One thing having lived a lot of years does for you, it gives you a ton of perspective. Here are a few things I have learned along the way, only too often the hard way.
1. Marry your best friend — That’s right! The guy or woman you want is your best friend. Marriages generally end over three things, money, trust, and communication. Consider, that person you consider your best friend is a person you would hate to lie to, would trust with your life, and will tell pretty much everything. And that is exactly the type of person, if not the person you want to marry.
(January 4, 2013 amendment) A response I received to this section of this post, though maybe given a bit tongue-in-cheek, did none-the-less give me pause to think I had been less than clear, and that there is more to say.
From experience I known people say “we are just friends” and by extension say “why would I want to ruin a good friendship.” The backdrop to such statements is the consideration of dating such a person, and that dating a friend might ruin a good friendship that you value. I am asserting that such a belief is absolutely wrong.
If you are a woman and have some really good friends who are male, one of them may well be your best match as a partner in life, as a spouse. The same is true for guys who might consider one of their best female friends. My wife is also my best friend, and because of that I believe that it is the best combination possible. Dating a friend cannot ruin a good friendship because real friends stay with you regardless of events. If you truly are friends, dating such a person and then finding out the romantic feelings you need just are there should in no way hinder you from going back to being really good friends. If anything, such an experience should only strengthen such a friendship.
2. Make a career out of what thrills you — Our society sadly places a lot of emphasis on how much a person earns. The thing is, what most of us want the most is happiness. And that leads to the question of how happy can you be when you are making a ton of money in a job you hate? At some point you burn out and start asking yourself why it was you got into that profession in the first place. You ask yourself if it was really worth it. When the time comes you can consider retirement, you should find it almost unthinkable as continuing in your chosen profession still thrills you.
3. Resolve all family issues — I have this saying, “all families are crazy, it’s just a matter of degree.” I really believe that. We only get one set of parents and they are gone too often too early. My father died right before my 21st birthday, and I had so much left to say to him and talk to him about. When my mother died, she was 89, I felt there was nothing I had left unsaid, and that felt really good. You can pick your friends but you cannot pick your relatives. That is not to say you have to be on good terms with all your relatives, but it is good to remember that the ones you would rather not see probably have no knowledge of your feeling that way. With such people politeness and kindness goes a long way, and requires nearly nothing from you. And for those in your immediate family that you feel have done you some sort of egregious wrong, come to terms with the issue by either resolving it with the person involved, or, accepting that this person’s failure in your eyes needs to have minimal effect upon you as you go forth. Do whatever it takes to make that statement true. But at the end of the day, know in your heart that you have done your level best with your parents and siblings, and that nothing that needs saying, particularly “I love you,” is left unsaid.
5. Make self-care a priority — This is the sort of selfishness that is in keeping with a healthy mind, body, and spirit. It is natural for most people to think of other people first and themselves 2nd or 3rd or even lower. That is always the wrong approach. A healthy body is paramount to how a person feels about himself. Eat properly, exercise moderately, and see a doctor and a dentist on a regular, scheduled, basis. Being in your 20s is not a free pass for good health. Women can develop breast cancer and cervical cancer in their 20s. Men can get heart disease and diabetes in their 20s. Worse, since during our 20s we feel the best about our general state of health, these diseases can go undiagnosed until they present a far greater health risk than would have happened with a regular checkup. Also, pretty much everyone gets gum disease and cavities regardless of age. People with the healthiest minds are those who realise the need to talk out their problems, regardless of the nature of the problem, with either an expert or someone they trust, a best friend. Getting feedback on our problems requires us to consider what we are doing and that we might find a better way of doing things. Or it might reassure us that we are doing the right thing or are okay. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, we need to find a healthy outlet for our anxieties. We need a healthy distraction that takes our attention away from weighty things and towards something that makes us feel good in a healthy way. This needs to be practiced daily if possible, but be something we know we can turn to as needed. Having taken care of ourselves in this manner, we find ourselves more appealing, more available, and more attentive to others, particularly those we love and care about. It is difficult for anyone who is not healthy in any of these three respects, physically, mentally, and spiritually, to be at our best for those who need us.
6. Never loan anyone money — This might seem a bit rash but it is not. I remember years ago a guy who asked to borrow $5 from me with the promise he would pay me back. He never has paid me back and I have never forgotten that. He is also dead now. What I knew, even before that incident, was that I should give the person the money requested with the understanding that they would not pay me back. The only requirement I put on them is that the time will come that someone needs to borrow some money from them and when they give that person the money, I will have been paid back. I also tell them I do not want to hear about how that happens for them. Remember, it is impossible to cop a resentment over money you give away while it is far to easy to get resentful over money loaned and not repaid.
7. Don’t worry over what people think about you — Everyone wants to be thought well of but that, of course, is an impossibility. Regardless of where we are, there will be people who do not care for us. Maybe they would even say they hate us. The amount of weight that has is entirely dependent upon how we view it. I know there are people who I do not want to be around and people who do not want to be around me. I accept that. Getting caught up in the reasons one person hates me, or whatever, is a fool’s task. Short of asking them, I can never be certain. I do need to ask myself why it is important for me to know and what I intend to do with the information if I were to get it. I am most likely wasting time that could be better used in another direction entirely. Being grateful for the friends I do have and being grateful for them is usually all I have to remember to make the fact that someone does not like me unimportant.
8. Always have a Plan B — I actually learned this from my years on active duty in the army. We used to like to say, “anything that can go wrong probably will, and at the worst possible moment.” Keeping that in mind has told me that my initial plan, “Plan A,” may fail and that I will be well served to have a “Plan B” in the ready. It doesn’t hurt to have a “Plan C” and a “Plan D” as well, depending upon how important success is. Life loves to throw us curve balls which means we are going to be needing a “Plan B” a lot!
9. Life is messy — This is the natural follow-on to the previous mention, having a Plan B. Said Robert Burns in his famous poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,” said,
“But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”
We make the perfect plan and still things go wrong, people do not react as we would hope, the weather does not cooperate, and our family drives us nuts. But think how boring life would be were it predictable. That challenge comes from meeting life’s messiness with the belief that we can persevere if only we do not allow things to get to us.
10. Don’t take your self so damn seriously! — A couple of things that can quickly get us into trouble is our thinking how important our belief is or, worse, how important it is for us to be right, or worst of all, how important we are. Throughout the history of man, all of the most important people who have ever lived have all died, sooner or later, and yet the world has not only gone on without them, but has done quite well. Most of us have certain very strong beliefs that we are willing to fight for. The thing with beliefs is, they are each and every one quite personal and unique to one person, ourself. That is, it is difficult to find anyone who agrees 100% with any one of our beliefs 100% of the time. While it is good to have strong beliefs, convictions, it is also good to remember that belief which differ from our own are equally important to their owner and deserving of respect. A person who laughs at himself easily, is one other people will listen to respectfully. And a person with strong convictions who respects another person of equally strong convictions, though they may be in direct opposition to his own, is a person whose convictions will gain consideration by those of other beliefs.