. It wouldn’t be here if us four girls hadn’t decided to do something that we originally perceived as silly, and a little bit crazy, and a whole lot of fun.
Happy 2013, world! Yes, I know I’m a little behind the times, but at least it’s still January 🙂
Goodness, it’s been such a long time from writing, so let’s just jump right in! Although I apologize for my long absence, I can make no promises that I will update extremely frequently. Let’s face it, I’ve said it before and look how far we’ve come…or haven’t. How often do we make “promises” to ourselves or to others that we will definitely do something, but then don’t? We see someone from our past and put on a show that we’ll “call soon,” or that “we’ll make plans” but then forget all about our encounter by the end of the day. Or we say we’re going to try something new, try to change, try to do something different, but then something distracts us or we get discouraged and we just stop. I think we all have a tendency to do these sorts of things, don’t you?
So then the question becomes, why?
If you ask me (or Meredith Grey), I’d say a lot of it has to do with fear.
I know this is going to come as a surprise to many of you (sarcasm!), but I’m a shy person (mostly). Although I can be extremely outgoing, it takes me awhile to get to that point. Granted, I love people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in clinical psychology. But, I’m shy (or inhibited if you want to get clinically technical 😉 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m painstakingly shy. It would be way too hard to do some of the things I have to do if that were the case. But, nonetheless, this is what it is. In my past, I think there may have been times when I let my shyness get the best of me. I would pass up opportunities (concerning guys/opportunities at school/etc.) because I was afraid of…something. Now, I don’t think this is completely related to my being shy. Lots of people have fears of “something” who are extremely outgoing and far from being shy. But, what is this elusive “something” that I feared (and that I’m guessing many of you fear)? Fear of looking foolish or realizing that your expectations were much different than what actually was? Fear of the possibilities, being embarrassed, or being rejected?
I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast answer to this question…unfortunately. Maybe it differs from person to person, or from situation to situation. Maybe it’s something that we won’t ever be able to fully identify.
So, here’s the thing. At the beginning of this year, my friends from high school and I discussed what our new years resolutions were. Now, that’s a painstaking process. Because it’s easy to forget to follow New Years Resolutions, there were years when I figured, why bother? Why bother saying “This year will be different. This year, I will do x, y, and z,” when it was more often the case that my resolutions often didn’t last past January?
Well, this year I became inspired. This year, I decided things will be different. As I got the text from my friends about my resolutions, I had to think about it for awhile. In May, I graduate with my master’s degree. In August, I hope to be starting a PhD program. A lot of things will be changing. I’ll be 24 this year and if I don’t get into a PhD program, I’ll be starting my real grown-up life (scary!) after graduation. I know 23 and 24 are young. People tell me that all the time. But, I feel like I’m at a point where I need to start thinking about my future and my career and being with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with and starting a family and all the craziness that goes along with that.
So you’re thinking, okay Jeannette get to the point. What does this have to do with your resolutions? Well, my faithful readers, I’ll tell you. It has everything to do with them. After some thought, I responded to my friends the following: “Let go of my inhibition and don’t let it get in the way of accomplishing greatness!” Okay…so the last bit about greatness may have been a little bit dramatic, but you should get the point.
So often, we let this something, this fear, get in the way.
It doesn’t matter what it gets in the way of; it’s enough that our fears prevent us from taking action.
From speaking up about your ideas and values.
From telling someone how we feel about them and asking them out for coffee.
The point is, our fears (this “something”) can prevent us from, well…accomplishing greatness. Think about it for one second; if you let your fears rule your life, maybe you could be missing out on potentially finding your ideal job (because you’re too afraid to apply for the job), or from starting a relationship with someone who could become your potential spouse (because you’re too afraid of the rejection you may face by asking them out).
I guess the whole point of this is to not let your fears (whatever they may be) control your life. Don’t let them prevent you from taking action (whatever that may mean).
I can’t say for certain how the rest of the year will go, but for now, I’ve already started to make this year different.