Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Live...

One of the teachers who spoke at my high school graduation said something that I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I want to share it with you.

"What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?"

"Oriental 2" by Stefano Corso / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 
I'm not sure if he was quoting someone or if he came up with this, but it is one of my favorite quotes of all time. No one is ever going to tell you it's easy to figure out your life, to discover what you want to do with it. You've got to figure it out for yourself. The thing is, you don't have to; you get to. YOU are the sole person in charge of your life. YOU get to decide how you're going to live. Not your parents, not your friends, not your teachers or counselors or whoever feels like they can give you some sort of instruction on how to live. YOU are the director of your life.

People have always told me I'm lucky because I "know what I want to do". I've always had a vague idea of the kinds of careers I want to have, and a general sense of where I'm going. On the outside, I guess, it might seem like I have a lot figured out. I suppose I do to some degree because I know what I'm passionate about, but that hasn't been easy. It's challenging, figuring out how to live life based on your values while still doing basic things like earning money to feed yourself. I spend a lot of time ruminating on life and all that comes with it. That brings its own challenges, but one of the benefits of thinking so much is that you end up learning a lot of things about yourself, which is useful when you want to figure out who you want to be.

My point is that if you want to figure out a way to live happily, you need to figure out what you love, what you're passionate about; what do you want to spend your time doing? But in order to lead a fulfilling life, in order to be happy, I don't believe you need to have a plan for the future. You just need to be aware of yourself. What are your desires? What is your personality like? How do you react in different situations? This does take a bit of soul-searching, and any kind of self-discovery will never be complete (after all, we are ever-evolving) but it's possible to learn a bit about yourself by just asking yourself these types of questions.

 I don't believe in living by other people's expectations. I believe in finding love; in places, in people, in activities. I believe in discovering what you want to leave behind on this earth, and I believe in finding work you truly enjoy and are passionate about. If you can't find work you love, I believe you can learn to love aspects of it. Regarding work you love... here's a passage from "Forever" by Pete Hamil.

"But in order to live," Kongo said, "you must truly live. You cannot simply exist, Cor-mac, like a cow or a tree. You must live."

"I don't know what that means. To truly live."

Kongo paused again, his eyes wandering to the walls of the cave, to the blackness at the far end.

"To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day."

He stared at his hands.

"To love women. To pleasure them. To make them laugh. To be foolish for them. To protect them. To respect them. To listen to them." He paused. "They are the lifegivers. To live is to love them..."

He picked up some doubt in Cormac's eyes, a kind of smiling uncertainty.

"You will see," he said. "The proof will be in your living." 

What makes you truly happy?

What do you want to leave behind in this world?

Who is it you want to spend your time with? Who shares your passions? Who do you want to tell your hopes and dreams to? Talk to them. Find people who share your ambitions and find people who are following their own paths. Interact with people who are similar to you, and people who are everything you aren't. Learn through them.

What do you want to see? Where do you want to go? Travel is one of the best things you can do to learn about the world and yourself. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone teaches you to adapt, and broadens your mind. It allows you to absorb new cultures and customs, and to see that there's more to this world than you may have originally thought.

Who do you want to be? What are you doing to become your ideal self?

What do you want others to feel when they're around you? Who makes you feel best about yourself? What kinds of people and situations bring out the best in you? Seek them out, spend time with them. Share your ideas. Create something.

The answers to all these questions I'm asking might change as you move through life, and that's to be expected. You're not going to want the same things forever. You're not always going to be the same person. That would be boring. It doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if you can give answers to questions like these, now or ever. The path to your own happiness isn't going to be highlighted by the way you answer these questions, or even if you answer them at all, but by the way you consider them. The way you let your mind fall open and receive whatever the universe decides to reveal to you.

I believe in letting yourself see the world, trying new things like you'd try on clothes. Some things might look like they fit before you put them on, but as soon as you see them on your body you might cringe and change your mind. On the other hand, something that you think you'll hate could be the best thing ever for you. You will never know unless you try, and I believe in trying and experiencing.

I don't believe in wasting time dealing with people who treat you poorly, and that includes yourself. You are here for such a short time. It hurts to realize it sometimes, and it can be scary. One day, you will die. Do you want that to happen knowing you've spent your life worrying about the weird look that secretary gave you, or the time you accidentally stumbled over a few words in your speech? No. You want- I hope- to leave happily, aware that although you haven't done everything, you've enjoyed your life and done what you had time for. More than that, you made time for things that matter to you. Don't waste your time worrying about whether or not you're smiling too much; smile long and often and revel in the way it makes you feel.

I don't say any of this to inspire some sort of needless urgency, to incite some kind of panic or guilt you into doing something new and challenging every second of every day. Comfort is only a problem in abundance. Some days you just need tea and cookies, a thick blanket and a good book. Sometimes you need a hard workout and something to write angrily about. Let your emotions exist. Instead of hiding from them, learn from them.

Don't worry about the little things. Don't stress if something doesn't go the way you expected it to. Breathe and take yourself into the next second. You can cry and you can laugh, you can dance wildly at three in the morning and you can stare at the wall listening to music for an hour. Let your emotions out. Learn from them. Don't restrain yourself from doing what you want just because other people might think it's strange.

This extends to your life, to your career. Who cares what other people are doing with their lives? What does success look like to you? Is it running a business? Okay, go for it! If it's not? Guess what? That doesn't make you any less of a person. Maybe your dream is to climb every mountain in Europe. Maybe it's to photograph everyone you love. Perhaps you want to paint a picture that makes someone smile, or you want to invent a way for people to visit other planets. You might dream of learning a new language, or teaching someone else your language. Whatever you love, however big or small, there is a way.

I believe in the power of belief, of conviction. I believe in the strength of our dreams and the incredible way knowing something is right for us can bring it into our lives.

I believe in eating popcorn because it reminds me of my mother and the time we watched 'Magic Mike' at a hotel in Albuquerque.

I believe in wearing dresses because they are more comfortable than jeans.

I believe in breaking the rules when it doesn't hurt anyone.

I believe in making the insignificant significant and downplaying the overly emphasized.

I believe that logic is overrated.

I believe in ignoring the way sometimes people are going to give me weird looks because they've never met anyone quite so odd. I once heard someone say "if everyone likes you, you're doing something wrong". I still think that's true. If you are truly being yourself, well, you can't please everyone.

Be somebody. Be passionate. Love life. Live well. Don't be afraid to speak up and fight for your beliefs. Eat great chocolate. Don't wait to be handed an opportunity; ask for it, make it happen.

Don't be afraid to find out who you are; use that information to figure out who you want to be.

The dictionary says merely this about life..

to live (v): remain alive.

I want more than that.

Don't you?

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