It’s that time of year again; that time when the mailbox is full of wedding invitations and graduation announcements. I always look at them with a mix of envy and relief that they are the ones just starting out and not me. This year is especially poignant since our first grandson is among those graduating from high school.
I look at photos of me holding him as a baby, him taking his first steps, starting kindergarten, playing soccer, going to prom, and I wonder how it is possible that 18 years have passed since we welcomed him into the world.
I am so proud of the young man that he has become and eager to see what he does with this one big, wonderful life that he has in front of him. I know there will be dazzling successes and inevitably some dark times. None of us gets through life without them.
If I could offer any advice to my grandson and to all of those young people just starting out, these three things would be at the top of the list.
Take advantage of the opportunities life presents you.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain
Don’t let other peoples’ opinions or your own fears keep you from doing the things you truly want to do. I’m not saying you should act rashly without concern for consequences. I am saying if you have an opportunity to experience something new, travel, learn a skill, make a friend, take your dream job…do it. Even if it doesn’t work out exactly like you planned (and it rarely does), you will learn a little more about who you are and what you want out of life. Failure is just an opportunity for learning and growth.
And while I’m giving free advice, let me sneak in one extra tidbit. While you’re taking advantage of these opportunities, be present in the moment. If you’re thinking too much (remembering, analyzing, planning), take a break from your thoughts and check in with your sensations. Enjoy the here and now.
Take care of your body; it catches up to you faster than you think.
Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley
I know, right now you are young and invincible. Your body is strong and keeps on going even if you feed it junk food and deprive it of sleep, but that won’t always be the case. And midlife, then old age, sneak up on your faster than you think. What you do to your body today, you will have to live with tomorrow. If you want to stretch out the adventure of life, and take full advantage of all this amazing world has to offer, show your body a little love today. As an added bonus, you’ll feel even better now (I promise!). Eating healthy can taste delicious, and being physically active can be fun. You just have to be creative about it—experiment a little, find what works for you.
The people in your life matter more than anything else.
In life, there are millions of human contacts and sometimes an unexpected meeting changes the trajectory through space and time just ever so slightly and nothing remains the same…In this world of mass confusion and hurried existence, human contact still continues to be the most profound impact in our short lives.” ~Sim Gill
Experiences are great. Things can be enjoyable. But nothing compares to the connections we make with people. No matter how busy your life gets, make time for family and friends; be kind to everyone you come in contact with; look for opportunities to connect with new people. Be open to people from all backgrounds, age groups, opinions, lifestyles.
On a related note, don’t waste a lot of energy on holding grudges, passing judgments, or seeking revenge. Everyone is going through something; cut them some slack. I love this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Besides, all of those negative feelings eat away at your peace of mind—not the other person’s. Buddha wasn’t wrong when he said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Well that’s it for my words of wisdom—take them for what they are worth. If you are among those just starting life’s journey, I’d love to hear what you are looking forward to next and what is the best or most unusual piece of advice you’ve received. I know most of my audience is, like me, closer to midlife; I’d love to hear what advice you have for those just starting out. Please share.