This may come as a shock to you, but… I have to confess something: I have grey hair. Like, a lot of it. (At least in my mind, it’s a lot.) Ok, while that might not be so jaw-dropping, maybe the fact that I have roughly zero plans to cover it will surprise you.
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 😉
It’s now March 23 and I’ve only got a few short days to provide you with 10 more valuable life lessons. Impossible? Not quite. Challenging? It’s starting to feel that way. Worth it? Absolutely.
(To be honest, I just spent the last hour crafting a well-thought out blog post, but in my attempt to save the post as I continued writing, I ended up deleting it 😦 As such, the lessons I’ll provide here will be short, but just as important and valuable as all the others.)
Life Lesson #16: Ask yourself is it worth it?
After crying to a friend about how so-and-so hardly noticed me and woe was me, my friend posed a simple question: Was it worth it? Was it worth it to like someone who didn’t like me and to be so upset about it? Probably not. What was the point in willingly putting myself in a situation that made me so unhappy? I learned that lesson early on in high school and it’s one that’s stuck with me for the past 8-9 years. And, don’t think it applies to things as superficial as having a silly crush at 16. It applies to anything and it applies to everything. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy, or that adds unnecessary stress to your life, or pushes you to your limits, as yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes, the answer will be a clear and definite no. Nope – it’s definitely not worth it to be in this situation because I know this isn’t good for me. On the other hand, just because the situation is stressful or challenging doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It just means you’re dealing with a difficult situation that you need to accomplish. You see, the question does more than just make you think about what you should or shouldn’t do. It helps to focus and think more clearly about whether or not it’s worth it to stay in this situation or if it’s better if we move on for now.
Life Lesson #17: Go back to the basics.
What’s the magic word? I know you all know it.
As kids, we’re all taught to mind our manners: say “Please” when asking for something; thank someone when receiving something; ask people how they are; how the door for others; be kind to everyone; say “Excuse me” when you bump into someone or commit other social faux paus.
It’s simple: we were taught these lessons for a reason. They teach us how to respect others and how to show gratitude and compassion for our fellow human beings. We learn these manners at a young age, and yet somehow they are often forgotten as we grow up. Today, whenever someone thanks me for doing something for them, I’m often pleasantly surprised, but I shouldn’t be, should I? I almost think that these are things we should come to expect. These things aren’t hard and when we forget to them, we often make other people feel like we don’t care about them and like they’re taken for granted. So, go back to the basics – I know that it’s simple and it might not seem that important, but it can really make a difference to someone.
Life Lesson #18: If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your BS. – W.C. Fields
I’ll keep this one short. I often think about this in the context of giving a speech: If you can’t remember what you wrote for your speech, but know the general ideas, just go for it. You might not be able to get your ideas across as intended, but you may have a general idea. And if you don’t, perhaps you’ll talk in such a circular way that you’ll confuse them 😉
Life Lesson #19: Make the time for the people and things that are most important to you.
Whenever I make a short trip home, I always try to make time to spend with my mom, dad, and brother and I make sure that I spend time with all of our pets. If possible, I always try to see some of my closest friends and I always try to make time to go to mass. It’s often very difficult to accomplish these things because my trips home often only last 2-3 days and they are also usually filled with a number of appointments (i.e., doctors, car, etc.). It’s hard to fit everything, but I think it’s important that we try to make the time for the people and things that are important to us. I think it helps people realize how much we care about them and it helps us to realize that we would want them to do the same thing if they were in our situation.
I also do have to mention that my group of friends from high school does an excellent job with this. For a few years after high school, we’d often meet up weekly or every couple weeks for some sort of shenanigans. I think it’s gotten a little more challenging as people have started moving out of the area, but we still have big events with everyone when we know most people will be around. Even though we’re all incredibly busy, we all still make the time for each other and these events are things that I look forward to year-round.
Life Lesson #20: Take the time to figure out what you want.
This lesson can apply to anything in life. Kind of seems like an understatement, doesn’t it? Take the time to figure out what you want – don’t let others, or even yourself, force you into make a decision before you’re ready. I often think about this lesson in the context of college. For many of us, for multiple reasons, we probably felt like we had to choose a major early on in college, perhaps before we were ready. Maybe we felt rushed. Maybe we felt pressure from our family or friends to make a certain decision in a timely manner. Whatever the reason may be, we shouldn’t make a decision before we’re ready. Take time to figure things out. Ask yourself what you want out of time. Don’t make a hasty decision only to realize too late that you’ve made the wrong choice. Give yourself the right figure out what you want and then make a decision.
I have a major dilemma.
It’s currently 20 degrees outside and my thermostat doesn’t work.
If I leave my furnace on, it’s sweltering in here and becomes so hot that walking around in a swimsuit seems like the only option.
But, if I turn the furnace off, it’s like I’m in an igloo and I’m forced to keep adding layers. The cats have taken refuge under the bed where they have a chance of staying warm.
I may have to join them.
It’s really frustrating because I don’t have control of the temperature in here and am unable to get the the temperature just right. I’ve been really upset about this whole situation and have been doing a lot of complaining about it. (I apologize if you’ve been the recipient of one of these rants).
I’ve done everything that I can do to fix the situation (i.e., my maintenance staff loves (read – hates) me for calling them on 3 separation occasions about the problem) and the problem is now out of my hands. The only thing I can do now is change my focus. Or, change the way I think about the problem. Let’s face it – I can’t fix the thermostat. I have degrees in psychology and political science, neither of which prepared me to replace a thermostat or know the first thing about handling this situation. However, if my psychology education taught me one thing, it’s about cognitive restructuring or reframing (…OK – my degree taught me more than one thing, but go with me here on this). Cognitive restructuring or reframing is just a a psychologist’s fancy way of saying you should change the way you think about your problem (i.e., we reframe maladaptive/negative thought patterns into more rational thoughts in an attempt to gain a positive frame of mind). For example:
So, I’ve decided to think about my problem differently. Yes, my thermostat is broken and I’m unable to keep the apartment at a desirable temperature. Sure, it’s an inconvenience and annoyance, but it’s not the end of the world. I do have fans that I can turn on if it gets too hot and I can always open the window if I can’t stand the heat (though, that seems counterproductive). If it gets too cold, I have more than enough clothes and blankets to keep me, and of course, the kitties, warm.
I know this theme has come up in previous posts – it’s a product of all those psychology classes. However, I think this is an important lesson to take to heart. So often, we have a problem and get so worked up over it that we drive ourselves (and, unfortunately, others) crazy. We become so fixated on these minor issues and find ourselves consumed by these trivialities. We focus on the one thing that is going wrong, rather than the 100 things that are going right. We’re focused on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have.
I think we can all benefit from this lesson. Sure, things may not be going quite the way we’d like, and sure, we may face some inconveniences from time to time. We may not always get what we want, but often times, we have what we need. I realize that this is a hard lesson to learn and I struggle with it on a regular basis. It’s easy to get bogged down by problems such as this, but if you change the way you think about it, I promise you that things will be easier.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my high school friends (including Jeannette!) gather for Friendsgiving, an event that is graciously hosted by our friend Christopher. Every year is different and conversation greatly depends on who you’re sitting next to, what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and how much spiked cider has already been consumed. This year we got philosophical at my end of the table, and we started discussing TED Talks. Our conversation was short-lived, but in it we established that TED Talks were amazing and that everyone needs to watch a sampling of them at one point or another.
If you’re not sure what TED or a TED Talk is, here’s a summary:
TED is a non-profit that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It began in 1984 as a conference on those three topics, but has since grown to two official conferences (The TED Conference and TEDGlobal) that are held annually. There are also countless TEDx conferences held around the world that are independently organized, but adhere to the same general rules and mission.
Speakers at TED events are tasked with “giving the speech of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. While participants are often experts in their respective fields, their talks are generally not boring or academic. Instead, they are often inspirational and offer insight into humanity rather than into their specific expertise.
Visit ted.com for their online video archive and more information.
TED Talks I Think Everyone Should Watch (In no particular order)
1. Lesley Hazelton: The Doubt Essential to Faith
In her TED talk from June 2013, Lesley Hazelton discusses how in her quest to write a biography of the prophet Muhammad she came to a realization regarding the doubt that is intrinsic in one’s faith. Doubt, fear, and questioning, she explains, is purely human and, consequently, is absolutely essential to one’s faith.
2. Cameron Russell: Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model
In her TED talk from 2012, model Cameron Russell discusses the complexities of what it means to be a model in a world where beauty is largely constructed.
3. Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music
Benjamin Zander demonstrates to the TED audience that just because you think you don’t like classical music, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to like it — or learn to like anything for that matter. It all has to do with truly listening to what you are hearing.
4. John Green: The Paper Town Academy
Author John Green discusses how our perception of the world shapes how we lead our lives and how education and learning often takes place as much out of the classroom as it does inside it. He demonstrates that we all live within learning communities that encourage us to expand the maps of our lives.
5. Meg Jay: Why 30 Is Not The New 20
Psychologist Meg Jay discusses her work with 20-somethings and in the process demonstrates that someone’s 20s is not a throw-away decade. Instead it is one of the most import ant decades in human development and should be seized for every opportunity it provides.
6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
Author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the phenomenon of genius and asserts that we all have genius, as opposed to a few of us being geniuses.
7. Andrew Solomon: Love No Matter What
Andrew Solomon reflects on his interviews with countless parents and discusses how in the end, regardless of differences, it is love that binds.
There are hundreds of TED talks, too many to ever watch and certainly too many to pick a definite favorite from. These are only a few of my favorites.
Have you watched any TED Talks? What are your favorites?