YAY! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!! And it’s also Chimamanda’s, so I’m putting up a picture I took with her.
I’d like to share 23 lessons I’ve learned over the years. Yes, yes. This is me feeling like a world-wise philosopher. And maybe none of this means a thing, maybe I’ve just been lucky and these… lessons, picked from the books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve heard and conversations I’ve had, are incidental. Whatever. *It’s my birthday and I’ll spout if I want to*
- Put God first. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re in sync with Him. The importance of a relationship with God deserves a blog post all by itself, I can’t do it justice in a few lines. Suffice it to say that when I put God first, my life becomes absurdly simple. When I do things my way, it ends up complicated and difficult.
- Drink milk. How else will you fulfil your RDA of potassium, vitamin D, calcium etc.?
- Be content. Be happy. When I was much younger, I used to think that having more money would make me happier. When I got a bit older (and got a larger allowance) I figured I would be happy if my crush reciprocated my feelings. The goal post kept moving, complete happiness was elusive. Then in university I listened to a Pastor Trevor say something like, “Your thoughts influence your emotions. If you can’t appreciate what you do have, if all you can think of is what’s wrong/lacking in your life, you will never be happy.” Complete epiphany, that moment was.
- Pleasure isn’t always happiness and vice versa. I once spoke with a priest who said, “What will make you happy? Forget about doing what you think is your “duty”. Forget about what your family will think, or what your friends would say. You’re God’s child, He loves you and He wants you to be happy. If you aren’t, He isn’t. Even when you serving Him.” Father Jean wasn’t encouraging me to indulge myself, he was helping me understand the delineation between “pleasure” and “happiness”. Pleasure can be an ingredient of happiness, but it’s non-essential.
- Be restless. It staves off boredom & lethargy and you never know what will finally click for you. Learn a language, start a blog, get professionally certified, write a book, enrol in a leadership/skill development programme, volunteer in church, start a business, grow a garden, travel, start a hobby. Be restless.
- Be physical. Walk instead of taking a bike. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stretch. Dance. Run. Skip. A free workout. 🙂
- Be mentored. If there is one thing that has influenced my life’s course like nothing else, it’s that I’ve been mentored, in one way or the other, since junior secondary school. I have mentors for my personal life, mentors for my spiritual life, mentors for my professional life. It doesn’t have to be anything formal; some of my mentors are relatives, others are older friends. They help keep me accountable, they challenge me to set goals and meet them.
- Meet people. Here’s a confession: I used to be very shy (still am, to an extent). I avoided social gatherings and if I had to be at one, I would gravitate to any familiar face or I would clam up. I’ve tried to work on this in the last two years. I realized I was missing out on becoming friends with interesting people, kindred spirits even. Worse, I was earning a reputation as a snob. So far, I haven’t regretted coming out of my shell. My life is so much richer for all the people I’ve met in the last year alone!
- Make good friends. I have been blessed to call exceptional people my friends. I do not always agree with their ideals but they are ambitious, hard-working, intelligent, passionate people and they (knowingly/unknowingly) make me better. Oprah Winfrey said, “Only surround yourself with people who lift you higher.” Yes, it has snobbish undertones but she knew what she was talking about. Thanks, guys!
- Don’t ever outgrow Disney.
- Premarital sex is overrated. Sex was God’s idea not man’s and He established its boundaries. Within marriage. My mother told me so when I was 12. At 13, I took a chastity vow. It’s been difficult, I won’t lie. But it’s made my life a lot less complicated. p.s. having friends who share this principle makes it easier to live!
- Love as completely as you can. Early last year, I learnt a few things about love. First, it goes hand in hand with sacrifice. If you claim to love someone, you should want the best for him/her. You should also acknowledge that being with you may not be the best thing for the person in question. Let go. Second, love is useless if you don’t show it. Make sure the people you love know it.
- Don’t take yourself so damn serious.
- Forgive. I’m a big fan of Life Uncomplicated. I lost family members when I was young and I remember thinking how petty and irrelevant their disagreements with other people were. In the end, does it really matter that she gossiped about you? That he betrayed you? People die. You never know when next you’ll see that person. Shrug, move on. Keep smiling. Life is too short to hold onto feuds and grievances. To forgive is not to be a doormat, it is to realize that there are more important things in the world than ‘justice’.
- Love You. Accept your physical flaws; K-legs, freckles, six toes. Acknowledge the existence of your emotional/mental flaws. Love yourself enough to seek help for them. Love yourself enough to stay away from friendships and relationships that hurt you or undermine your self-esteem. You deserve to be happy. Love yourself.
- Read. When you read, you know. I understand that I have a rather emotional relationship with books so I’m not exactly the most objective of persuaders. But there is this: not many of us will get the chance to travel around the world. But you can with a book. History, philosophy, math, science, sociology. Keep your mind on its toes.
- Make a difference. I have this nightmare where I wake up one morning, aged 55 and I look back on my life with horror, realising that I wasted my youth. I will never get these years back. You won’t ever get your youth back. Make them count. Create value in your family, community, work-place. In fact, if you’re in Lagos there’s an NGO called VolunteerCorps at 63. Adelabu Street, in Surulere. This is their phone number 07028605264. This Saturday, September 17th, 2011, some people are volunteering to clean up Bar Beach. If you’re interested, please call Ngozi – 08032642262. They really need volunteers.
- Spend time with old people. If you’re lucky, you still have grandparents alive. Some of them can be royal pains, agreed. But old people have a unique perspective. When I think that I have life all figured out, a conversation with my Grandpa cures me of my delusion. He’s also a reminder that one day, I too will be frail and wrinkled all over. Sobering thought.
- Spend time with children. I have a confession to make. I don’t particularly like infants. Especially when they’re at an age when they can’t articulate their wants and needs. But there’s just something heart-warming about a 5-year-old climbing into your lap of her own accord without so much as a “May I?” And if you ever feel like your whole world is about to crumble, spend time talking with a kid. She won’t solve your problems but you’re guaranteed to feel better. Children give the best hugs, by the way ;).
- Focus. There are probably many things that you can do. And maybe about six that you’re fair at. But unless you’re uber-talented, there’s probably only one or two that you’re really good at. (Really good meaning that you’d beat the average Joe at it). It’s not enough to be intelligent or precocious. Conductors and insulators are both made up of electrons, protons and neutrons. The difference is that the electrons in conductors Can. Be. Directed. Life is too short to not have a direction.
- Don’t touch your acne. Only causes scars and makes it worse.
- Be nice. Let someone go through a door before you. If you can afford it, leave your change with petty traders/artisans and conductors, and even though they can be bloody annoying, don’t shove away beggar kids. Smile often.
- Save. Someone advised thus: If you still live with your parents and eat from their kitchen, save 50% of your salary and 90% of unexpected money (gifts, lottery winnings etc.). I adhere to the former, I’m hopeless with the latter. I think this should be my new resolution.
Bloody long, isn’t it? Lol! Thanks for reading to the end though. Let me know what you think. If you liked, please share it. Thanks! 🙂