“I don’t wanna grow up; I wanna be a lost boy forever!” — me, age 4
“I want to know, does it bother you?
The low click of the ticking clock.” — Vampire Weekend
Today’s post is a little different. It is a list. A list of twenty-six lessons I have learned. Some since leaving home and traveling across an ocean and making a new life on a new continent, and some from earlier experiences in life. I hope you enjoy it.
(1) Learn to laugh at your own mistakes, whether they be cultural, grammatical, or metaphysical. Taking yourself too serious leads to ulcers. And those suck.
(2) Travel. The only thing that limits your imagination and ability to be more than you are now is a lack of experience and vantage-points. Reading gets you far, but seeing and breathing in and smelling new places has no parallel. Especially the smelling part.
(3) Love deeply, especially if you’ve been wounded. There is no cure for a broken heart or for loneliness that does not require openness of heart. An openness to give and to receive love heals many aliments.
(4) Manage time-well. But don’t see time as a limited resource. Live out of an understanding of abundance. In such a way, if confronted between focusing on a task or a friend, you can choose the friend, who will still be there, long after the task has been completed and forgotten.
(5) Furthering (2), just don’t travel. Live in another culture. Learn another language (or try to). Experience the world from another frame of view. Your own home and your own revelations will surprise you. And this can hurt.
(6) Memento mori. Which either translates as (a) remember death (that is, that we all die), or (b) remember to die. Living well prepares you to die well. Dying well is the good end of a life well lived. Don’t let death scare you and frighten you out of experiences, but don’t think you have all the time in the world. But balance this with (4).
(7) Brush your teeth and floss. Having a good dentist is a rare thing. So hold onto her when find her. In the interim, know that good dental hygiene is next to godliness.
(8) Learn to write letters. And practice, practice, practice. A good letter can brighten someone’s month. And the time and intention that it takes makes you a better person. Virtue is born out of patience.
(9) Don’t be cynical.
(10) Read. Read everything. Always carry a book with you. Read to learn new words. Read to learn new things. Read to cry. Read to laugh. Read to stop the crust of jaded emotions from forming over your soul; read to love.
(11) Budget your money and manage it well. Don’t do this to get rich or to be a miser, for money is merely a tool and not the meaning of life. Use it to experience the elements of life that make you a better person. Give it away when you are able. Don’t let it control you.
(12) Learn to love what is beautiful. In doing so, you become more beautiful too.
(13) Set goals for yourself and write them down. Don’t do this to make you feel guilty about having not accomplished this or that, but to inspire you to do things you dream about. Make them small. Make them big. Just make them and set yourself down a road to fulfilling them. The journey is what counts.
(14) Go camping. Experience the nature and the bad weather she brings. Get dirty. Eat food cooked over a fire. Have sore feet, a sore back, and sore legs. This will make you extremely grateful for your bed.
(15) Invest in a good mattress. If one-third of life is spent sleeping, make sure it is comfortably. Your body will thank you.
(16) Find someone who loves you more than you love yourself. Love them more than you love yourself. Never let each other go. This is hard work, but it is worth every sacrifice.
(17) Forgive yourself. You can’t be perfect, and sometimes there are lose-lose situations. Wallowing or trudging through the molasses of unforgiveness hurts yourself first and foremost and expands to others around you.
(18) With (17) being said, forgive others. Don’t let the burning coal of bearing a grudge burn the hand you hold it in. Release it. This doesn’t mean forgetting what others have done, but it means no longer letting that control your or their future. This is hard.
(19) Eat good food. It is not a joke that you are what you eat. Eating well can do wonders for you you didn’t even realise you needed. Go for vegetables and fruits and whole grains and free-range eggs and natural yoghurt and grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. Take time to eat and to taste. Dinner should be an event.
(20) Drink good drinks. Learn to taste good wine from bad wine. Learn the complexities of flavours in beer and the craft it takes to make a good one. Drink lots of water. Hydration leads to tasting more flavours and better health in general. Never underestimate the healing properties of a good hot chocolate.
(21) Eat good chocolate. It has four ingredients: cocoa butter, cacao, vanilla and sugar. Distrust longer labels.
(22) Another addendum to (19): learn to cook for yourself. This is a skill that can be used to influence people and win friends. It also makes life a lot more exciting (and with respect to (11), affordable). Learn to appreciate different kinds of flavours: the bitterness in things like Belgian endives, really dark chocolate, hoppy beers; the sweetness of a grape or of a strawberry picked at the height of summer, which has soaked in the purest sunlight. (Distrust strawberries that are too large. The smaller, the sweeter.)
(23) Learn to do something creative. Whether it’s photography, writing, pottery-making, painting, drawing, quilting, or basket-weaving, create something beautiful. Again, this will make you more beautiful, as well as tap into your essential human nature. We were made to build and to create. Why else would we have thumbs?
(24) Inhabit your body. Dance. Walk. Run. Play. It is a gift. And it will be with you a very long time.
(25) Learn to pray deeply. Whether that’s to God, the Supreme Mother, or the Universe, prayer opens you up beyond yourself. It acknowledges need and your own finitude. Praying deeply changes you more than anything else. It makes you grateful, humble, charitable, and kind.
(26) Never stop learning. The world is a big place, and there is more in heaven and on earth than is dreamt of in any philosophy. You can never know everything, and that is where and why all the fun is to be had.