Have you ever noticed the abundance of philosophical and life-affirming articles dotted all over the internet? People writing golden nuggets of advice (that they may not follow themselves) for the younger generation to live by. I love reading these articles and have even tried to live by some of these wise words myself, particularly as I have jumped up an age box in the form filling stakes, and am no longer in the 18-25 category. So it is now my turn to offer the sage words of wisdom and impart some of the lessons I have learned in the 25 years I have stumbled through life. Do with them what you will:
Lesson 1: You Need to Love Yourself to Be Truly Happy
In Ireland we have grown up with a culture of self-deprecation and imposed modesty but the truth is loving yourself is the single most important thing you could ever do in life. When it comes down to it, you are the only person in this world with whom you have to live with forever so if you don’t like that person you’re not going to be happy. Unfortunately this isn’t something you can magically force yourself to do – it’s a gradual process which happens over time. Once it does, you will feel the change in your perspective on life and your friends and loved ones will notice it too. At 26, I am the happiest I have ever been and feel like I am experiencing life for the first time. “Being in love with yourself” is one of the highest forms of offence in this country but there is a difference between liking and accepting who you are and thinking the sun shines out of your arse. Once you strike this balance, no one will ever accuse you of being arrogant.
Lesson 2: Trust Your Instinct and Be True to Yourself
Related to the first lesson, always be true to your best self and never make any apologies for who you are. Again, this is a concept a lot of young Irish people have difficulty coming to terms with. As a teenager the onus on fitting in at all costs, perhaps perpetuating opinions that are not necessarily your own. Considering the amount of hormones raging through your body during these formative years I think any way to try to make your life easier is no bad thing. Once you hit your twenties those hormones should hopefully have balanced themselves out and you can start to resemble some form of adult. Make no apologies for whoever that adult might be. This is a good time to discover and meet the people who share your values in life and appreciate the wonderful human being you will no doubt grow to be. The best way to do this? Listen to your gut instinct – it is there for survival reasons and will rarely steer you wrong. If you feel there is something not quite right about a relationship – romantic or platonic – don’t be afraid to let go of it. Many people will come and go in your life but the ones who really matter will stick by you no matter what.
Lesson 3: Never Give Up On Your Passion
This is a tricky one as it is easy to get caught up in working day life and feel like your dreams are slipping away from you because things haven’t worked out exactly as planned. When I went to college I was full of promise of the world being my oyster and had no doubt that I would be a nationally acclaimed radio presenter a few years after graduation. Considering I am about to sit my final exams as a Chartered Accountant in September, that plan didn’t quite work out as envisaged. However, that is not to say I have given up totally on any involvement in radio – there are plenty of community radio stations who look for volunteers. I also still try to make some time for writing which is my first love. Don’t give up. You might be lucky enough to be paid to do what you would do for free anyway and if you are that’s great. But for a lot of us, we have to tweak the plan a bit and that is perfectly acceptable. Putting a passion on hold for a bit while you try to figure things out is natural and normal. But try to make sure you make an effort to bring yourself back to it when you are ready. Someday you may be lucky enough to marry your work with your passion but until then make time for whatever it is you truly love.
Lesson 4: Art is Food For the Soul – Ensure To Get Your Daily Intake
I refer to Art in the broad cultural meaning rather than limiting it to painting and sculpting. Music, film, theatre, drawing, film, writing – whatever art form it is that touches your soul. I sing in a choir once a week and for this reason I do not dread Monday nights in the same way that others may following the weekend. For 2 and a half hours, my cares absolutely melt away as I lose myself in the music. Listening is as valuable as singing for me and one of my favourite things in life is to fall asleep to beautiful choir music on YouTube. Life without music, for me, would not be worth living. If you feel this way about something – whether it’s watching films or reading dirty limericks or painting – this is what your soul feeds on. We concentrate so much on feeding the body and the mind that the soul can sometimes be neglected. But it needs daily nourishment, the same as anything else. This isn’t quite the same thing as pursuing your passion, by the way, though sometimes the two may be similar. Feeding your soul could be as simple as watching a black and white film or listening to one rock song a night. It calms you and makes you feel at peace with life and the world. Passion is usually a bit more consuming and frenzied. It is important to make the distinction as passion can be exhausting.
Lesson 5: Life is for Living So Enjoy It In The Moment
This is absolutely key to remember. There is no instruction booklet on how to live out your life and we are all making it up as we go along. So the best thing to do is to just enjoy the ride. Value each experience as it comes along – good and bad – and try to live as much as you can in the present moment. To paraphrase my favourite author, “think on the past as much as its remembrance gives you pleasure” but don’t dwell on events that can’t be changed. It’s good to make plans for the future but don’t waste time worrying about things over which you have no control. There is no way of knowing how things will pan out until they unfold so why torture yourself with “what if” scenarios? It very rarely turns out the way you imagine it will. Do something that scares you every now and then – abseil from a building, tell someone you love them, move to a new country – there’s nothing like a bit of an adrenaline rush! Learn from your mistakes but don’t beat yourself up over them either. The phrase “you’re only human” springs to mind in this context. Laugh hard and cry hard. I have probably laughed and cried my hardest this year alone and I have come to realise that both are as equally important as each other.
Finally, listen to the advice of those older (not necessarily wiser) than you. They’ve been making things up for slightly longer than you have.