As I was engaged in the long drive home yesterday from Hartford, I was thinking about some of the more important lessons I've learned so far about life in general. Why? Well why not? Besides, I like to keep my mind engaged during these drives, as it's one of the few things that can keep my from eventually nodding off and landing in the Hudson river. Anyway, here are a few of the things that came to mind:
First & Foremost: You have to live in your own skin
It's nice to be liked, it's nice to have others around you, but in the end you really only do live within your own skin. What does that mean? Well you spend 100% of your time with yourself, as opposed to some smaller percentage that you spend with friends, family, etc. Given that, you need to learn to like...or at least tolerate...yourself. I have a lot of flaws, but there is also a lot that makes me a good, decent person. And that's okay.
You Own Your Feelings
No one has the power to make you feel anyway or anything. No one can climb inside your head without you first allowing them access. This doesn't mean that it's wrong to feel bad over something involving someone else; to the contrary, I think it's healthy to feel the range of emotions that we all experience in life. But I think we all need to realize that our minds are one of the few things in life that we truly do own ourselves. Have the ability to take control of how you are feeling and say "okay, I'm done being pissed-off over this; time to pull myself up and move on". How much sense does it make to be in a situation where someone else "makes" you feel a certain way but yet you can't change how you feel? Again, who owns that real estate inside your skull anyway? Accept how you feel, but have the wherewithal to take charge when those feelings become destructive.
I try to be kind to people. Why? Well it's not out of any "tit for tat" notion that good works ensure that I'll live on a cloud when I die, but rather it's because there is a small measure of happiness to be find in doing something good. What's more, I truly enjoy being around people who are kind to me, so it's only right to set an example myself.
Keep It In Perspective
It's too easy to get caught up in all the stuff running around you these days...simply put, there is just too much going on in this overly complicated world that we've managed to create. I need to do a better job of reminding myself to take a step back, look at the world around me, and realize that there is a lot more here than simply the current crisis at hand. The phrase "This too shall pass" is probably the wisest thing ever written.
Forgive, But Don't Forget
I've come to accept that it's nearly impossible for me to stay angry at anyone for any great length of time. I'm simply not wired that way. To this day, I can count on one or two fingers the number of people for whom I have a genuine dislike; even then I suspect that I could grow to like this (or that) person if circumstances were different. This isn't to say though that I have a sign on my forehead that says "Please do take advantage of me", because while I forgive easily, I almost never forget.
Lastly...I Define Me
When I look back to when I was much younger (say back to high school years), I think I was constantly looking to others for affirmation as to who I was; it's as if I was allowing others to define me in terms of who I hung-out with, what I wore, where I lived, my grades, etc. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in life-to-date is that I define who I am. I don't need the affirmation of a person or group of people, friends or not, to define me as a person. I don't need to lie about where I live and I don't need to pretend to be anything more than who I really am. To the extent that some folks know who I am and still choose to call me a friend, well that's truly a blessing. And that's okay.