My mother taught me a lot of things:
- Faith is the glue that guides your soul;
- It’s important to be nice;
- You owe no one an explanation for who you are;
- A close family provides the best safety net;
- Of course you’re beautiful;
- Look at things from the other person’s point of view.
I had a good head-start in life with such a wise woman for a guide. Still, I had a lot to learn from life. I didn’t always listen.
If my sixty-two year old self could advise my 22 year old self, here’s what I would say (besides listen to your mother):
- Commit yourself to honesty. Find the truth, know the truth, speak the truth. Stay away from gossip. Be brave; it’s hard. You can be honest and nice at the same time.
- Learn to listen. Read Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and practice, practice, practice listening. Read or listen to The Best Kept Secrets of Great Communicators, by Peter Thompson. Practice, practice, practice Thompson’s listening techniques. Whenever you fail to understand someone, listen again. Really listen.
- God made you in his image, so from at least one vantage point, God is one intense Being. Celebrate your intensity, temper it and nurture it. Someday someone will see it for what it is, celebrate it, and will love you for it. That’s the image He made you in. It’s a good thing.
- Stop worrying about your weight. You will have at least 5 pounds to lose all of your adult days, and every time you lose them, they’ll find you and bring along a couple of friends. Do worry about what you eat and if you’re getting enough exercise. Junk food and lack of exercise will leave you feeling lethargic, depressed and achy.
- Laugh at yourself. It really does make you feel better. Plus, it relaxes everyone around you. Feel free to be foolish. Laugh often, deep from the belly, with your head thrown back and your mouth wide open.
- Keep asking all those questions. Peeling the onion is super-hard and can sometimes make you cry. That said, think of all the flavor and nuance that comes after all that peeling. It’s the same thing with research, reading, listening, and questioning. Dig deep. It’ll make you dig deeper. Understanding is in there somewhere. You can find it. You can.
- Play more. You don’t really have to get all “A’s.” Sometimes it’s okay not to give it your all. Sometimes you will be terrible at things; like basketball and sculpting, and racing. You can still play and have fun; you just won’t be in the major league. Make up your own Olympic Swim strokes (The “standing stroke” or the “spinner” or the “bicycle” are way more difficult than the official strokes.) Dance without a mirror. You’re at your best when you’re not looking too close.
- You will see way more examples of ways you do not want to be, than ways you do want to be. Learn from all the examples. Tuck the good ones away in your head, plant an image in your heart of what the future you looks like, sounds like, and lives like. Practice what makes that good. One day you will be that person.
- The Golden Rule will take you a long way. Be nice. That said, sometimes you’re gonna have to bring out your witch’s tool box. Read or Listen to Coping with Difficult People by Robert M. Bramson. When the Golden Rule doesn’t work, Bramson’s techniques will. You will tremble the first time you pull one of his tools out and use it. You will be amazed how well they work. Keep them in your toolbox. Use them only when you need them.
- Captain Kangaroo was right, the magic words really are “Abra-Cadabra, Please and Thank You.” Ask for help along the way. People really like helping. You already know this, because you like to help. So what’s holding you back? Ask. And say Thank You. People crave appreciation.
- Love really does make the world go round. Apply it liberally and often. Soak it up and hold it tight. There’s enough for everybody. Love lasts forever.