The night before my 26th birthday, I couldn’t sleep. Memories of years past played out again and again in my head, my mind raced. The experience put me in an introspective mood, so I decided to write this.
If I could sit down and talk with my 15 year-old self, here’s what I would tell him.
Today, all of the information in the world is at our fingertips, most of what we want to know is just a Google search away. That “thing” that makes us wonder can lead to our passions, or at the very least our next adventure. Use this advantage, we owe it to ourselves to explore what makes us curious.
Always strive to learn something new
It’s not necessary to pick up a new hobby every year, or read the latest scientific literature to learn something new (unless that’s your thing, then go for it.) Challenge yourself though, find new ways to do everyday things. Always have a hobby, passion, or career and stay on the cutting edge of industry trends.
Read. Every. Day.
Be your own judge
Part of being an adult means that we are totally responsible for ourselves. Yet so many of our generation still look to others for answers to what they should do. It’s mostly societal conditioning, where we feel the need to ensure that we don’t break out (or too far) from the mold and risk being ostracized.
Don’t completely shun society or go against the grain just ‘cause.
Learn to trust yourself.
We make the rules of our life—but we also ultimately bear complete responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
So worry less about what others will think of your actions, focus more on what you feel is right and whether or not you are completely willing to accept any and all possible consequences of said actions.
College is important, but not for the reasons most people think
After working in a college for the last five years and being a student myself, I can honestly say most people don’t take full advantage of the experience. Most just show up, do the bare minimum, and leave.There’s much more than just passing exams and getting a degree.
The opportunities to explore, learn, and network are vast. Learning how to make those connections is one of the most valuable lessons to gain from the college experience.
Confront your demons, but accept that you can’t destroy them
We all have insecurities and pieces of ourselves that we don’t like. Some will drown them in alcohol or chase them away with drugs, while others will just repress and hide them away. Some even try, in vain, to rid themselves of these demons completely so that they can feel happy all the time.
Truth is, by repressing those demons you are doing nothing but putting a band-aid over your imperfections. And trying to get rid of them is like chasing the proverbial carrot—you can run, but you’re never going to catch it. Those demons are a part of you that you must embrace, and integrate. Just about everyone wears a mask to hide them and honestly they’re only half-living their truth.
Face your insecurities.
Don’t run away from them and don’t bother trying to destroy them.
Accept them as a part of you.
It may sound counter intuitive, but if we learned to do these things, we’ll realize that our demon is actually a good thing. It has the potential to make our lives fuller.
Learn to be bold. Embrace vulnerability
The British SAS motto is “Who Dares, Wins.” We don’t need to be daredevils, but we can be total badasses in everyday life. To do that means facing the hard decisions head on and taking action.
Say what needs to be said.
Be more assertive in your interactions.
Go for what you want, because no one else is just going to give it to you.
Always remember, closed mouths don’t get fed.
Embracing vulnerability is about learning to embrace and express our true selves in the interactions that matter most to us. It’s not about being “touchy-feely” and sharing feelings around a campfire while some guy plays a guitar. It’s about sharing our truth, unashamedly.
Truth is relative—not universal—and vulnerability is about expressing your particular brand of it. Don’t hide behind a mask. Rather, face the world head-on.
Learn to accept responsibility and the art of apology
Sometimes accepting responsibility and apologizing will go hand in hand, but not always.
Accepting responsibility for our actions does not mean that we must apologize for them. There will come a time where we will say or do something that we feel is right, and it will hurt someone else’s feelings. This is unavoidable. Accept what this decision may lead to it, but know you can’t always accept responsibility for someone else’s feelings. Speak your truth, even if it hurts.
Apologies should be saved for when we have directly wronged someone through our actions, but never for when we are speaking our truth. It should go without saying, but don’t use this as a reason to intentionally hurt others.
This will take practice.
Establish a set of personal values, and don’t break them for anyone
Think about what is meaningful to you. What do you stand for? Figure it out, write it down, and live it.
Realize these things will change for us as we grow, but we are the ones who determine what changes and what stays. We should live with integrity, and embrace staying true to ourselves at all times.
There is no such thing as the perfect moment
Time is continuous. There is no set moment where everything will fall into place.
It’s just a collection of moments where you take action. Eventually we find ourselves at a point where we feel more whole than we were yesterday.
So don’t wait for perfect moments, because they will never come.
Go for that opportunity as soon as you see it.
You’re never going to be completely ready.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment to kiss the girl or guy, just go for it.
Sometimes we have to shoot, then aim. Make the move and learn to calibrate after.
So there you have it. Life lessons gleaned from 25 years of experience. There’s so much more to learn, and I’m sure some of these may change over time. But isn’t that the beauty of life anyway?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Paul Townsend/Flickr