7 Lessons I’ve Learned in My 34 Years on Earth

Today’s my birthday, a day to celebrate the fact that I’ve survived 34 years above ground. There have been 34 rotations of the Earth around the sun since I’ve been born. In those 34 years, there have been six presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and our current president. In my lifetime, history has seen the Three Mile Island incident; Mount Saint Helens erupting twice, once spewing ash hundreds of miles that changed the landscape around it; the discovery of the AIDS virus; Challenger Space Shuttle exploding; the fall of the Berlin wall; the breakup of the USSR; the Gulf War; Internet not only becoming a useful tool, but also an integral part of everyday life; and terrorists attacks on 9/11. Many very influential people have passed away since 1979, and I’m sure they will pass the mantle of influence on to other people who do not even know they will make history in their lives.

Lessons I’ve learned… It seems kind of trite, especially since, in my mind, I’m still 25. I suppose we’re learning lessons every day of our lives, little life hacks that make it easier for us to function in our daily lives, how to cope with stressors, how to get along in our jobs, how to get along with other people… But along the way, we learn about the big stuff too. Here are seven things I’ve learned:

  1. I’ve learned that nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. Life will most certainly suck at times. It will seem like you’re in this continuous downward cycle and nothing’s ever going to change. The truth is, while you’re in it, it feels like forever, but if you are persistent and work toward change, things will eventually get better. Don’t take the good times for granted either. Learn to appreciate them while they’re here because you never know when they’ll be gone either.
  2. Along the same lines, I’ve learned to appreciate the positive people in my life and to distance myself from the negative ones. People will betray your trust. People will be intentionally and unintentionally cruel. People will try to take everything that you have and then some, and still try to ruin your life. You may wonder if you can ever trust another person again… Do it anyway. If you close yourself off of relationships because of what’s happened in the past, you may miss out on some truly exceptional friendships. Be thankful for those who encourage you and trust and support you. They don’t have to, but they have chosen to.
  3. I’ve realized that no matter how much I wished a person or situation to change, it’s not going to without a very large amount of work. If it’s a person, the work has be done by the person changing, not me, otherwise, it’s impossible. I’ve learned not to be surprised if a person never changes, and, if I want them in my life, to accept them as they are. Most people will remain the same throughout their lives unless there’s incentive to change, and it won’t come from outside sources.
  4. I’ve learned that a positive attitude is essential in coping with daily stressors. Whether you can do something or you can’t do something is actually up to you. I’ve known plenty of people who have said, “bad things always happen to me”, and they’re right. Bad things do happen because they believe it. On the other hand, I’ve seen people who were told they couldn’t or would never be able to do something, and their response was “watch me”, before they went out and did it. Attitude is everything.
  5. Let your friends and family know how much you appreciate them while they are around. You never know how long those friends will be around. I’ve been to more funerals in the past three years than I have the entire 31 before it. Cherish the people that you share your life with.
  6. I’ve learned that “should” is nothing but a time waster. Either we are going to do it or we are not. If we are not, we need to stop feeling guilty about what we “should” do. Also, unless your livelihood depends upon the small stuff, don’t sweat it. There’s plenty of big stuff to worry about, no need to cry over the details.
  7. I’ve learned to try to celebrate the differences in others. If everyone was the same, life would be awfully boring.

In the end, I suppose we all have things we need to learn, and things we need to do. When we find out what our path in life is supposed to be, maybe then, our learning will be complete.

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