Life isn’t easy. Everyone knows that. There are ups and there are downs. But everyone is always saying not to worry because everything will turn out the way it is supposed to. Until recently I didn’t really understand what that meant.
For a while, to me, that meant just going with the flow. I thought that God, or whatever you want to believe in, would push me down the right path, that there would be a light obviously shining down on what I was supposed to do and who I was supposed to be. While I still believe we end up where we are supposed to be, I have realized that light isn’t as obvious as I originally thought. It’s bright when you find it, but you have to look for it
Becoming the person you’re supposed to be and doing the things you’re meant to do is so not easy. Sometimes it’s easier just to say that everything will turn out the way it is supposed to and wait for that to happen. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to go along with the crowd. But I guarantee you that finding your place in the world is going to take time and effort. Sorry to say, but it takes a bit of work to be happy.
So, in honor of school starting back up, here are some things that I learned near the end of high school, that I wished I had learned sooner, about being happy with who I am and finding who I am meant to be:
- Don’t be afraid to tell the truth: As cheesy and cliche as this one might sound, the truth really will set you free. In order to be who you are meant to be, you have to learn that people can’t read your mind. If you feel something, tell someone. If you think something, tell someone. No one can help you feel better or accomplish something you want to do if they don’t even know what you’re feeling and thinking. And yes, while some of the people you’re closest to might be able to practically read your mind, there are still a lot of things worth saying, even if you don’t think they are. Don’t trick yourself into not saying something you’re afraid to say by convincing yourself it won’t make a difference. Don’t let guilt or shame or regret eat you up. Say what you want to say. It’s the only way to live with no regrets. Keeping secrets, big or small, will make you feel alone, because there is always something separating you from those you love.
- Don’t be afraid to get a little lost: There’s a quote that says “the best way to find yourself is to get a little lost.” Again, cliche, but true. Whether this means literally or figuratively, leaving your life, stepping out of your comfort zone, is the only way to learn about yourself. When I’m particularly confused or upset, I jump in my car and just drive. I’m not going to lie and say I come back healed with all the answers to my life’s questions. I wish. But I will say that when I allow myself to get lost, I at least come back clear headed and feeling a little bit happier. And if you’re lost figuratively, stumbling through your life with what feels like no direction, I promise that there is a purpose. I mean, where would we be if Christopher Columbus hadn’t been a little lost? He got lost and was disappointed to have not found India. The founder of the American Continent was worried he got lost, but ended up going down in history for what he thought was a mistake. So celebrate your stumbling, and don’t reach for the GPS right away. Sometimes when you land in what you think is the wrong place, you end up discovering a whole new world.
- Don’t be afraid to cry: When you do inevitably get lost, figuratively or literally, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to cry a lot. It’s okay to sit in your bedroom or car, turn up the sad music, and let it all out. I will admit to having done it many times. I will also admit to disagreeing for a long period of time. I thought I had to not cry because people were watching and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I thought holding my tears and feelings in made me strong. But the people who loved me most, I discovered, wanted to share my smiles as well as my tears, and were actually more disappointed not to know when I was upset because they wanted the chance to be there for me. They didn’t pity me, they loved me. And in turn I learned not to pity those who cry. In fact, we should pity those who don’t cry, because those who cry are lucky enough to have something worth crying about. Crying is a sign of strength, not weakness, because anyone who has the strength to show their feelings in this world that tries to harden our hearts, has more courage than those who are too big of cowards to show their weaknesses. And when you cry and allow people to comfort you, you will find love and support and feel much less alone.
- Don’t be afraid to do things you think you don’t want to do: When your friends invite you out, go. Even if you’re tired or think it won’t be any fun. Even if you would rather stay in your bedroom and binge watch your new favorite TV show. I have been there, and that can be fun, but that little bit of happiness only lasts so long. That is happiness by living in another world, but you need to find happiness in your own world. Even if you go out and don’t have the best time, at least you have a new experience, a new memory, and you have learned something about what you don’t like to do. Everything is a learning experience, and even if you don’t know what makes you happiest, I guarantee you won’t find it staring out the window at the world you never allowed yourself to explore.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: This was a big one for me. I am quite the perfectionist. Often, when presented with new opportunities, I will make excuses and back out because of fear. One of my favorite musicians, Ben Rector, put this beautifully in his lyrics: “I’ve been scared to death of failing, scared that I’d look like a fool. And I’d rather quit than risk that I could lose. And I’m not proud of that position.” When I let fear of failure or looking like a fool run my life, I kept myself from so many wonderful people and experiences. There’s no way that you can find your place in this world if you don’t try new things. And in trying new things, you are going to mess up. But don’t be afraid of that! One day you will look back and be glad that you had the courage to make that first mistake.
- Don’t be afraid to stand alone: Being alone has such a negative connotation in this society, but it really isn’t a bad thing. In fact, in my opinion, taking time for yourself is one of the most important things you can do. And yes, I mean reading a book or drinking tea in your pajamas in the quiet of your home. But I also mean, don’t be afraid to stand alone against other people. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t like something, just because it seems like everyone else disagrees. I guarantee you that there are people who feel the same way you do, but you will never find them if you don’t speak up. Yes, you might lose people you called friends because of your opinions, but the kind of people you want around are the ones that can respect your opinion whether or not they agree, not those who pressure you into following them. The most rewarding paradox lies in this idea: by having the courage to stand alone for what you believe is right, you will soon find yourself less alone than ever, because a lot of people will admire and support you for your ability to confidently stand alone.
- Don’t be afraid of silence: I used to hate silence when I was alone because I got lost in my mine and I got easily overwhelmed in thinking so many things. I also used to hate silence with other people because I thought it meant that we had nothing to talk about and didn’t get along. But I learned, over time, the true value of silence. The best people are the ones that will share silence with you. And it is only through listening to the thoughts that come to us in silence that we can really get to know ourselves and face our fears. And I have learned that sometimes the most beautiful things require a little bit of silence. Tears, hugs, kisses, trust, love. So many discoveries are made in the silence of our hearts.
- Don’t be afraid: “Be not afraid.” This quote appears 365 times in the Bible– A daily reminder to not let the Earth’s fears swallow you up. I let too many things go in high school because I was afraid of what people would think. I didn’t say things because I couldn’t predict the outcome, so I thought it was better to keep it wrapped up. But, let me tell you, I was so wrong. Because it is far better to momentarily look like a fool than to live with life-long regrets. So do and say what you want to do. And don’t be afraid of looking like a fool. Normal is overrated and life’s best people are fools. What fun would life be if we were all “normal.” Those who want to judge you for it? Let them. I guarantee you they have looked like a fool at least once in their lives. Don’t be afraid, because “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”