1. Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain. Welcome to the 20-something generation! Grab it with gusto! This is as good-looking as you’re ever going to get, and therefore I recommend that you flaunt it while you can! I mean that you should cultivate it and enjoy it every single chance you get. Don’t shy away from your beauty, your youthfulness, your inexperience. Embrace it. Own it. Live it. Love it. On the other hand, the balance to Twain’s quote would be: Youth is wasted on the young. George Bernard Shaw. Never miss a chance to prove this quote wrong.
2. Now that I don’t have to be perfect, I can be good. John Steinbeck, East of Eden. The pressure to have everything be perfect, or to be perfect myself, was deeply damaging and pushed me to make some really bad decisions and led me to always comparing my worst to other people’s best. It’s taken years for me to get past having to be perfect or have everything or everyone around me be perfect. Once I was able to let go of perfect, life became much more tolerable.
3. Remember it’s written in the Good Book that trouble shall come to pass, but nowhere is it written, child, that trouble shall come to stay. (from another novel, don’t remember the name, but a grandmother was speaking to her teenaged granddaughter). Not only does this apply to recovering from mistakes or failures, it was especially helpful in the area of relationships. I am one who feels everything in the extreme so I believed that every mistake would be fatal or “ruin my life forever!” It was how I grew up, what I was taught by my own mother. Because I loved deeply without reservation, I believed everyone else did, too; so when a relationship ended, it felt like I would never recover. I did and went on to have other great loves and successes. It is best to accept that some things just weren’t meant to be forever.
4. Don’t hold back. Do as much as you can and live life to its fullest every moment of each day. Life's too short to wait. Advice from an unknown much older woman, on a long bus trip from Marquette, Michigan to Missoula, Montana, sometime in February 1974 (I was ‘moving’ to Wyoming to work as a cook on a cattle ranch just outside of Ten Sleep, on the western side of the Big Horn Mountains). I was seriously in doubt of the wisdom of my decision to do this as the Greyhound rolled down the highway through bitter cold and blinding snow somewhere in one of the Dakotas. I shared that thought with the woman sitting next to me, knitting the night away. Ana was asleep in my arms, and everything I had was stuffed into a canvas backpack under my feet. That is exactly what she said, word for word. Never got her name, never saw her again, but never forgot that advice. Note: I left the better portion of my heart at Hazelton Peaks in the Big Horn Mountains. I need to return there someday to retrieve it. It’s on my bucket list: You should always have one.
5. All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wonder are lost. The old that are strong, shall not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. If you have not read the Tolkien’s books – the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I suggest you do. The movies were great, but the books were way better. Those words, from the Hobbit, have stuck to me like oatmeal since I first read them in the late 60s, early 70s. And have provided thoughtful guidance in my life all these years.
6. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Gandhi. Never stop learning and everything is teaching you something, whether you know it at the time or not. Every moment of your life is learning opportunity as much as it is teaching moment. And which side of it you are on can change at any time in any situation with anyone. Don’t hold back, give every moment balls to the wall on everything you think, do and say. Live life so you will have no regrets when you get to the other end of it all. This applies to your faith, your family and your friends; how you learn and apply what you have learned in the everyday moments of life. Share everything – what you know, how to do it, how not to do it, what you believe or don’t believe, what you think, experience and live, however insignificant it may seem. Anything can mean something to anyone, at any given moment. Have trust. Have gusto. It’s infectious. It also applies to love. Reread #3, #4 and #5.
7. Taking ownership of failure builds a foundation for success. Anonymous. Learn from it whenever you can. It’s better to try and fail than to chicken out and regret it later. Never hesitate to take chances every chance you get. Failure is not just an inevitable part of exploration and innovation, but an important element for growth and learning. With every failure, you will learn what not to do or what to abandon, and better focus on how to succeed. So when you fail, never fail to ask yourself the question: What does this failure teach me? And then move on. Learn from failure and confirm with success.
8. Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable. Wendy Wasserstein. Never worry about what others think of you. It’s what you think of yourself that really matters. And really, no one else is thinking about you as much as you think they are; they’re all worrying about what you think of them. That’s just one of life’s little ironies. Defining your identity through the prism of your past and how others see you can be self-limiting at best and self-defeating at worst. When you care too much what others think you are open to manipulation because you will tend to go with the herd. When you care less what other people think you become a more honest, and therefore decent, person because you don't have to pretend.
9. There’s no better way to energize your body, mind, and spirit than by taking care of your self. Stephanie Tourles. Don’t beat up your body. It’s got to last a while. Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you when you reach the age that kindness is everything; especially kindness from yourself. Enough said.
10. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson What I have learned from living life from this perspective: that life is an experiment. When we live life as an experiment, we are far more willing to take risks, to acknowledge failure, to learn and develop. That's what experiments are all about: discovery and growth. There is no real failure in an experiment because it's all data. If something doesn't work, that's simply data that leads to changing behavior to see if something else does work. And that is what life should be: discovery and growth.
11. Live fast and hard; die young & pretty (i.e., leave a good looking corpse) – a variation on a quote from a Humphrey Bogart movie, Knock on Any Door (1949). Updated for your generation in the Lee Ann Womack song, I Hope You Dance, with these words: “Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance; And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance; I hope you dance.” Go for it, every chance you get. Don’t miss out on anything; try everything once. Life is so very short, don’t just sit on the sidelines and watch it go by. Live it, every moment of it, every chance you get. And always choose to dance.
12. Moderation is not necessarily the key to a long and happy life. Another unknown woman, who I met the night she was turning 40, at a bar in Marquette. The same night I turned 21 (January 2, 1972). I had asked her how she looked so good at 40, because I thought we were the same age (admitting-ly I had a lot to drink). And at 21, being 40 seemed so very old to me! Her response was: “A lot of sex, a lot of alcohol, a lot of drugs and a lot of lotion. And not necessarily in that order.” I am now about 20 years on the other side of 40, and I must say, that this was some damn good advice. Especially the part about the lotion.
13. Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job or two, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Well, I’ve learned that you have to make time. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that takes up your time, and don’t let anything interfere with that passion. If I had done that twenty years ago, I could have ten books written by now. Not all would be great, but still: Don’t ever put your passion on the back burner. Make time for whatever it is that makes you happy.
14. All that stuff that’s stressing you out in your life, it won’t matter in five years, let alone in fifteen or twenty years. When things are happening to you right now, they mean everything. Focus on the present, (Ezine @rticles), the here and the now. Who, what, where and when at any given moment are way more important than anything else. Throughout my career, I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I don’t regret the hard work, but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldn’t matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn. Live in the present. The future will be here soon enough.
15. Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity. Kahlil Gibran. The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. I’ve had a few jobs, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I’ve made a few friends over these last fifty plus years. Of those, the only things that still matter to me are my friends and family. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and my family), than any of the other things. Live your life so you will have no regrets. And no one is every left out.
16. Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to accelerate your personal development. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you gain insights you’d otherwise never see. Seriously, your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term (well, maybe some short term stuff too). I don’t remember things about my early years, because I didn’t record any of it. I don’t remember things about my life. It’s like a lot of foggy memories that I’ll never have access to again because I didn’t write it down. The filing cabinets of your brain fill up fast. And there is a lot of misfiled and lost information up there. I wish I had kept a journal more consistently. And besides, when you’re dead and gone; someone somewhere will enjoy the hell out of reading them. And you won’t have to listen to your kids say: “The world according to my mother,” and/or “the way mother wants history to be remembered.” Note: Journaling was previously known as keeping a diary – when I first started.
17. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade and don't forget to add tequila. Drunk guy in Cozumel (1979). Seriously, Tequila is evil. I won’t go into details, but it should suffice to say that I have some experience here. I’m not sure I learned very much from the experience, or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil. Enough said. When in a situation where your friends are pressuring you to have a shot (and they will), try this: You make the toast – something totally silly and ridiculous, when everyone lifts their shots to toast, and then drink their shot; while their heads are back, toss your shot over your shoulder. And come down on cue with everyone else – they’ll never know! Two key things to pull this off successfully: make sure there is a wall or at the least no one standing behind you, and remember that timing is everything. Again, experience tells me this. Re-read this one next year before your birthday when you turn 21.
18. Live like there’s no tomorrow. Selena Gomez. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that at 20 years old you have lived a quarter of your life. Plan to … no: intend to live to be more than 100! Which means in five years, more than 20% of your current age in additional time, you still won’t have lived a quarter of your life! In other words, don’t ever get hung up on the age thing. It is merely a number, never let it define you. Not now, nor ever. It goes by so quickly. But don’t think about that now, live life like there is no tomorrow. Listen to Selena Gomez’s song: Live Like There’s No Tomorrow.
19. Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it. William Somerset Maugham. Understand money, credit and debt – be involved in your financial life. Having a budget, even a financial plan is a worthwhile endeavor and is not merely the province of people who have lots of money, or someone who is much older. It helps you focus on your dreams and goals. When your goals are verbalized and written down, you will understand why saving money is important to you.
20. One picture is worth ten thousand words. New York Times advertisement, 1926. Take lots of pictures. Someday you’ll be really glad you did. And don’t forget to date them – whether you keep them electronically or you print them. It also helps to name the folks in the photo, because someday you will forget who everyone is in the pictures (and in your life). Unfortunately, that is true.
Happy Birthday Tegan! Welcome to your twenties. Go for gusto, every chance you get!