I feel like I am part of a generation many lessons are lost on. While I can’t deny that on many occasions I’ve been an active participant in this sad situation, I feel that it is incumbent on me to find myself some solutions. So, here are 23 lessons I’ve learned, or tried to learn, over the course of my 23 years.
1. Do not rely on others to find your happiness. It’s got to be intrinsic or it won’t come to you at all. Finding happiness in extrinsic things can be a good jumping off point, but you’ve got to internalize that so you can find your happiness inside yourself.
2. Be with people who make you happy. This seems obvious and even cliche, but you’d be surprised by how many negative influences we willingly keep in our lives. Your friends should make you better, and you should make your friends better. If there are negative influences in the friendship then it’s at best one sided, and at worst mutually detrimental. Don’t waste your time.
3. Set goals you can actually accomplish, and then put in the work. They say shoot for the stars, but maybe go to aviation school first, no? Don’t bite off too great of chunks that you can’t possibly swallow. And then once your goals have been set, don’t let yourself down by not putting in the legwork to achieve your goals.
4. Cultivate some manners, and hone your social graces. They will always be in demand wherever you go, whatever you are doing. Even if that’s not the order of the day with the people you’re with, it always behooves you to act with a little decency and class. What could it hurt?
5. Be clean. I mean that in a very literal way. The way you look, smell, and present yourself says just about everything about you, and can be read a metaphorical mile off. Hygiene is essential folks. Brush your teeth, shower, shave, clean your nails, and wear clean clothes. It’s pretty basic, but it quite seriously makes all the difference no matter what kind of situation you’re in.
6. Be on time. Get over yourself, get up early, snap to it. Just be on time for God’s sake. No matter what it is you’ve gotten used to being late for (whether you picked the time or someone else did) it’s disrespectful of others to show up late. You’re wasting their time and showing them that you don’t value your own time. Why should they respect you if you don’t respect yourself?
7. When you’re done with college (if not before then), move out. It’s time. Get a job. Live a life that’s yours and not your family’s. I can’t emphasize this enough. You aren’t them. Try things and learn things and make your mistakes while you’re young. If you get used to continuing to live off your parents after you graduate, then it’s going to be an even harsher reality that slaps you in the face a few years down the road when you’ve got to strike out on your own for the first time. Get an apartment, a car, a gym membership, and a local volunteering gig. Those are 4 things you can’t go wrong with.
8. Be active. You’re young, flexible (hopefully in more ways than one) and in your prime. Don’t let yourself become sedentary and immobile, because your whole life will come to match that.
9. Have some practical skills. Know how to sew on a button, jump start your car battery, change a tire, trim your own hair, do your own laundry, and brew a good cup of coffee. There’s plenty of other things that you should know how to do by this point, (make yourself dinner, sign a lease, open a bank account, file your taxes, apply for a passport, make loan repayment, pay off a credit card, sit for a good interview, stick to a budget, etc.) but you catch my drift.
10. Read for personal enrichment. Reading can’t ever be a bad thing, at least in my book. Whether it’s powering through a novel or knowing how to read a road map, it’s all good. But even as your life consumes you and you come to be overwhelmed, remind yourself to read something on a regular basis, even if it’s just your local newspaper. Perusing Playboy doesn’t count.
11. Remember Birthdays of people important to you. Duh. But it seems so easily forgotten in this day of electronic notifications and alarm reminders. You shouldn’t have to look at your phone to know that it’s two days til your dad’s birthday. Also, memorize the important phone numbers. I can’t count the number of times that would have saved my butt.
12. Vote. This is important if you’ve any interest whatsoever in yourself. Even the most self centered and egotistical of you, who lives in your own world and couldn’t care any less about others should understand that it’s to your benefit to vote for people (on any level) who represent what you want in life. This country used to be based on this sense of self preservation if nothing else, but now it’s based on ignorance and lackadaisical whim. I can’t stand that.
13. Sleep is important. If you have trouble sleeping you may need some melatonin or a good sleep mask. Neither are expensive in the slightest, and both options are absolutely worth it. Sleep is essential for your health, good mood, and personal growth. Don’t gyp yourself.
14. Don’t forget your family. No matter what sort of family you come from, whether it was a really good loving family, or an abusive distant family, don’t forget where you come from. You can either continue a great family relationship that builds as your family branches out and grows, or at the least you can remember where you’ve been and see the difference between that and where you’d like to be going.
15.Take care of your health. This should be pretty basic, but it’s something I chronically forget (pun intended). If you go to the doctor and nip in the bud whatever illness you’re coming down with, you’ll avoid a lot of future pain and suffering and additional medical bills down the road. Stay active, eat well. (I know, I sound like your mother.)
16. Know how to take care of your belongings. Don’t throw your smartphone around. Don’t spill things on your computer. Know what kinds of sites not to visit or download from, and remember how to defrag your computer from time to time. For that matter, know how to take care of all your stuff – your home, your car, your books, your record collection, all of it.
17. Screw Facebook. The social networking drama isn’t worth it. If you’re looking for a worthwhile way to do social networking check out linkedin or start a blog. Avoid facebook and twitter if you value your time.
18. Spontaneously say yes. If it’s something you haven’t tried, and you can’t find a legitimate downside… go for it! Try it! Nine times out of ten you really won’t regret it. We all know the cliche about regretting more things you don’t do than things you do do. It’s so true. Even all those things that I’ve done and I look back and roll my eyes and shake my head – I’m less upset over having made those mistakes than I am about the chances I was given and didn’t take. All of my personal regrets are about things I wish I’d said yes to, or done sooner.
19. Travel. Go everywhere you can. I mean everywhere in your country, but also abroad. Goes back to that passport thing. Go everywhere you can whenever you have the chance. Stay in shady hostels and hang out with questionable people and make side trips that you’re not sure of at all. Stay longer if you need to and throw yourself fully into whatever is going on wherever you are. Find a way to volunteer or give back in any place you go. There isn’t a way that you’ll regret this. It is more worth it than you can possibly imagine.
20. Dreads can wait. I used to want to get dreadlocks. I’ve had my nose pierced for nearly two years, and I have two piercings in each ear. I know this isn’t all that dramatic, it’s not like I’m covered in tattoos and piercings and such. But you’d be surprised how much flak I’ve caught in the professional world for my subdued little nose piercing, and double holed ears. I’m just saying that it might be a good idea to wait to get your dreadlocks and piercings and tattoos for a later time. They’re increasingly acceptable, but still. Get your professional career started before you start your body mods.
21. Find something to believe in. Whether you grew up going to church with your parents or not, it is worthwhile to seek something you can put your faith in. While it seems that in our day and age adopting any kind of spirituality is the lowest of priorities, I think you will find that as a young person striking out on your own, life is a lot easier when you know what you believe in; you’ve established your morals, ethics, and standards, and no longer have to fight yourself and others when something comes up and you don’t know where you stand. I know it seems a dying fad, but go out and find what rings truest, and if you can live your life accordingly you will find yourself in fewer tough-decision-making spots and in a calmer, less stressful place.
22. Even if you’re an introvert, be sure to cultivate good friendships, and remember to be social. It’s important to get out there and have experiences with other people instead of just holing yourself up and going through life solo. There are more adventures to be had with good company.
23. Learn to have a sense of humour, be able to understand sarcasm, and be able to take a dose of your own medicine. Be able to laugh. This is essential now and will be for the rest of your life. Don’t let this pass by now. If you can’t develop a sense of humour today, you’re gonna be in for a lot of hurt in the coming tomorrows.
Bonus. Yeah I know I said 23 but this one I can’t allow myself to leave out: learn how to truly listen. If you’re so busy thinking up what argument you’re going to make next, you aren’t taking in what is being said to you, and you will absolutely not know how to form an adequate rebuttal or response. Yes, some people talk just to hear their own voice, but for the most part if someone is taking the time to make a point to you, they’re not just trying to waste your time. They are making a statement of something that they believe in or understand, and for you to brush that off makes you pretty much a horrible person. Learn how to listen, whether it’s to a lecture, a presentation, an argument, a story, or a friend in a pinch. It can only help you.