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February 13, 2024

8 Pieces of Wisdom from my Grandma that Guide me Through Life.

My grandmother passed a few months ago, and the holidays were strange without her.

The whole time I felt like there was a void. Empty space at the times when I’d visit her that couldn’t be properly filled with any activity, unspoken words lingering around in the back of my head—words I would normally share with her.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her and how despite the fact she’s not here anymore in her physical body, she keeps living within us in many ways: her face lives on in the faces of her children and grandchildren, her personality stays alive with the personality traits we inherited from her. I just started to notice how often my dad talks like her, which I never really noticed before. And most importantly, she keeps living with me through all the things she taught me throughout my life.

And she left so much of her life advice with me. My parents were young when they had me; my mom only 19 when I was born, doing her finals at school with a huge, pregnant belly. So my grandparents helped the young couple with everything they could, which is how I ended up being raised mainly by my grandparents and together they built the foundation of who I am today.

I learned so much from all my grandparents, but in this article I’d love to focus on my grandma only.

I always saw my grandmother as someone who was torn between two places. Living in a rural area of Hungary, mainly during the communist era, she had to work hard and was criticized a lot, which made her anxiously try to fit in and be accepted by those around her. But behind all the validation seeking, the must-dos and have-to-bes, there was a secret side of her which she rarely showed to the word. She mainly kept it for us, and the more I think about it, she didn’t share this side with anyone but perhaps her grandchildren.

This secret woman was her true essence, I believe. She was joyful, carefree—a free spirit. She did a lot of exercises as a young woman which she referred to as “her P.E.” but when I started doing yoga, I realized she was actually doing yoga without even knowing that such a thing existed.

At one point, I even told her that there was a little guru living inside her that resurfaced from time to time to light her wisdom on me. She would always laugh it off and say, “Talking nonsense”—but it wasn’t.

Here are eight pieces of her wisdom that guide me through life:

Start every morning by moving your body.

While this isn’t something I can manage to do every day—sometimes I have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get ready—I still try to get my body moving in the mornings. I remember the times when we used to do warm-ups and stretches in my grandma’s kitchen in the mornings just to get our body ready for the day.

Though I swapped this routine with yoga, she showed me what a difference moving your body after sleep makes. I realized that a lot of things we did were actually things we are taught in yoga classes, but she’d never heard the word yoga before and came up with her own routines intuitively.

Rise early to save time for yourself.

My grandma used to tell me how she’d wake up before anybody else and get things done around the house before she started work. This way, she could manage things unbothered by others which otherwise she’d have to do after work and it would take more time because she’d be tired. This way, she had more free time to do what she liked and spend time recharging herself. It’s something I also love to do now that I’m an adult.

Work your brain daily.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have computers and phones and access to the internet everywhere, but it didn’t mean we were bored. Not at all! We hung out with our friends in person, and when there was “nothing to do,” we had so many options to choose from.

My grandma let me borrow her books and made me fall in love with reading. She taught me how to cook, how to make pasta (we were unaware of my Celiacs back then), how to knit, how to preserve cucumbers and dry and hang paprika.

After I learned to read and write, she would make me sit at the kitchen table with her while she was cooking and do crosswords to work my brain daily and keep my mind sharp, because it is an important tool for life. And she would make me think first before telling me the answers. At the beginning, I used to hate it because I didn’t know sh*t, but with time her method helped me to expand my mind, gain knowledge, and grow my vocabulary. And I learned that it’s okay to not know everything.

You can do anything if you believe you can.

As a kid, I always loved to sing (badly) and wanted to sing like my idols. I remember when I told my parents I wanted to be a singer, my dad laughed and said, “For that you need to be able to sing.” Cutting my wings off before I could even spread them scarred me for life.

Even now, being 33 years old I can’t just sing in front of anyone and struggle to show off my actual singing voice when I know others can hear me. I know it sounds silly, especially after my grandma told me that I could do anything if I believe in myself and even proved it through me. In elementary school, we had music class where we often had to learn a song and perform it in front of the whole class for a grade. I always got super anxious and sick throughout my performance but she told me to only focus on the singing and to know that I could sing the song perfectly. Next time the teacher called me out, I did as she told me and that was the only time I got a five grade on my singing (the highest score possible).

I gave up my dream to become a singer but when it comes to everything else, I apply what she said and so far, it hasn’t failed me—or maybe I haven’t failed myself?

Work smart, not hard.

This is something I mainly remember hearing from my late grandpa, and he used to say this when I helped him with work on the fields or around the house, but my grandma lived the same way, following the same rule. Some people work hard to achieve little, and waste tons of energy, time, and even money on getting things done while if they’d use their brains, they could reschedule, repurpose, regroup anything and work out their own system to get things done. When we work smarter, we get more done with  minimal effort and spare the most valuable things: time and energy.

Don’t waste food.

My grandparents grew up at a time when food wasn’t always easily accessible. Oranges and sugar used to be their Christmas gift, they never heard the word “supermarket,” and most of their food was grown in their garden. Wasting food was a luxury barely anybody could afford. I learned tons of tricks and tips from her, such as how to save leftovers and turn them into a new meal, how to peel apples and potatoes as thinly as possible with a knife (as there were no veggie peelers in sight), what can be fed to the animals and what can be compost, how to preserve fruits in syrup for the winter, and how to pickle veggies, just to name a few.

Just wait.

Or, not everything is what it seems as first. I learned from my grandma that sometimes things happen that we feel are negative or bad, but they lead to good things in the end. At times, it takes years to see the good that comes from it, but maybe something has to break, grow apart, or not work out so other things that are meant for you can enter your life. And until you can learn and grow from your challenges and obstacles they are blessings in disguise.

The person who is meant for you will show up at the right time.

My whole life, everyone around me was pushing the same narrative: I have to find a handsome, rich man and get married as soon as possible to solve my life. It was something that bothered me ever since I was a little girl. Why do I need to find a man and get married to live a good life? Why do I need a man’s money?

Though my grandma was pushing this onto me too, when I freaked out she always said the same thing: “You’re right. At this age a woman doesn’t need a man anymore to provide for her—you can do it for yourself. And anyways, the right person who is meant for you will come at the right time. You shouldn’t be in a relationship just for the sake of being in one.”

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be a grandmother, and what kind I would be, but I don’t want to have children, so it’s not likely I will figure this out. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give away the teachings of my beloved grandparents. All these valuable life lessons they gave me can be given away to anyone from our partners to our siblings’ children or even to our neighbors.

I believe the world would be a better place if we listened to and learned more from our ancestors while we still can.

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