Friday, 10 November 2017

25 Things I've Learnt in 25 Years

You may have seen lists like this floating around the web—usually in video form, which was my first choice too, actually. They're really up my alley, so I thought I'd put in my two cents as well. Okay, I realise that they're usually posted on or around someone's birthday—and, as you may notice, mine was at least two weeks ago—but I've been thinking a lot about this recently and itching to write it all down. I hope you don't mind. Usually, people mix the hard-hitting life lessons with something lighter, but me being me, I feel like they will all be rather...epiphany-driven. Also, they're written in chronological order, as far back as I can date, so the real heavy ones should be at the very end. Hope you'll like this list—and maybe share one or two you've learnt yourself!

1. When you have a thought/idea, always write it down

Idea or thought is always a fleeting thing; it goes as quickly and suddenly as it comes. Once it's gone, it is almost guaranteed to never come back. You can never rely on your memory alone to keep it, so write it down, because you may never know when it will be helpful to you—no matter how random or unimportant it may seem at the time. It's also a good way to remember how your mind used to work in the past, as it may help you reflect on yourself.

2. Beauty lies in knowing that it's not everything

The most beautiful people I've been fortunate enough to know in life stand out, because they know that their physical superiority doesn't define them. They often possess non-physical qualities that make them shine brighter than most, either their good nature or their intelligence or both. But what usually attracts people to them is their nonchalant attitude towards their appearance. I think that is the true secret to body positivity.

3. Memories are never accurate and should not be held accountable

Our memories are always fabricated by our minds. Depending on how we feel about a certain moment in time, it will leave a different impression on us. And exactly because of that, we should never rely on our memories to know exactly what we—or anyone else, for that matter—were going through at any given time. We may feel like the "good old days" were far better, but, after further consideration, they turn out not to be too great either. Also because of that, although we may experience the same thing as someone else, our memories and theirs may vary significantly.

4. Someone's perception of you says more about them than about you

This goes both ways: whether it's a perception to make them like you or to make them despise you. People only ever see what they want to see. They might even think you're someone that is completely different to who you really are—or who you believe to be—and it creates a certain impression on them. They might say they love you or hate you, without even knowing your true self. I think I learnt this in grade school, when boys started to say they had feelings for me because of characteristics that I don't believe I possess. Knowing this has helped me distinguish between the pretenders and the true friends too.

5. The opposite of love isn't hate, but indifference

They say there is a thin line between love and hate—and, you know what, I think they're right. Love and hate both require a certain degree of obsession, which allows the perpetrator of those feelings to keep their target in mind most of the time. They also both require a great effort to maintain. So, what's actually so opposite about them? They're actually one and the same thing, although with different objectives. But when one loses interest in someone else, when that obsession and drive to have that person in one's life has gone, that is indifference. That is when the other person ceases to matter and exist in one's world—and the target certainly won't feel loved.

6. It's healthy to feel our unhappy emotions too

There is no way, that everything in life will make you happy all the time. Even when nothing bad happens, your mind might decide to pull a trick on you and throw you into a bad mood. It happens. And when it does, it's necessary for us to embrace the bad feelings. Stew in your anger for a while, cry your eyes out for a bit, maybe even throw up if you're feeling sick. Let it all out, so you can let it go. Otherwise, you'll be holding on to all this negativity far longer than you should—which will most likely result in the deterioration of both mental and physical health.

7. You can't save someone from themselves

In life, you may stumble upon a fair number of people whose life you'd want to improve. They may be in trouble for being too kind. They may be too lazy and irresponsible to lead a fulfilling life. They may have confidence issues. But, unless they want to change themselves, there is literally nothing you can do. In turn, it also means that no one can solve your problems for you, except yourself. They can help, of course, but it all comes down to you in the end.

8. Love is a constant decision, not an act of reflex

Being a hopeless romantic since toddlerhood, I used to believe that if two people love each other, they needn't work hard in a relationship. It will all just flow naturally. Unfortunately, no matter what, relationship requires effort from both sides. Love isn't something that happens to you—infatuation perhaps, attraction maybe, but not long-term love. You have to constantly make a conscious decision to love someone for a relationship to work. And it may consist of various factors, aside from our sole emotions.

9. How you see yourself can change how the world sees you

When I first started going out with Firu, it was like magic. He showed me what he thought of me and it really nurtured my self-esteem. I started to believe everything positive about myself, as he said. Like magic, at that point, people started to notice my good qualities too and coming up to tell me about them. It's weird. The same goes for blogging. When I started promoting my blog on social media more often, people take notice and compliment the contents. When I started sounding like a professional on my emails, people treat me like a pro too. I think what you think of yourself comes off like a pheromone, and if it's positive, people will respond well to that.

10. Happy endings don't exist (and that's perfect!)

As a child who's been spoon-fed Disney cartoons, I've always thought life was going to pan out that way. Terrible things might happen in my life, but then I'll find my prince, we'll get married and live happily ever after—blegh, clichĂ©, I know. But then, what happens after happy ever after? I think this could be what is wrong with society sometimes: thinking that marriage equals happy ending. And so everyone races to find their soulmate, desperate to run to the finish line. But a relationship—marriage or otherwise—isn't supposed to be the destination; it's actually the journey. It will be filled with hardships and you might want to throw in the towel, but if you truly work hard to cherish each other, you can spend the rest of your lives together—and isn't that better than happy endings? 

11. Some things are just better left unsaid

All my life I've been a huge believer of honesty. I've always been determined to say what's on my mind and be truthful in my words. However, somewhere along the line I realised that sometimes honesty is relative—and it may hurt people. For instance, when we're feeling upset and our mind is practically being steered by our emotions, it may not be wise to spew all our poisonous thoughts onto our loved ones, though it may be the truth at the time. For another, it may also be unwise to bring up an old conflict, though it may be digging at the back of our minds for a while. Although I still try to speak the truth when I can, some things are better left alone.

12. Change is constant, do not fight it!

One of human beings' biggest pet peeves or phobia is change, which is strange since change happens all the time. If there is something that's constant, it is change—that may be an oxymoron, but it's true. Whenever there is a new law being passed down or a new phase of life about to start or even one of favourite shows coming to an end, we almost always fight the notion. We're afraid, because change is unfamiliar and who knows what will happen next. But, as time passes, we realise that we can live with the change and it's really not as damaging as we'd originally thought. It is what makes the world go round and—guess what—it happens mostly unnoticed.

13. Some wounds take a long time to heal (and some never heal at all)

Losing my mother was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. I thought, by the time I graduated from high school, I was already getting over the pain and her absence. But then I moved to Germany and somehow got easily triggered to cry about her all the time. It took me around seven years before I could think about her without breaking down so easily...but that's only because a new, gigantic wound opened up in its stead. But that wound has also started to heal now, while the previous still pokes at me at times. I think some wounds just will never close up completely and some others will leave a scar, but somehow we'll find a way to live with that.

14. Fear lets you know you're on to something big

Before starting school/work, before going out on an adventure, before moving out of your parents' house, fear usually sets in. And, when it does, it is not unusual that we will rethink our decision and may even back out of whatever it is we are facing. But we shouldn't. Fear doesn't come when you're doing something ordinary. It doesn't come when you're about to take a shower, it doesn't come when you're about to do the laundry and it doesn't come when you're about to dig into your food. It comes when you're about to do something extraordinary, so don't worry. Fear lets you know you're about to take one step you've never taken before, and it may bring you closer to your dreams.

15. Strangers always have wisdom to share

I love talking to strangers! It may seem dangerous, but I've had some experiences with strangers that always bestow new knowledge onto me—especially when the strangers are significantly older. The thing about strangers is that they're not from our circle of friendships—may even be from a completely different world from ours—and so when they speak about a topic, they offer an entirely new and fresh outlook on it from what we are accustomed to with our peers. I like listening to them talk and exchanging ideas, because I always learn something new, even though we may later on never see each other again.

16. The grass is always greener on the other side no matter where we stand

I think it's human nature to believe that someone else has it better than us. But then, from their point-of-view, it may seem that our life is more put together and dreamy. These may then result in envy and dissatisfaction with our own lives. I read a poem once about this, that maybe the grass is greener because the gardener tends to other people's needs and not their own, that maybe if we were in their shoes, we'd know how much they actually suffer. The thing is, no matter where we are, we will always look at someone else's lawn and think that their grass is greener—shouldn't we feel grateful that we have grass at all?

17. Other people's lives are none of your business (unless they want it to be)

Around the time of my early 20s, I notice, I was a busybody—always meddling in everyone else's lives and telling them how to live them. If someone led a life of different principles from mine, I downright hated them and actively disapproved of their decisions. I think this was also the period that I lost friends the most. After losing a significant few, I started to realise how big of a bitch I used to be—Timehop helps a lot! Now I know, just because someone has a different view of life from mine, it doesn't meant their way is wrong. And, unless I'm their mother or their lives are in danger or they asked for help or some such, it is no business of mine how they live it.

18. Kindness goes a long way (even if you're not born with it)

I've never been a kind-hearted person. When I do something, it's because I want to do it or feel it is what's best for me—in other words, I'm selfish. Rarely do I think about other people's well-being or happiness, unless it is in any way beneficial to me. This leads me to believe that I am incapable of kindness. However, after reading Dale Carnegie's book, I learnt little things I can do to be kind to people and make them feel special. I tried applying them in my life. In an instant, I could see that people respond well to kindness—and not just mine too. It has opened a lot of doors for me and left me feeling loved.

19. Life never works out according to plan

No matter how straight-edged you are, how well you've mapped out your life, how hard you work at it, more often than not life will throw you a curveball. Sure, it may be a tiny one, like a bus coming later than you'd hoped for. It could also be a huge one, like you not finishing school as soon as you thought you ought to. But they are sure to happen. The best plan you can have for life, really, is to be open to sudden changes, because that's the only thing that's certain.

20. Time that changes you is never wasted

Now, because of the reason stated above, you may have faced failure at one time or another. And, thus, you may have felt like you've wasted your life away somehow. You may wish to turn back time, so you could change things and succeed instead. But, if you've never gone through what you did, you would've never reached this point in your life, become the person you are now and learnt the things you know now. So don't worry, the time that you spent beforehand, even if it led to your failure, it shapes you in a way you would've never suspected—and it will lead you to where you need to be. 

21. Age is but a number

It could mean a good thing or a bad thing—and I've experienced both. I've met and known people in life who have such a mature frame of mind at such a young age. In contrary, I've also met and known people in life who, despite their advanced age, aren't any less spoiled and irresponsible than a child. On the other hand, it also means that even if you've reached a certain age and haven't accomplished what society expects you to, it shouldn't matter, because you may have learnt a lot of things in between. Karlie Kloss once said in her video, "We all age at the same pace," so the number on our IDs literally only mean how long we've been on earth.

22. No one will ever understand you better than yourself

I used to believe that one's best friends/family/lover should know one more than anyone else, maybe even better than oneself. But that is too heavy an expectation to hang on someone's shoulders. We all grow up separately, so there are definitely parts of our personalities and history that no one else might know about. It is unfair for us to expect someone else will know our every thought and move, when we, who are obviously with ourselves literally all the time, don't even understand ourselves sometimes.

23. You will never know someone 100%, so tread with caution

Relationship therapist Esther Perel once said in her TED Talk, that we will never know someone 100% and the mystery is exactly what keeps attracting us to them. As someone in a 7-year relationship, I can vouch for that. Although this may be a relief, it could also mean that, while we thought we knew someone so well, it turns out there are sides to them we didn't know about before—and our actions may save or kill our relations to them. It also means that, especially with public figures, we don't always get the whole picture and should always be considerate of their feelings. Phrasing our words differently could have a huge impact.

24. Nothing beats offline interaction

While I am very awkward and suck at meeting new people in real life, I can do plenty with the internet. That being said, I realise online interactions are very limiting. Through the internet, we mostly resort to text-based interactions and, although emojis and stickers have tried to help convey our feelings better, they are certainly leagues behind direct communication. Offline interactions provide us with more information than we realise—not only verbal words, but also gestures, mimics (including micro expressions) and intonation. Text-based interactions are, unfortunately, easily misunderstood—which has happened to me too many times, even with someone who understands me as well as Firu and my sister. Plus, we edit a lot from our actual personality to create our online persona, whether we realise it or not, and—I don't know about you—but it makes people seem less human and relatable. I always find I like people better when we meet up in real life.

25. There are things in this world that we may never know/understand

Generally speaking, of course there are things we won't ever understand—like how the universe started, how many species there are on earth or why people must die. But I'm not really speaking about those divine secrets, exactly. On a personal level, there may also be things we will never know or understand. For starters, we may never know/understand why our friends suddenly end their ties with us, without so much as a notice. Or why we aren't accepted to a school or job that we desperately want. And there may never be any explanations with these mysteries. It may not be easy and it will take some time, but it is best if we try not dwell on them too much. One day, we'll be able to let them go and live knowing we don't know.

If you've read this far, as always, you're my hero!

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