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13 June 2015

Twenty Things I Would Like to Tell my Twenty-year Old Self, If I Could…

“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The last time that I wrote something long, I learned that some of my young readers asked for the summary of my post from their friends who have already read it. I suppose today’s twenty-somethings are not used to reading long materials thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I wonder how my twenty-year old self would behave if he were a member of the millennial generation.  Although I have few regrets in my life, I still would like to give my twenty-year old self some advice, especially pieces of advice that I did not get. Since the target of this post are twenty-something individuals, I provided a quick list. If they have time, they can read the full text below the list. Although I have learned from experience that you always miss the best part if you opt for the shorter version.
Some of us are narcissistic
during our twenties

Details of "Echo and Narcissus"
by John William Waterhouse
Image part of public domain.

  1. Get part-time jobs
  2. Learn about money
  3. Be more confident
  4. Do not be afraid to make mistakes as long as they are new ones
  5. Do not join the bandwagon
  6. Be in the present
  7. Travel
  8. Be more disciplined
  9. Your teachers are not always right
  10. Embrace your sexuality
  11. Be kind
  12. Do not be afraid to be disliked
  13. Help your parents live healthy
  14. Choose your friends wisely
  15. Let go
  16. Fall in love, even with the wrong person
  17. Get involved in something bigger than yourself
  18. Get fit
  19. Do not start smoking
  20. Keep learning ahead
The full text is below:

Do not wait until you graduate before you start working. If you can manage, get a part-time job even if the job is not related to your course. You will learn about office dynamics better in the real workplace than in school. You will also learn work politics early on. You will be introduced to backstabbers, team players and assortments of characters that littered the workspace. Plus, you may discover new interests. As an added bonus, you will have a thick resume. Employers love a person with good work ethics. Plus, your future employers can never claim that you do not have any experience. School is great but it is not enough to prepare your for the real life.

Professors do not teach you about money in school. The best things in life are free; that is true but you will have more freedom and more choices if you can handle your finances well early on. Learn the best way to save, and save early. Most importantly, get this through your skull: “It is all about the money.” You may not want to join the rat race, but at least, you should know everything about the rats. Your bosses may say that they have a higher goal than money but they are lying. In the end, the more money you make for your employers, the more valuable you are. Once you stop making money for them, they will find ways to replace you. They will be subtle but it is fait accompli. That is the unspoken truth. Know your worth. Work hard, and stay in a company long enough to show you have commitment but leave when you are not properly compensated. Be loyal only to companies that properly reward your loyalty.

People will always belittle you so ignore them. Do not be your own enemy. Be confident. Most of the time, you will do well as long as you do your best. Anyway, you will discover later that the number one reason that you failed is that you doubted yourself. Besides, nothing is sexier and more charismatic than a confident person. Chin up even if you are unsure. In the end, it is just you. Be your own cheering squad. The rest of the crowd will eventually follow.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself. You will not accomplish and learn anything if you do not dive in and you possibly fail. Life is trial and error. It is all right to make mistakes as long as they are new mistakes. Still, learn from the mistakes of others. There are some mistakes that you do not have to commit because others have made them for you. Listen to the “right people” who are older and more experienced.

Do not be embarrassed for the things that you like and dislike. Our tastes change. You can laugh about them later. Most importantly, do what feels right for you. Do not be a clone. Do not be a conformist. Make your own wagon instead of joining a crowded one. Some people may ridicule or shun you but those people are not worth your time. The mavericks are always more interesting anyway. In addition, do not measure success using other people’s standard. As Jessica Lange said, “Don’t constrain yourself with expectations of success. Success will be the by-product of the life you live and all successes are individual.”

Plan your life; that is advisable indeed. Nevertheless, be ready for life’s unexpected turn of events. Allow life to take you on an interesting journey. Enjoy the now because life is a collection of moments after all. Do not procrastinate too much. Do not cancel trips, events, gatherings or spur of the moment merriments just because you have a strict schedule to follow. You are young.  When you look back, you will be more thankful for the things you have done, than the things you have not and the things that you have bought.  Anyway, the surprises in life usually lead us to a destination that we have never imagined but eventually, we will be thankful that we stumble upon them. Be like Jessica Lange! She originally planned to be a painter, then studied photography, became a mime, a model, King Kong’s girlfriend, a world-famous ballet dancer’s beau, an Academy Award winning actress, a playwright’s spouse, a children’s book writer, an activist, and the Supreme Witch, and she still has not stopped.

Travel in books. Travel in movies. Travel in music. Travel in art. Moreover, really travel. Get out and explore. You can travel without spending too much but you will learn a great deal about people and yourself. You will broaden your perspective. You will be more respectful of other cultures. You will be more open-minded and more appreciative of nature. Most importantly, travel alone occasionally. The physical lonely journey will help you discover yourself. You will like yourself more, and you will appreciate other people more, even strangers. Instead of spending much money on clothes and gadgets, spend money on experience.

Geniuses are dime a dozens these days, and now they are getting younger. However, discipline is what separates the great from the run-of-the-mill geniuses. Choose to run the marathon and not the sprint.

Your teachers and mentors can help you but they are not you. Most teachers are products of their own milieu. They carry with them their old antiquated beliefs. Their words are not gospel truths, even if they come from the Gospels. Depending on your religious belief, God (whether the figurative or the real god) will reveal himself or herself to you. You are your best teacher, and you can achieve true learning by deconstructing, examining and re-examining what is being taught to you. Think for yourself and choose your mentors wisely.

You are a sexual being. Do not be ashamed of the pleasure you can give and get. Respect your body and the bodies of your lovers. You can never detach the body from the person; otherwise, you are not making love. You are just masturbating. Do not do anything that will harm your body. Protect yourself. Practice safe sex or abstain if that is your choice. Do not be pressured to be promiscuous just because it is cool. Do not also listen to religious prudes who label everything as sin. Believe me, they are just envious because you choose not to deny your sexuality, but they deny theirs.

In the end, kindness is all that matters. Be nice. Bitchiness is extremely overrated. People will open doors for you if you are genuinely kind, but do not be gullible. Remember, people have their own agenda as well. Be kind with open eyes and ears.

You cannot please everyone and you should not. Simply put, if nobody hates you, you are not doing anything worthwhile. If someone crosses you, belittles you, disrespects you, you must stand your ground. Get angry properly. Make them strike first, so you can determine their strength. The first person to attack usually loses physically and morally. Most importantly, choose your battle wisely. Generals should never fight with foot soldiers. On the flip side, do not be so judgmental.

Be a good child. Take care of your parents early on. Encourage them to live healthy. Exercise with them. Introduce them to a healthy lifestyle if they are not into it yet. If your parents remain healthy during their old age, you will have more freedom, and your parents will continue to live independently and happily. Paying attention to them early is your best gift to them and to yourself.

The person who is always nice to you is not always your true friend. It is easy to distinguish a true friend from a false one. True friends stay with you during hard work. True friends stay with you when the champagnes are no longer flowing. False friends only show up for the success and the celebration. True friends are always there with you at your lowest point. True friends are not narcissistic. They never hog the spotlight. They share it with you.

Let go, in both love and life. Sometimes, things just do not work out as you planned. Do not burden yourself with the past. Move on even if the lost have made you emotionally and mentally crippled. Try harder to get back on your feet. Believe me. The next one is even better, and you will never see it if you keep looking from behind. The departed will never return. Hope is always in front of you. Elsa is right, “Let it go!”

Fall in love! And if one love ends, fall in love again.  Being in love is the most beautiful thing even if you have the misfortune of loving someone who does not reciprocate; at least you can tell yourself that you are still capable of loving a person. You are not cold. You are still alive. Anyway, the wrong person will usually lead you to the right one. True love does not happen during a specific age. You may find it in your twenties, thirties and even late in the game. Love is a surprise. Open yourself up, but leave when you first see “bull shit.” Do not buy into the statement, “I’m leaving you because I love you.” Bull shit! Love stays for the struggle. Period!

Help out. Find a cause. Volunteer to a progressive organization that helps liberate people. Avoid charities that actually deceptively propagates poverty, ignorance, inequality and oppression. Be genuinely involved. Do not volunteer just because it is a great “selfie moment.”

Do not try to be super thin or have the perfect body. Just stay healthy. Get the natural body that nature intended you to have. Do not emulate those celebrities on magazine covers. Be active or athletic. As Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands (or wives or other people).” Seriously, the healthier you are, the happier you will be. Looking good is just a bonus.

Smoking can make you look cool and it can piss the right people but there are better ways to accomplish those. If you start smoking, quitting will be hell. I am still trying.

Do not be happy with the education that you received. Everything will become obsolete. Learn new things. Always be on the look out for the new. Give new things the benefit of the doubt. Terrible ideas are the parents of great ideas. If you keep learning, you keep growing. Read books, and the right ones. Text messages and tweets do not count. Read the old-fashioned way. Read really thick books. Believe me, the more you learn, the more you will realize how ignorant you are. Even better, if you keep learning, you will not be anybody’s fool. 

I would like to give my twenty-year old self more pieces of advice but he had his time. Looking back, he had fun and he messed up. Still, he learned both the hard and easy way. He was not always a barrel of laughs. He was often too moody and overly sensitive but, with the right people, he was a blast.

Now on to the next decade!

A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist)

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

 Life is real !   Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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