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Have you ever watched that episode of “Seinfeld” where George Costanza comes up with the perfect comeback to a snarky comment directed against him? Except he comes up with it one hour later? Or a day later?
That’s often the case with a lot of us, isn’t it? We know exactly what to say to someone, just not at the moment when we should but always a day or two after the fact.
Similarly, there are so many truths about life that I wish I’d known when I was growing up. Or when I was in my early 20s. Look, I’m not saying I wouldn’t make the same choices I made back then, although chances are I would have. But it still would’ve been nice to know that there were smarter options in front of me and that if I made the smarter choice, things could’ve gone differently.
It’s one thing to crash and burn when you feel like you’re doing the right thing because you don’t know any better, because you have no choice. It’s a whole different thing to know you’d still do the exact same thing but completely by choice.
So here are three basic life truths I embraced as I got older that have led me closer to peace and enlightenment:
Having a Few Good Friends
I had a friend. Well, she was a little more than an acquaintance and we are no longer in touch. But back then she was someone I really looked up to. I’m somewhere between an intensely private introvert and a loner. It’s not like I don’t have fun or can’t be loud and boisterous, but for the most part, I’m a loner.
So, this person was everything I wanted to be but just couldn’t. She was outgoing. She was fun-loving. She attracted all types and all manners of people to her. She had a social life that made me beyond envious. She would have soirees with different groups of people at least five times a week. She organized her social life like I organize my fridge: with aim and precision. (Okay, no. My fridge is a nightmare but you see where I’m going here.)
I spent so many years being around this person and yearning for the kind of friend circle she had. And, God knows, I tried to develop a similar circle of my own. It didn’t help matters that most people don’t really like me. So that ship was never going to sail.
It wasn’t until a few years back that I took stock of my life and made a list of the people in my life who weren’t family. I could literally count them on one hand. I had four. Four friends. But here’s the thing—all four of them are my closest friends. All four of them will pick up if I call at 2:30 am. All four of them care what happens to me. I also realized that all four of them live in different countries: one in Europe and the other three in the United States. I haven’t actually seen two of them face-to-face for seven years now. And the other two, it’s been a couple of years since we met up. So, I don’t have a social life with any of them.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter. I finally realized I don’t need my contact list filled with 100 friends. I just need these four.
When I went through the worst phase of my life in December 2020, all four of them checked in with me regularly. We are on Skype, on Zoom, on Messenger—we chat all the time. They check in when it matters, and that’s true social connection.
Meanwhile, I heard that my old acquaintance is still organizing her social calendar with military precision. Good for her.
You Should Complete You
I cannot tell you how important this is. Those who are 90s kids will know this one. The movie was “Jerry Maguire,” an awesome film with Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renee Zellweger, and there were so many lines from this movie that became famous and quote-worthy.
“Show me the money!” Remember that? When football player Cuba Gooding Jr. tells his agent Tom Cruise to get him a better deal from an NFL team he yells, “Show me the money!” I cannot remember the number of times I and my friends would scream that out loud in the middle of the night. And no, it wasn’t because we were drunk. It was because that line was epically quotable and scream-worthy!
And then there was one of the most quote-worthy lines in the history of cinema:
“You complete me.”
When Cruise’s character says this to Zellweger, I remember how all of us—men and women—swooned in romantic ecstasy. It was the line of the century!
Back then, we all wanted that significant other who would tell us that we completed them and who would make us feel that they completed us.
Newsflash: That was never going to happen. And guess what? It wasn’t until much later I realized that it shouldn’t happen.
While saying, “You complete me” sounds romantic AF, it’s also the worst concept ever. It suggests that we need someone to feel complete. And I’m here to tell you—that freak flag ain’t never gonna fly.
Look, if we’re lucky we will have parents, siblings, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love us and are there for us. But no matter how much people love and care for us, we need to be complete within ourselves.
Let me say that again and out loud: No one can complete us. We should be able to complete ourselves.
Let us not confuse someone’s love for us as being enough. It can be helpful to navigate life on a day-to-day basis and we need those relationships, but to put all of our emotional eggs in someone else’s basket? So much that we feel incomplete without them? That’s a dangerously slippery slope, my friends, and not one we should skate on. That both puts pressure on the other person and makes us dependent on someone else for our own well-being.
And over time, that pressure will give way. It has to.
So, yes. Surround yourself with people. If you’re lucky, surround yourself with people you love and who love you back. But be complete within yourself because a day will come when you will find yourself completely alone. And you are the only one who can pick yourself up and move on with life.
I learned that the hard way.
If Someone Doesn’t Want You, Let Them Go
And I don’t mean this in the romantic sense. I’m talking about other relationships, especially friendships and close family relationships.
I thought about this when a friend of mine, who had helped raise her nephew for many years, was inconsolable one day. Between pacifying her and getting her to stop bawling, I found out that this young man she had loved and given years of her life to raise had left for higher education and hadn’t said goodbye to her.
“How could he do that? I raised him like my own! I loved him and cared for him. Took him to the doctor when my sister was traveling for her job. I’ve spent more time with him than she did. I was more his mother. And then he just ups and does this?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend that we had all seen this coming. My friend loved her nephew. And we saw that her nephew loved her too. But as much as my friend would say things like, “I was more his mother,” the fact was that she wasn’t.
She loved him and he loved her back, just not at the same level. She would buy basketball tickets so they could go together, paid for him to travel abroad, and invite him for dinners at the best restaurants all just to spend time with him. But he was growing up. He was a teenager, then a college student, then he started to work, and then he applied to an MBA program abroad. But my friend stayed in the past; to her, he was still a young kid—not a young man moving on. He still loved her but didn’t have the same level of attachment.
It was no one’s fault. That’s just how life is. We cannot bargain and negotiate with love. We can only love someone; we cannot force them to love us back. And if they want to go, we need to learn to let them go.
My friend is nowhere close to this zen space we have been trying hard to get her to. But she has finally seen the writing on the wall.
I honestly wish I’d known these three truths earlier on in my life—but better late than never. What do you think? Any other life truths that I should know about? Do comment and let me know.