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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I've Learned

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty immature for 30.  All the same, sometimes I feel like I’ve done enough living for several lifetimes.  But through all my experiences, good or bad, I like to think I’ve learned from them, and hopefully emerged a wiser, better person. What follows are some of the lessons life has taught me. If you’re anything like me, you won’t listen, but here they are anyway:

  1. I was born deaf in one ear. You might think this is a bad thing, but all it really means is I have a built-in excuse for not listening. Plus I can go to sleep pretty much anywhere--I just put my good ear into the pillow and, boom, I’m out. Life is all about finding the positives in your situation.
  2. I’ve never met my real father. People often ask me if I’d like to, but aside from a vague curiosity as to whether or not he’s bald, I don’t know why I would. I’ve lived a blessed life. I have a wonderful family, loyal friends, and everywhere I go I’m surrounded by love. Was it always easy? No. But you learn to appreciate the things you have and the paths life sends you on.
  3. My mom’s side of the family are what you might call ‘mountain people.’ My step-dad’s side are more affluent. While the specific problems each set of family members face might be different, they each have battles to deal with just the same. Money doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else, and it certainly doesn’t make anyone happier.
  4. I accidentally blew up a gas station in high school. People don’t forget.
  5. I was never one of the ‘cool kids.’ I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and had an awkward stage that lasted roughly a decade, so I didn’t exactly have a lot of friends. But what I found out was even though it’s scary to be different when you’re young, it’s scarier to be normal as you get older. Embrace your uniqueness. Own it.
  6. To quote Chef from South Park, there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college. College isn’t so much about the education as it is about figuring out who you are and how you fit into this crazy world.
  7. But the education is important too. Don’t f**k it up.
  8. Family will always be there for you, but sometimes friends are just as important. I almost failed out of college my freshman year. I pledged a fraternity despite having  8a.m. classes every day and, needless to say, I didn’t attend very often. I made a .75 GPA that first semester, and even though my parents blamed a lot of that on my fraternity, it was those same fraternity brothers who saw me doing the same thing the following spring and took it upon themselves  to personally make sure I went to every class for the rest of the year. They, as much as anything else, are the reason I am where I am today.
  9. I had the opportunity to study abroad my junior year. I was all alone for the first time in my life, and even though it was frightening, I grew as a person by leaps and bounds. Even if you can’t go overseas, take yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then. It’s only then that you find out what kind of person you really are.
  10. I lost my wife at an early age. After that I did enough second guessing and blaming myself for a lifetime. But with the benefit of time and hindsight, that experience taught me several valuable lessons:
    1. Tell the people you love how much they mean to you as often as you can. You never know when they’ll be taken from you.
    2. She had an issue with prescription medication that I knew about, but aside from voicing my concern every now and then and once putting her into a rehab facility, I often ignored it because it was easier on me. In retrospect, I should’ve done much more. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy—if it was, it would be called the easy thing—but it could save you a lot of grief down the road.
    3. Don’t dwell in the past. Life is always moving forward, with or without you.
    4. When you make mistakes, reflect on them, learn from them, then put them away. Regret can eat you alive if you let it.
    5. Bad things happen to good people. They just do. It’s a part of life that isn’t going to change, so there’s no use getting pissed off about it.
  11. I always wanted to be a writer, but when I found out how much money they made starting out, I balked. I decided to go what I thought was the safest and most secure route, and become a lawyer. Years later, it turns out that while I'm good at what I do, I’m not passionate about it. So here I am trying to be a writer again. The lesson: Find a profession you’re passionate about. Passion makes it easy to get up in the morning, but all the money in the world can’t get you excited for a job you don’t care about.

Lastly, here are some other general tidbits I picked up along the way:

  1. Take care of your body…you’re going to need it later.
  2. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Sometimes the answer comes to you; sometimes the only way to figure it out is to just start doing.
  3. Being an adult can be fun, especially when you’re acting like a child.
  4. Try harder. At school, at work, at play, at life. You’ll never look back on your deathbed and think, ‘I wish I would’ve done less.’
  5. Be nice to people. You never know the battles they’re facing, or how a simple smile could brighten their day.
  6. Love is different for everyone. Trying to make someone fit into your definition of it makes about as much sense as trying to speak French in Russian.
  7. Time heals all wounds, even if sometimes it takes longer than you’d like.
  8. Your word is important. Be true to it, from the smallest thing to the largest. People will notice.
  9. Take lots of pictures…one day you’ll be glad you did.
  10. It’s important to have people in your life that knew you when you were young and stupid. They’ll help keep you grounded when you’re old and stupid.
  11. Beauty isn’t perfection. The true source of beauty lies in the scars, the bruises, the idiosyncrasies of life. The imperfections are where you find humanity.
  12. You’ll never regret the chances you took, only the ones you didn’t.
  13. Being patient is hard sometimes…but when the thing or person you’re waiting for is really worth it, you find a way.
  14. When people are rude to you, be extra kind to them in return. In my experience, that really pisses them off.
  15. In falling down, we learn how to pick ourselves back up.
  16. Life isn’t about what happens to you…it’s what you do with it that matters.

If you have anything to add, please share. Again, I probably won’t listen—I’ve always had to learn things the hard way. But maybe someone will. J

11 comments:

  1. Please become a writer, West.
    Your wit, honesty, and bluntness are a perfect combination.

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  2. so true! God bless you West... great writer!

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  3. Don't forget how many prodigious words your pal, tha weez, has provided you. And if character is beauty, then brother, we are the top prizes in the metaphorical beauty pageant of living.

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  4. Loved this. I work at a magazine and get paid like shit. But honestly, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

    Good writers find a way to capture their unique voice/personality and coherently purge it into perfectly-manipulated written text. Seems easier than it is, especially when it comes to humor and wit. I think you have a skill, my friend.

    Here's a quote I really like: "We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those that also make use of our defects." Alexis De Tocqueville

    For writers, I think those defects are all the shit that's gone down in our lives, all those irrational and odd thoughts that allow us to see things differently, everything we've tried to bury but couldn't, all the things that make us just a bit abnormal.

    Who knows, I could be full of shit. But kudos on writing a blog that actually captures my attention.

    -Steph

    http://steph-eckelkamp.tumblr.com/

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  5. thank you for sharing, some of things you listed brought tears to me

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  6. Love this! Especially #22 & #25.

    Methinks #4 deserves its own blog post at some point... inquiring minds!

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  7. I was hoping you'd write more blogs not pertaining to bachelor pad (not that those aren't great). I agree with Jacqueline, you could definitely expound on #4. Also, stories about being a lawyer would be interesting!

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  8. Loved this! Am thinking of framing "Even though it’s scary to be different when you’re young, it’s scarier to be normal as you get older."

    I've been to Wal-Mart, the State Fair and the mall on a weekend - if that's normal, I'd like to be as weird as possible.

    Well written, West!

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  9. Great post West. I was surprised that the gas station story never came up on The Bachelorette.

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  10. Oh hey I'm deaf in one ear too! It really does make a great excuse for not paying attention. Especially if you have a hearing aid. "Oh sorry my battery died, I didn't hear you ask for that dumb favor that I don't even care about."

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