So this is my collection of lessons learned so far in life. I really don’t know if anyone is going to read this, but since I often reflect on my life and how I’ve got through this or that situation every now and then, I thought I’d just write down, what I’ve learned so far. This way, if I ever lose my path, I can come back to what has helped me before. The amount of quotes and references is intended. A lot of people said very important things a lot better than I ever could. If I know who said it, I will name them
Life isn’t fair
That one comes up fairly often and is pretty easy to grasp. But what’s important is to really truly understand that life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you get. (Look how I got a Forrest Gump quote in here just like that.) It’s easy to accept that when everything is going great. It gets really difficult when life takes a path you didn’t intend or you can’t control. I don’t really believe in fate. I believe in coincidence. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people all the time everywhere. You’re not the worst off and you’ll never be the best off in life. Deal with it. Lamenting about how everything should be different or better won’t get you anywhere. Accept that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Get upset but get over it. Work on your positive outlook on life. It doesn’t just come to you, you have to believe that good things can and will happen to you eventually. Don’t let go. Never give up, it’s such a beautiful life. – Hurts – Wonderful Life.
Accept the things you cannot change
Also a rather easy concept to grasp but a very difficult one to hold up in reality when shit comes up. For as long as I can remember my mother always said „Jammern hilft nicht“ ( „Complaining doesn’t help“/“There’s no point in complaining“ ). And again. So much truth. Complaining, lamenting, getting upset only helps you get so far. You need to get it out of your system, that is perfectly fine. But when that’s done, be done. Love it, change it or leave it. Is it a problem that is solveable? Can you solve it? If yes, do whatever you can to solve it. If you’re not willing to, leave it be and move on. Whatever is bugging you will not vanish by complaining about it. I always imagine a person as a smartphone with a limited battery. Life is basically computing. Now imagine you’re computing while your smartphone screen is on. Your battery will drain much faster and it doesn’t help your computing at all. If anything, it slows down your performance. Shut down your externalization of problems, use your strength to solve them or let go of them. Either option needs your battery power, don’t use it for something useless like complaining.
In the end, it’s just a matter of perspective
This one is one of my favorites. I’ve recently been told that I „find positivity in absolutely everything“. And yes, indeed I do. I know I can be quite annoying with that but for the purpose of getting over shit, it’s quite helpful. Knowing that in the end everything will be fine and if it’s not fine yet, it’s not the end. Whether it’s your own fault, someone else’s or it was just a plain fucking coincidence that life handed you lemons: You can’t change it. So now it’s up to you. Do you think you deserved that and that you shall be punished for the shit that happens to you? Do you think the universe is punishing you and you’re the victim here? Whatever reason you have to hold a grudge: see chapter „Accept the things you cannot change“. Life holds a lot of good things in store if you recognize them before they have passed. Choose to have a positive outlook and you will experience a lot more positive than negative things. If you think life is out to get you, a simple red traffic light can upset you. See it as a chance to listen to your favorite music in your car a little longer. There is positivity in almost everything. You just have to make an effort to see and incorporate it.
Problems are basically just challenges
More than likely anyone that is ever going to read this is living a hell of a privileged life. Growing up safe and sound in a Western civilization, we have a lot of so-called first world problems. Well, we can’t help having those, we can’t help getting upset about them. True, but at some point, put them into perspective. Sometimes it’s way too easy to just say „Well dem kids in Africa are starving and you’re complaining about the side-dish you shouldn’t have picked“, but it always holds a certain truth. Make it a point to not have people tell you that. Put your problems into perspective with you and your life first. Have you gotten through worse? Well, there you go! Is this the worst you ever felt? Well, you will heal and you will get over it. Not now, not tomorrow, but in time, you will. If you do not believe that, then take some time and try again. More than likely you have family and friends who will gladly help you with that, if you just ask them for help. Through the worst of times, believe that you are allowed to feel better and that, at some point, you will feel better. It makes a hell of a difference, if you feel you deserve to be happy or if you think that life is just supposed to be easy and therefore a happy gig for you. No one has a lease for happiness. You have to work for it most of the time.
Don’t take things for granted
I can say I had a pretty easy life thus far. There have been bumps in the road but all in all, pretty smooth, in my opinion. Maybe I’m thinking that because I’m not taking all the good things that have happened to me (whether through my doing or not) for granted. If you cherish the simple, good stuff, bad things won’t feel as overwhelming. Every day I’m entering my apartment, I enjoy a short moment of „this is MY home“. Whenever I take a glimpse at my car, I think „this is MY car“. Every time I have a good day at work, I tell myself, that that’s not normal. It’s special. I feel the same about friends and family. The little joys they give me each and every day are truly special to me. It sounds so easy, yet so powerful.
Admit mistakes, admit weakness
„Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.“ – Confucius.
That says it all. Make mistakes, stand by them and move the fuck on. If you didn’t make a mistake, but you are still the one to endure the pain, admit defeat and take strength from the conscious decision to be the victim only for as long as it takes until you’re back on your feet. We are way too emotional creatures to never get hurt in the process of living life. Accept the fact that people in your life can hurt you indescribably and that they maybe will at some point. „It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.“ – Jean-Luc Picard. Admit mistakes, where you made one. Admit that you have been weak, where you trusted someone with your heart. Realize that there is no alternative to our emotions. Never stop trusting people, in the end they’re the key to immense pain as much as they’re the key to happiness. Allow yourself to realize you trusted the wrong one and move on. There is no guarantee you won’t make mistakes or get hurt, but if you free your conscience of doubt and guilt, you can gain enough strength to try again. Stay positive, it can’t always rain.
Use hope carefully
Hope is a powerful potion. It basically enables you to completely ignore reality if you do it „right“. And reality is one hell of a bitch. When life overwhelms me, I tend to hope that this particular situation will get better, just by hoping for it. I delay facing reality by hoping reality will shape itself into what I hope will happen. Since my patience is, of course, limited, at some point hoping for better is replaced by, well, reality. That’s the part where it hurts. It’s inevitable. Sometimes hope just delays pain. It’s so easy and powerful, yet mostly not at all helpful for your goal of getting better. So use hope wisely. I have yet to master that art. To me, the art of hoping is to never lose hope in the world, in life, in the good of people, while not using hope to delay inevitable pain. I’ll tell you when I get there!
Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely
You can sit next to the person you love and feel lonely, yet you’re not alone. You can sit in your apartment for a week and not see a single person and be alone, but never feel lonely. You always have yourself. Like yourself. Like your thoughts and your life. If you don’t like your life or yourself: change it. You have the power to essentially change everything about yourself, if you feel it’s necessary for your own happiness. If you’re content with yourself, then like yourself! Leave yourself alone with your thoughts. If being alone makes you sad and feel lonely, you’re doing it wrong, in my opinion. Of course, we need people, love and purpose in life, but you won’t always have all three, maybe not even one of those. What’s left is you, yourself and the person you are. If you don’t like spending time by yourself, how can you expect someone else to like spending time with you?
You’re not living other people’s life
A lesson I learned early in life was that sometimes you don’t fit into other people’s expectations. You can either try to make yourself fit into them or simply ignore the expectations. I’m pretty sure you know which one I’m rooting for. „It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile. Be yourself no matter what they say.“ – Sting – Englishman in New York. Granted, it doesn’t take a „man“ to stand by who you are, common sense should suffice. Don’t define yourself through the number of people that like or dislike you. In the end you have to get up in the morning by yourself and that’s a lot easier if you like yourself. Liking yourself is essential (see chapter: Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely). People will dislike you for the fact that you are a perfectly normal, nice, good human being. Don’t try to understand that, just accept the fact that being disliked or judged doesn’t necessarily mean, you commited a mistake in shaping your own personality or appearance. Critically reflect on your own behavior and appearance, that’s fine or even important. But no one knows yourself as well as you do. So don’t let anyone tell you you’re not awesome, when you know, deep inside, that that’s not true. “I want to start a revolution. This will be a revolution of inquiring further, of not worrying of winning other people’s approval, of not wishing you were someone else but perfectly content to be who you are. Someone unique and rare and fearless.” – Madonna – Living For Love.
Never cease to love life
There are so many things to love about life. Probably as many as there are to hate life or to at least not always like it. But be honest. Being content with your life is pretty awesome. I believe you’re barely ever truly happy in life. It takes so much to be happy. Yet, I know happiness is just a temporary state. At some point it will get clouded. If that brings you down all the way, you’re doing it wrong, in my opinion. Just be content with who you are and what you have. You can lose strength or hope in some moments, just do your very best to get them both back. No one says it’s easy, but easy is boring anyways. Put your mind in the right place and you’re good to go. Allow yourself to grow from difficult times, see it as a challenge to become a better, wiser person. And if all else fails: use humour! Allow yourself to laugh, no matter how you feel. I don’t care about the biology of it, but laughing helps you feel better. It will distract you and show you that there is always space for humour. Surround yourself with people that make you laugh and that you make laugh. That is all, folks. Live. Laugh. Love.
No one is perfect, but never stop trying to be
A lot of people like to blame others for their misfortune. Sometimes it’s life as a whole, sometimes fate, sometimes a person – some don’t even try to look for the reason for misfortune within themselves. Granted, sometimes it really isn’t your own fault but you’ll only find out, if you make an effort to reflect on it for yourself. You might find out you could have acted more clever, in a calmer fashion, less impulsively, etc. To find out for yourself that you acted kind of stupid isn’t really fun, but necessary if your goal is to be a better person. Never stop trying to be a better person. Don’t pretend to know everything already and don’t ever think you couldn’t get better. You can. You most definitely can! And that doesn’t just count towards finding flaws for yourself, it is also valid when it comes to dealing with pain. „You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.“ – Bob Marley. Sounds kind of pathetic, but it’s true. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re being tested. If you’re lucky you won’t ever get tested, but don’t ever believe you know your ceiling.
Friendship, just like love, doesn’t always work
This one is a rather specific chapter. But I remember my younger days when I felt that some friendships will last forever. Or when I thought love will last forever. Yes, in some cases it will and you should always believe in that! But don’t get too surprised if it doesn’t work out in the end. People are ever changing, so is our attention span. What’s new is always exciting but the longer you go on, the less exciting it is. We look for excitement in our lives, cause… why not? Well, as much as we like to spend time with new and exciting things, we have to accept that on the other side of the medal is person who likes attention and we’re taking it away from them. Shifting my attention to something or someone else means, I’ll probably hurt someone who likes my attention that I’ve given them before. It’s inevitable, though. Cherish the friendships that last without attention. Those that don’t need a lot of maintenance, because whenever you meet or talk, you just pick up where you last met. But those relationship come seldomly. Most of the time you will feel left behind, if a friendship or love doesn’t work out the way you wanted. You can blame yourself or the other person. But it’s actually nobody’s fault. Most people don’t mean harm when they find something or someone more exciting or you just not exciting enough (anymore). If you take it personally, that’s kind of your own fault. Just accept the ever-changing nature of people and things. Just like you just switched your favorite joghurt brand, others find you not as exciting anymore. Ever since I accepted that I find it much easier when people „leave“. I’d rather have them leave then pretend to like or love me, though they’re really not interested anymore. You can’t influence what others find exciting and loveable, unless you change yourself into what they want. Well, if you ever find yourself thinking about that, you’re doing it wrong! Just cherish the good memories and accept the things you cannot change.