Let me begin by saying that I couldn’t have asked for (or dreamed of) a better seventeenth birthday than the one I’ve had.
It was brilliant. Fantastic. Epic beyond description or imagination. And, miraculously, it somehow stretched into three full days of awesomeness. I thank my parents for that. On a frigid winter morning, three days ago, our celebration of life, family, and fun began. We were taking our first ski trip in years, and I don’t think any of us could have been more excited. But that is an entirely different story, and I promise I’ll fill you in on it in a day or two.
Sixteen years isn’t very long to have lived. It’s not even two full decades. Every day I learn things about life, be they relatively important from my perspective, like bits of wisdom shared from friends/mentors of mine who’re in their sixties or seventies, or smaller tidbits, like instructions on how to properly cook a dinner, patiently and carefully administered by my Mom (thank you Mom!). And every day, I realize a little bit more just how much I haven’t learned yet. It amazes me to think of all the generations that’ve come before me, billions and billions of people, and of all their accumulated knowledge, some of which has been lost forever over time. I know I could never possibly learn it all, or truly understand everything I’m taught. But I like to try.
Here are sixteen things that I’ve learned over this past year:
- We’re far more privileged than we know. Even when we despair, and think we’ve got nothing compared to someone we see as better off, we Westerners still have it pretty amazingly good. We have clothes to wear, and not only are they clean, they usually aren’t worn till you can’t tell which patch was the original fabric. Most of us have clean drinking water, proper bathroom facilities, and shelter; and hardly any of us have to choose between eating enough to survive and getting an education. An orphanage in Cambodia taught me that.
- Happiness is a choice. This is a saying I’ve heard for much of my life, but this past year I started to finally understand what it means.
- Sometimes no matter how many times you’re fed a bit of wisdom, you won’t actually ingest it until you crash and burn hard.
- Dreaming will only take you so far. At a certain point you have to decide to get out of your chair and do the hard work required to make a dream actually happen. Discovered that when I started chasing my dream to become a published author.
- Don’t expect the inevitable to somehow miraculously not happen. I think there’s a parable about this… You reap what you sow. Meaning, if you’re making conscious decisions that are leading you towards something, you should expect that it’s going to happen. Even if it’s something you don’t actually want to have happen.
- Why is it that whenever I’m lying down, there’s a fly walking on me? Ok, that one was actually one of my great grandmother’s observations. But it’s rather accurate, isn’t it?
- There’s pain and suffering all around us. That’s easy to see. But there’s also joy and beauty all around us. It’s equally easy to see. You just have to look for it.
- Music. It’s actually everywhere (even where it’s not), if you’re paying attention.
- Family is one of the most important things ever. They may drive you crazy on occasion (especially when you’re living with all five of them in a camper the size of some people’s bathrooms), but they’re always there for you, and they really do love you. Even when you’re hormonal. Hehe.
- Never, ever, ever, put the chicken and potatoes in to bake, or a beef stew on the oven and then go watch a movie for a few hours. Just don’t.
- Education is something to be cherished. I’m not saying that chemistry or calculus are on my list of things to do for fun. Actually, I kind of dread those two in particular. I can do them, but… ick. However, I am so, so, incredibly lucky to have access to practically unlimited educational resources. And to have parents who are willing to leave behind a normal, secure life and jobs at home to travel for my educational benefit! I’ve met kids who would do almost anything for those things. So yes! Learn with joy, because it’s a blessing that I’m able to!
- If you have a choice between laughing and crying (like in somewhat embarrassing situations like these), always laugh. It’s much more enjoyable, and everyone likes someone who has the ability to laugh at themselves over something, whereas most people will just look at you funny if you randomly burst into hysterical tears. Plus, that’s an incredibly embarrassing thing to do in and of itself, just saying.
- If, due to some fantastic twist of fate, you find yourself with an opportunity to do something that could make your dreams reality, do it! And, as fair warning, for some reason those opportunities always seem to be scarier than you’d think, from what I’ve seen watching others, and from a few personal experiences as well.
- Life, from what little I’ve seen of it, seems to be something that can slip past us rather quickly if we aren’t paying attention. Also, unless you’re Buddhist, or perhaps Hindu, in which case you’re going to get an infinity of lives, you only get one. Unfortunately for me, there’s probably too many adventures on my list to fit into a mere seven or eight decades, but I’m going to do my best!
- Sing. Sing a lot, and dance whenever you have enough space to. It’s good for morale, and it’s nearly impossible to miss the joy in the world when you’re singing.
I wonder what this next year will teach me? If you have any wisdom you’d like to share, please, do so!