It’s been tough. I looked after her the best that I could, I tried to be as encouraging as possible, and I made efforts to improve my career situation so that she could take time off to focus on her health. The year is over and, thankfully, the most important goal we set out to achieve has been achieved: Cassie beat cancer.
Although I didn’t do any of the fighting — you have Cassie and her doctors to praise for that — I did get caught up in the ride. I was exhausted by the emotional roller coaster, and I found myself constantly wishing for 2010 to arrive just so we could move past this difficult time in our lives. I was anxious to start experiencing normal life again.
Here I am now, happy that 2010 is upon us, wondering what else to write about. It feels like cancer has been the topic of conversation for so long, that I’ve forgotten how to talk about anything else.
I’m glad for how things turned out. I’m ecstatic that she’s cured. But I’m tired of the subject. I didn’t want to make another post about cancer, but the words are coming out of me anyway.
I suppose that I’m afraid if I don’t talk about it, the only other thing I can say about 2009 is that life was on pause for a while, so nothing else was accomplished. Maybe I’m ashamed about the fact that my intention is for this to be a progressive blog, and I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring it in favor of other priorities.
The other thing about 2009 is that I feel so detached from everything I experienced throughout it. It feels like I’m waking up from a bad dream. I remember feeling scared, sad, and impatient — but I couldn’t always express those feelings, because I felt obligated to appear outwardly normal and “together.” Being hysterical wasn’t an option.
I started imagining what types of things I wish I could have told myself earlier this year: “Everything’s going to be alright.” — “One year from now, this will all be behind you.” — “Trust me, she’ll be okay.”
The concept was pretty fascinating to me, and I took it a step further and imagined what I might like to tell myself if I could go back in time to give my younger self some advice about life.
I think that the dawn of a new decade is an excellent time to reflect upon the last ten years, and figure out what life lessons I’ve managed to learn from them:
#10 – For the most part, what others think doesn’t matter.
Ten years ago I was a 17 year old high school student who let the opinions of other people largely influence my choices. It was a dumb way to live, considering that ten years later, those people whose opinions I held in such high regard aren’t even a part of my life anymore!
The times when someone else’s opinion of you truly matters are few and far between. Think first impressions, like meeting your significant other’s family, meeting a new client, or meeting a potential employer for a job interview.
Don’t let other people rent space in your head. What they think of you isn’t important. What matters most is how you feel about yourself.
#9 – Explore new hobbies and opportunities often.
When I cared about what other people might think about me, I never tried new things. I was afraid that if I sucked at something, I’d be embarrassed. To spare myself the embarrassment of being bad at something new, I would never explore opportunities to learn a new skill, or start a new hobby.
Looking back on it, I see it as lots of time lost!
Nowadays I’m always anxious to put myself out there and learn something new. I sing at karaoke, I enter juggling contests, and I play Euchre even though I suck at all of them. I try new things as they come up, whether it’s a new restaurant, a new beer, or a new pastime. When you try new things, you discover more and more things that you enjoy.
Currently, I have plans to master the piano, the pool table, the surfboard, and the pen in my lifetime. They’re things that I know I love. Still, if you were to introduce me to a unicycle today, I’d hop right on to try and take it for a spin, fall off, and then hop on again!
As Harold and Maude put it best, “Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”
#8 – Nobody knows what you’re thinking unless you tell them.
People can’t read your mind. This goes for your significant other, your employer, and that hot girl you’re too scared to talk to.
Ten years ago I was dating someone I no longer wanted to date. I knew that I was unhappy in the relationship, but she didn’t. Consequently, I waited and waited for things to improve, but they never did. I want to scream at my young self: Well no shit things didn’t improve. You never told her anything was wrong!
Relationships can’t improve unless you communicate. This applies to your relationship with your employer also — if you’re working hard at your job and believe that you deserve a raise, you probably won’t get it unless you ask for it.
Simply put, your supervisor doesn’t know what you want. Don’t wait for them to come to you, because your blood will boil over and you’ll end up quitting before it ever happens. Ask to meet privately and spell it out for them!
As for that hot girl, if you don’t say anything before she walks out that door, then she’s going to walk out of your life forever having never known you. Don’t let it happen. Learn to communicate so people can know you.
#7 – Talk to everyone in college.
Professors. Classmates. Roommates. Neighbors. Frats. Sororities. Clubs. Students outside of your major. Students outside of your social clique. Returning students that are older than you. Teaching assistants. Resident assistants. Adjuncts. Tutors. Career advisors. Deans. Librarians. Friends.
Why? Networking. When employers look for a good match for a job opening, the first thing they do is ask the people they’re already working with if they know someone who would do well in the position. They tend to look through resumes as a last resort.
College is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to build a complex, varied network of smart people. Use it to your advantage and get your name out there, because grades mean nothing in the real world.
Also, live it up, because college is fucking awesome. Trust me when I tell you that after you’ve graduated, you’ll go through college withdrawal. There’s a reason why so many people say it’s the best four years of your life.
#6 – Leave every job on good terms.
No matter how good it might feel to tell your boss to suck it right before storming out of a dead-end job forever, it is never worth it. You will probably need another job someday, and you might just need some good references to get it.
Giving up all opportunities for future recommendations for one fleeting moment to tell your employer what you really think about them is a bad trade. Give two weeks notice, and say thanks for the opportunity to work with them — even if it’s bullshit.
#5 – Pay your dues.
Even though you may have been hot shit in college, or at your last job, it will not grant you the slightest amount of entitlement in a new position for a new employer. In many companies, you’re basically getting in line to wait your turn to move up the ladder, and it may take years to advance beyond positions of indentured servitude.
Stick to it. Hopping from company to company looking for something “better” may allow you to get ahead in the short-term, but in the long-term your resume will become a mishmash of temporary stints that makes you look like a quitter.
In the end, persistence creates an impression of dedication and relevant experience — and it will outshine any other attribute, every time.
So take a look around. If you’re absolutely certain you’re on the right career path, then stick to it. Pay your dues. Climb ladders. It will be your turn soon enough.
#4 – Invest in yourself.
When you invest in yourself you can never lose. This applies to everything:
Learn to cook. You’ll save a bajillion dollars on food in your lifetime.
Learn a foreign language. You’ll expand your horizons and be easily employable.
Learn to spend less than you earn. You’ll never be broke.
#3 – You can’t change anything by just sitting back and looking at it.
Change requires two things: a conscious decision to accomplish something, and follow-through. If you want something accomplished, then do it now. If it can’t be done now, then do it today. If it can’t be done today, then start it today.
Change is tough, but the most difficult step is getting started. Of course once you’ve actually started, the most difficult step is following through. Change is tricky like that — but know that if you truly want it, you’ll find a way to create change in your life.
#2 – Expect people to be negative, especially if you’re carving your own path.
In all walks of life, you won’t see eye-to-eye with everyone. People will come out of the woodwork to tell you that you’ll fail, tell you that you suck, laugh at you, argue with you, call you names, write you messages laced with profanity, and be altogether unpleasant. As Tony Gazzo from Rocky put it, “Some guys, they just hate for no reason.”
The thing is, although it’s common to receive negativity from strangers, you’ll find that even the people you know and love can surprise you with negative attitudes. No matter who it is that’s trying to boo you off the stage, don’t let them succeed in doing so.
#1 – Do what you are.
We’ve all heard that “If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” The problem is that few people seem to actually have this luxury.
It seems that somewhere along the line the consensus changed to “If you do what you need to do, when you need to do it, then maybe someday you can do what you want to do, when you want to do it.” You end up spending the majority of your life waiting for that someday to arrive.
It’s mostly unavoidable though, since we spend most of our growing years hearing things like:
- You need to go to college.
- You need to get a job.
- You need to keep working even if you don’t like your job, to pay for college.
- You need to save for retirement, so that you have the option to retire.
Once you finally make it to retirement, then you can finally do what you want. It seems so backwards, doesn’t it?
When I’m not distracting myself from how repetitive my job is, I always think about how I’m slowly trading away the sunny days of my youth for “job security.” I show up, put my butt in a chair for eight hours a day, and collect a paycheck. Congratulations, I’ve traded away some time for some money.
I don’t feel alive at my job. I do shit that’s unimportant to me. I’d rather spend my time doing anything else, but the things I want to do wouldn’t pay me the way my boring job does.
Consequently, I write. Not because it earns me a lot of money, but because I feel most alive when I’m writing. For me, to not write is suicide — and I desperately wish that I realized this about me sooner.
If I could offer my younger self some real advice, I’d tell myself not to base my career choice on what someone else recommended. I’d tell myself not to pick a major because it’s what’s popular. I’d tell myself not to get into a career field for the money.
I’d tell myself that the right choice is much simpler: Do what you are. As long as you’re true to yourself, and follow your own interests, you can find success through passion. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t wake up ten years later in a career field you hate wondering “What the hell happened?”
So that’s my list of things I wish I knew when I was younger. We all think about things like this from time to time — so if you agree or disagree with what I’d tell myself, or if you have any bits of wisdom that you wish someone would have taught you long ago, please share in the comments!
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