I don’t have any children.
And, at this point in my life, I don’t know if I’ll ever have them. As one of my mentors likes to say, maybe I’ll just be a “parent to adults” for the rest of my life.
If I do have children of my own one day (adopted or biological), this is what I’ll want them to know. And if I don’t, this is what I’ll still want other people’s kids (like you) to know.
These are seven of the most important life lessons I’ve accumulated in my three decades on this spinning beach ball of beauty, that I would want to instil in the minds and hearts of my children.
1. You can have whatever you want in life, but you have to pay the price for it.
Whatever you want in your lifetime… the dream career, the world-class relationship, the super fit and capable body… you can have it all, as long as you put in the work.
Some things will come easier to you than others. Some things will come to other people easier than they come to you. The world isn’t fair in this way. We all have different strengths and abilities. This is to be embraced, not resisted.
But if something matters enough to you, and you know, deep in your heart, that it’s something that you want to have, do, or achieve, you are fully within your right to earn your way towards it.
No matter how silly it might seem. No matter how many people tell you that it isn’t possible. No matter how long it takes you. If it matters to you, then fight for it.
Depending on what you’re chasing after, it might take you longer than you expect. Again, this is to be embraced. If you earned it overnight you wouldn’t value it as much as if you had earned it over an extended period of time.
As cliche as it sounds, sometimes it really is the journey and not the destination that is the part that matters. So don’t forget to slow down, take in a deep breath, and enjoy the scenery while you barrel towards some imagined future reality.
2. If you feel inexplicably shitty some day, start with simple acts of self-honouring.
There will be times in your life where everything is seemingly great.
You have friends you love and trust. You’re healthy. Work is going well. And yet, you will still have days when you feel kind of shitty.
When these days arise, always check in and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself on a fundamental level. Be kind to your body, heart, and mind.
Drink some water.
Take a nap.
Take a bath or have a shower.
Eat something tasty and healthy.
Go for a walk, in nature, without any technology on you.
Meet up with a friend, look into their eyes, and remember that you are safe in the world, and that there are people who love you deeply.
What registers as self-care to you will be slightly different than what it is for others. Discovering what self-care means to you is an ongoing opportunity for growth.
There will be times in your life when the most self-honouring decision you can make is to go out, do drugs, party your face off, spend too many hours in a hot tub listening to loud music, and go to bed when the sun is already out. And there will be other times (probably the majority of times) when it’s best to drink a glass of water, have a bath, and go to bed at 8pm… even though it’s a Friday night. You’ll learn with time when it makes sense to pick one over the other.
But always come back to the essentials.
Hydrate, rest, nourish, move your body, connect. Repeat.
3. Life will rip you apart, and it will be a gift.
There is no such thing as a pain free life.
Even if you live the most privileged, sheltered, safe, fortunate life… you will still experience massive pain.
People you know and love will die. You will have your heart broken, likely (and hopefully) many times. You will have health issues.
These things are unavoidable. Even if you could avoid them you wouldn’t want to. Because they are what make life, life.
Just remember that life happens for you, not to you.
It won’t always be immediately apparent (in fact, it will almost never be immediately apparent) but the pain that shows up in your life shows up in order to help you grow.
People will disappoint you to teach you lessons. You will experience pain, trauma and grief in order to be able to be more of a gift to others in their lives.
4. You are allowed to feel all of it.
When life rips it’s way through you, you will feel feelings.
You will have so many opportunities to have emotions rip their way through you. In these moments, you will feel so alive.
Sometimes you may worry that the sadness/pain/grief/anxiety/anger will never end… but it will. It always does. Just like every weather pattern changes, all emotions shift with time. They leave when you have honoured them, and when they’re meant to leave.
Regardless of your age, gender, marital status, or occupation… you are allowed to feel your feelings. There’s nothing weak about feeling. In fact, it often takes strength and courage to let yourself feel what you’re feeling.
Yes, women are allowed to be angry. Yes, women are allowed to be things that aren’t just nice, sweet, and accommodating.
Yes, men are allowed to cry. Yes, men are allowed to be sad, confused, overwhelmed, or anxious.
As much as our social conditioning would try and have us believe otherwise, there’s nothing gendered about feeling. We’re all allowed to feel all of it.
If it ever feels like too much, and you need help coping, please, please, please reach out for help. There are people who love you and will support you at the drop of a hat to help carry the load for you.
5. You will be much more susceptible to the tricks of your mind when you’re young. This is to be expected.
One of the greatest gifts that comes with life experience is perspective.
In this context, perspective is a fancy way of saying “You’ve gone through shit before, and learned that it didn’t kill you.”
When you’re young, every ‘first’ hurts that much more.
Your first heartbreak. Dealing with the death of a loved one for the first time. Realizing that someone you trusted knowingly deceived or betrayed you for the first time.
When something happens for the first time, it can shock the system. And there’s nothing there to compare it to. So it seems life-endingly horrible. And yet, life doesn’t end.
You grow. You become more resilient. You become…. better.
So if you notice your mind telling you that:
– “Life will always be this bad…”
– “People aren’t trustworthy…”
– “Life is pain and nothing else…”
Realize that this is just your ego/fear-mind playing tricks on you. And it will become easier to not listen to these little gremlin voices the older you get. You will unplug from the convincingness of their trickery… and you will be a happier and more resilient person because of it.
If you’re in the midst of something truly awful right now and this seems like a tough pill to swallow (aka your mind is telling you that your case is special and you really are screwed), just give it time.
Keep breathing. Keep reaching out for support. It will pass.
6. The people that are meant to stick around will stick around.
Life, more than anything else, is about love and relationships.
I’m not just some heavily-biased relationship-obsessed doofus… a 75 year study done by Harvard University said so.
Investing in your closest intimate relationships (with friends, family, and significant others) will never be time wasted. Because love is never a waste. Connection matters so much to our well-being and overall health.
You will change throughout your life, in every way. And during some of these cycles of change, your social circle will shift to correspond to your new way of being. Embrace this.
Other times some really challenging stuff will happen to you, and certain friends will fall out of your life. Embrace this as well. These mini life-shakedowns are meant to come along to dust off the metaphorical cobwebs.
If they come, let them come. If they go, let them go.
(Side note: as technology gets stronger with time, there will be more and more opportunities for us to become more disconnected from our body. So prioritizing connection with others and staying connected to our bodies will matter even more as technology progresses.)
7. Be unreasonably kind.
Let’s face it… you have a gigantic heart.
The amount that you can love people is unmeasurably amazing. There’s so much love in that heart of yours, and when you beam it out to the world it’s truly something to behold.
I’ll tell you this right now…
We only ever have two choices at any given moment in life… either (1) close our heart and suffer, or (2) open our heart and love.
You will be given so many reasons throughout your lifetime to close down your heart.
People will take advantage of you. You will lose people. People might insult you, attack you, or attempt to shame you.
At a certain point, it might feel awfully tempting to close down your heart to others. To say “Screw this. I don’t want to feel all of this pain anymore. No more love for anyone!” And you will be in a holding pattern of closed-off suffering.
But there will come a time when, as Anais Nin once said, “the risk to remain tight in a bud” will be more painful than the risk it will take to blossom.
You will open your heart, beam your love out into the world, and the people who were always meant to be in your life will flock to you like bees to honey.
So, along your path, be kinder than it makes sense to be.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. If someone is rude to you, tries to pick a fight for no reason, or says something rude to you, remember that they are in pain. They are in pain otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to inflict pain on to others.
Love them where they are at, and keep loving the world anyways.
I could easily go on for another 20,000 words on this topic.
I deleted sections focused on being unreasonably honest, falling in love with yourself, and being frequently explicit about telling your people how much you love them. Maybe I’ll put them in a part-two article one day. But this is what I have for now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet up with a friend who has asked me to hold her while she cries.
Because she’s honouring herself. And because people are allowed to feel. And because what else is life if not holding each other through the ups and downs of it all?
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. Hey, I love you.
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