The day I went “through the looking glass.”
I anxiously waited. Nervous on my chair, I watched the clock. I couldn’t believe that I was about to turn 26 in less than a second. How was that even possible?
Yes, I know the answer: We are all aging. That’s part of life. Thank you. But still! How could I turn 26 and leave young adulthood to reach, well, adulthood?
I always pictured myself as “the kid” and “the young one” who will never be “the grown-up one.” And yet, it happened. I wasn’t so young after all and there is nothing wrong with that.
I experienced what we named the quarter-life crisis. I mostly had it because I was pictured in my family as the White Rabbit from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I was always late in life—well not exactly. I felt that I was late in life which is not the same thing and it wasn’t accurate after all. I had to get things done as quickly as possible, to go on with other stuff, projects, and dreams, before, uh, dying.
Even if I was happy at first with my multiple achievements, I couldn’t really grasp that moment of satisfaction which was running ahead of me and showing that I was missing the time to do what I wanted to do in my leisure time. Everything changed when I went “Through the Looking Glass again” here, and what I learned would be valuable to my future self as it would be to you now.
1. It’s ok.
You can find that advice and several other “What I learned” articles (I never said that mine was revolutionary) and it is true. The time that you face in your life right now is what you need to move on. Yes, you might feel stuck in your relationships, studies, or even job. You thought that at the age you are right now, you would have been this and that but no and you freak out. It’s ok!
Freaking out is just the first step of where you are right now and allows you to evaluate your different options. It’s okay to not be as wise as you thought you would have been, or not yet successful, or patient, or not even started your own family. Do you know why? It means that you still have a wonderful work to do: to grow, to know yourself better and discover the one true friend you always had: you.
2. Observe first and then make your move.
Another thing I learned when I changed my way of viewing time relating to life is that it’s good to first observe, and then make the move. As simple as it looks, watching without rushing to engage is pretty hard. Everybody hates losing time. We value our experiences by the way we act on them. Observing is acting. Take the time to see how your family is dealing with a situation and how other families are dealing with the same thing. Study, ask advice, and with what you could have learned, take the lead. There is no point of jumping into the lake if you don’t know how to swim. Make a point in your life to observe life as it happens to you. Ponder it. Look at the details and study what authors, politicians, religious leaders have said about them. You may quickly realize that the issues you are facing may not be how they appear, thus the solution may be completely different.
3. Dare to think for yourself.
When I was 14, I thought that, “When I am 26, I will know life pretty well.” As silly as it sounds right now, it reflects the need we all have to control. Let’s face it. We are control freaks and we try to control our environment, career, health, and even our own family. We tend to set up ways of thinking to prevail any moment of doubt and it gives us the assurance (which is a wrong one, news flash) that we are in control of something we actually aren’t. Doubting doesn’t have to be so fearful. Great philosophers, such as Descartes, praised doubt for it helped them to press forward in life in order to find happiness.
However, doubting requires daring. Dare to tear down what you have believed for years, examine what you hold true, dissect authors’ quotes, your readings, what teachers, social media, radio, reporters, church ministers, even your own friends say to you and make up your own mind. It’s totally fine to take a little bit from here and there (even from this article) to make your new whole. Also, keep in mind that what you are holding on as truth now may be evolving. It is part of our existence. Not knowing is already an answer, a genuine one which leads us to press ever onward.
Allow yourself to have different opinions at different stages of your life because some results of reevaluating leads to scientific discoveries, philosophical breakthroughs, and revolutionary changes.
4. Find your life’s beat inside of you.
It’s a pretty cliché but tremendously powerful. We all have dreams, wishes, and capacities. We have one life.
Finding what’s unique about you—what makes you dance inside and shine—is important. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” He was right. Do you know why? Because when you try to be somebody else in order to just “fit in” you will stop playing music. Your beat is what you are the best at. It could be poetry, sports, charities, or marketing.
Dare to listen to yourself and find out what you truly want because you already have the answer. We all have this music inside ourselves that makes us so confident that we can conquer the world. When you don’t care what you are, the music stops. Don’t just try to fit in. Just don’t. Showing uniqueness can be rough but it will ultimately lead the way for other people who couldn’t make the first move. Be inspiring, let others hear your music, and make your life a living concert.
5. Be the writer of your own life.
Finally, stop beating yourself down. Acknowledge that you are so great and that you have power over your own life. We’re all on a journey, working on ourselves, about something. We can lose track of our actual worth when we are always focusing on what needs to be fixed. French philosopher Marcel Conche reminds us that ancient Greeks always focused on what they did right and not on what they couldn’t or didn’t do. Comparing ourselves to others is human, easy, and so dangerous.
Again, it has nothing to do with your unique worth. If so, you might be jealous of what you see but not about what is actually it. Choose not to follow that path but instead focus on your own strength, courage, and personal history. Never be ashamed of your past mistakes, or your fears and shortcomings. Be willing to look deep into yourself. As Jean-Paul Sartre illustrated in his work, we are reinventing ourselves every day, being a new person each day with endless possibilities. Do you know why? Because you are a hero, my friend, writing the story of your life.
The above advice takes time and practice but as I got back from The Looking Glass, I understood that what I realized that day would be so useful for the rest of my life. It would be so easy for me to forget and go back to my older way of thinking. You’re not late in life and never will be. So now when I see the White Rabbit around the corner, I keep in mind that existence is about mastering happiness and that obtaining that (happiness) takes time.
Bonus: 5 Mindful Things to Do Each Morning.
Author: Guillaume Olivier
Image: Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson