Picking up life lessons can be as easy as grabbing a book of quotes from the Dalai Lama, but there’s something to be said for discovering life lessons on your own.
Or so I tell myself as I look all around me for ways to make myself a better, more well-adjusted person. (I also tell myself that that mindset is its own virtue.)
The following is (I hope) a far-from-exhaustive list of life lessons I’ve picked up in unexpected places—and a quick jaunt into how I picked them up:
1. Makeovers are Dangerous.
Not including the dozens of makeover-related reality television shows out there today, makeovers appear all over our popular culture: She’s All That, The Breakfast Club, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Princess Diaries, My Fair Lady—the list goes on and on.
Think about these makeovers for a moment; were any of them necessary? If you answered, “Yes,” particularly for Ally Sheedy’s character Allison in The Breakfast Club, you’re wrong—and a part of me hates you, just a little.
The reason I’m so upset by that particular transformation is that she changes everything about herself. She’s essentially a completely different character. I may not have appreciated her darker, brooding character (truth be told, I didn’t care for the film at all), but the whole bubbly, girl’s girl thing didn’t ring true to me.
Don’t get me wrong—I picked a facetious lead-in here; I’m perfectly fine with makeovers. I fully support cosmetic changes so long as you want them for yourself—and not because someone else wants them for you.
If you want to try out a new, more stylish look, buy Jimmy Choo’s latest masterpiece. If you want to fix your teeth, head online and search for “Invisalign Braces in Charlotte.” If you’re tired of not spending any effort on your appearance, and you’re feeling less confident about it, splurge on some new clothes.
2. Babies Know How to Eat.
My nephew tried to eat a dead fly the other day, so I am absolutely not suggesting that babies know what to eat, but I am suggesting that they know how to eat; namely, babies know what they want and don’t let any societal judgments get in their way.
Basically, babies have a great relationship to food. They eat what they want, in the exact portions they want, and they don’t give a darn what you have to say about it. They don’t count calories. They don’t worry about how many carbs they’ve eaten, what percentage of their fat intake they’ve consumed, or whether they’ve eaten out at Cinnabon in the last month and a half.
But at the same time, they don’t overeat either; and they’ve already mastered the healthy habit of spreading mealtimes throughout the day. If you coax them, they’ll eat at least a few veggies.
I’m not saying that my roommates should parent me, but I’m happy if they remind me that I’ve just downed my third Frosty this week and that there are literally zero vegetables in the fridge.
3. Cartoon Characters can Dispense Great Wisdom.
I have at times disparaged cartoons for being childish, and a great number of them are, but it’s only right since the majority of their target audiences are, in fact, children. From time to time though, a cartoon produces a wise figure or two.
Consider Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender (by the way, the aforementioned nephew’s older brother and I will totally vouch for Avatar).
Here’s a partial list of the wisdom he offers:
“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”
I, for one, would never have thought of pride as the source of shame, but if you think about it—and you don’t even need to think that hard—it makes sense: if you don’t put yourself or your abilities on a pedestal, and you don’t lord yourself over anyone else, it’s hard to imagine you’d be ashamed of anything.
“There is nothing wrong with letting people who love you help you. Not that I love you. I just met you.”
“While it is always best to believe in one’s self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
He also teaches us that we shouldn’t tell strangers that we love them. We shouldn’t be afraid to let people who love us go ahead and help us. They want to, so we’ll both benefit.
“At my age, there is really only one big surprise left, and I’d just as soon leave it a mystery.”
He teaches us that death isn’t something we should fret over. It’s fine to know it’s out there, because that keeps us living, but it’s never a good idea to make our life all about death.
“There’s nothing wrong with a life of peace and prosperity. I suggest you think about what it is that you want from your life, and why.”
Whether or not your character arc requires you to change from dishonorable to honorable, or to recognize that your honor comes from within yourself rather than “honors” conferred upon you by the powers that be, you should figure out what you want out of your life, and what gives your life meaning, and then you should go after it.
“In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.”
He teaches us that hope is a mindset, and that it’s the key to our braving life’s worst.
“I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea, but it’s just so sad!”
And here, when he cries delivering the line, he teaches us that sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. He teaches us that sometimes you just need a good cry.
Uncle Iroh is a font of wisdom and if we all adopted his mindset, the mindset of looking for wisdom in all life’s manifold experiences, from the joys imparted by a glass of tea to the wisdom in a baby’s diet, I’m sure we’d be happier. We won’t all end up Dalai Lamas, but we’ll definitely end up happier.
Chris Miller is a professional writer, blogger, and English grammar enthusiast. Chris enjoys learning about new health products, procedures, and ideas.
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Asst: Terri Tremblett/Ed: Bryonie Wise