Saturday, March 22, 2014
Advice to My Son
My husband and I are new to parenting. Although our son was born over seven months ago, everyday is a challenge. On most days, when I wake up a few times between midnight and 5:00am for diaper changes and feedings, I have to try extra hard to remind myself that sleepless nights will pass. Soon, I will be a morning person again and wake up with a tremendous amount of energy to tackle the day's chores. I have to try extra hard to remind myself that one day I will miss waking up to my son's giggles; to see him waiting impatiently for me to pick him up and cover him with kisses. He's already rolling over on his own. Soon, he will start crawling, stand, and take his first steps. My son who I only daydreamed about meeting during my pregnancy is already becoming, dare I say, independent. I can't control any of this. None of it. Only thing I can do is continue to have an open mind to learn more and built a life that makes me feel proud. So proud that one day, I'm capable of giving him the kind of advice that will guide him through the joys and struggles of his life.
Of course, as you grow older, your opinions change, because you change. In most cases, this is a great thing, because it shows self-awareness, maturity, and willing to try new things. Things you used to love become the things you dread. The things you always dreaded become sources of inspiration and happiness. I'm sure in another thirty years, the way I feel about certain things this very moment in my life will take new shape, but for now, here's what I've learned about this ephemeral thing called life. Here is the advice I would give to my son (and maybe a daughter one day...)
You have to surround yourself with empowering, encouraging, and positive people to succeed. There is nothing worse than a friend or an acquaintance who constantly sees the worse in every situation and everyone. They feed off of other people's misery and wrongdoings. Ditch them. Life is already full of challenges and your job isn't to entertain anyone's bad disposition toward life.
You can't change the past. If you can't let go of the past, you will never move forward. Stop thinking about that one time when someone did you wrong and how something so unfair has happened to you. You're here now. Dwelling about the past will only slow you down. Remember that things will not always be perfect. There will be unexpected, unpleasant moments in your life you will have to endure. You plans will change and you will feel like you've lost valuable time. This doesn't mean you should give up. Make a new plan and move on.
Create the life you want to live. Don't nag. Don't complain. Nagging and complaining are crippling qualities and they will get you nowhere. You're not happy? Make changes. Do something about it. Don't blame the way your life turned out on other factors. Don't be a victim. It's sickening how many people complain about their lives and do nothing about it. If you're not doing something about it, it can't bother you all too much, right?
Know that you're strong. You're really, really strong and have incredible potential. Unfortunately, most people don't know how strong they are until they take a risk and do something they've always been afraid of doing. Take risks especially while you're young. Otherwise, there might come a time when you begin to think about what ifs, should haves, and could haves.
Be honest with yourself. We're often advised to be honest with others, but we're never advised to be honest with ourselves. That's not to say don't be honest with other people. It's just when you're not honest with yourself, you're more than likely harboring the maybe-I-can-get-away-with-it outlook. I'll get away with not trying hard. I'll get away with having someone else do it. I'll get away with keeping quiet. Maybe no one will notice. No, you're wrong. You'll never get away with it. Your dishonesty with yourself will always catch up with you and impact you more than being dishonest with other people.
Work hard. Very, very hard. No one owes you anything. Not one thing. No one will give you anything for free. Nothing will come easy. Although I hate using cliches, here is the thing: patience is a virtue. You have to work days, months, years before you arrive where you want to be in life. This is the problem with my generation of 'kids' who are between 18-34 years old. As an educator, I deal with the you-owe-me attitude every single day. According to some of the responses in my students' papers, they all want well-paying jobs, big houses, fast cars, nice shoes, stylish clothes, and take fancy vacations, but very few them show determination to obtain these things. Nothing will get handed to you. Why? I'll repeat it again. No one owes you anything and you have to work hard.
You don't have to go to college. Shocking, I know! Especially coming from someone who's spent a huge chunk of their life working toward multiple degrees. Look, unless if you want to be in the healthcare industry, lawyer, teacher, or other fields that require a very special training and licensing, you don't have go to college. Going to college is about obtaining the knowledge to succeed, right? If you're hungry for knowledge, you will seek it even if you don't go to college. I know this because I went to college and I teach college students. You want to be a writer? Write. You want to paint? Paint! You want to work in fashion? Do it. You want to be a cook? Cook something. Although I don't regret going to college for many years, I think I would have been just fine if I didn't get my BA, MA, or MFA. Your desire to want to learn will push you to seek the necessary knowledge to succeed. Having a diploma in a fancy frame won't do that for you.
Show genuine interest when given the opportunity to learn something new. I find it that most people don't take these opportunities seriously. Their biggest excuse tends to be that it doesn't interest them. It's okay to not be interested in everything, but understand that you've nothing to lose when you're willing to show interest in exposing yourself to something new.
Admit to being wrong and learn to apologize with sincerity. I know this is very hard for some people, but seriously, you can't always be right. Admitting to be wrong and apologizing will not make you look weak. By admitting to be wrong and apologizing, you will display your confidence and strength.
Realize that no one has to appreciate and accept your bad personality traits. By saying, "Well, this is how I am," you're trying to rationalize that everyone should deal with your bad attitude. No one has to deal with your bad attitude and how badly you treat others because of it. There are no excuses for this
Don't underestimate anyone's story. Be kind. We've all been through tough times. We've all had to deal with many mentally and physically challenging experiences. Realize that life isn't about one-upping others. To put it plainly, don't get into a pissing contest. Listen to your family members and friends who confide in you to tell you about the bits and pieces of their lives. Really, really learn to listen. Don't think people's feelings and experiences are unsubstantial while your feelings and experiences carry much more meaning.
Impulsive behavior is toxic. It's always a good idea to sleep on it before snapping at your co-worker and quitting your job, buying the $900 Louboutins, or accepting a big offer. Sure, certain things may require quick decision making, but in most cases, there is nothing wrong with asking for some time to think about things and walk away.
Every day, remind yourself that you've one body to live in and that you must take care of it. Unless if you have a serious medical condition that prevents you from being in shape, you do not have an excuse. Be mindful of what you put inside of your body. Eat healthy, watch your portions, and take your vitamins. Don't find happiness in alcohol and drug usage. We all know that becoming dependent on any substance never ends well for anyone. Remember, your body is engineered to work in miraculous ways and in most cases we mess up its perfect order.
Don't share your heart, mind, and body with just anyone. Set high standards for yourself. Don't settle because everyone else is doing it. Don't be pressured to have intimacy with another person because it's expected. You're the boss of your body and life. Don't let other people pressure you to do anything with their shallow and useless expectations.
It's quite possible that you may hurt or be hurt by someone else. In an ideal world, people would excel in their careers, find their soul mate, get married, have kids, settle in house of their own, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. It takes an incredible amount of energy and many compromises to make a relationship work. Breakups happen because people change. People don't always live up the promises they've made to one another. Why? Because we're not perfect beings. We make mistakes. Sometimes, you have to walk away from certain people to find true happiness. Sometimes, you will be the one who is left behind. What matters is handling your given situation with grace. If you're the one leaving, leave without regrets. If you're the one being left, there are two things you can do: Move on or act like a victim for the rest of your life. Move on.
Learn to forgive and find the good in people. Holding a grudge will gain you nothing more than negativity. Forgiving will set you free. Forgiving will help you move on. Forgiving will help you build a better, happier life.
Don't gossip if you care about personal and professional relationships. Don't gossip to bond with people. Talking about other people is pathetic. If you want to know the truth, ask. If you know that it isn't your place to ask, then let it go. Stay out of the things that aren't your business and you will not have a reason to gossip.
Know that money isn't everything but it's necessary. Money won't bring you happiness. Money will help you live a comfortable life that will enable you to pursue the things that make you happy with ease. Of course, this doesn't mean you can't pursue your dreams if you don't have money. Not everyone starts out with having a lot of money. Money simply takes away the burden of feeling anxious about not being able to pay for your bills which in return will make you unhappy. So, know where your money goes and avoid being frivolous.
Don't compare yourself to other people. Sure, you can have a role model or someone to look upto for inspiration. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about feeling bitter and envious. Know that jealousy and envy are harmful and toxic for one's mental well-being. Remember that no one lives a perfect life. No one. The polished snapshots of some people's lives displayed across their social networking sites may seem like they're living an immaculate life. Don't let this bring you down. Don't let anyone make you believe that your life is less meaningful than theirs.
Travel to as many places as you possibly can in your lifetime. I'm not saying drop everything now and become a globe trotter. I know that parents and young adults don't always have the luxury to gather up their kids and leave their jobs to travel to exotic places. I get it. I'm a mom. It isn't easy for me to travel anymore either. You can start by making plans to go on affordable day trips to your surrounding states or cities. Look, I grew up in New Jersey, and I've met dozens of people who've never set a foot in Philadelphia or New York City. Do I think this is weird? Yes. Very, very weird.
Read. Read a lot. Read everything. Read books, newspapers, and magazines written by different people with different points of views. It's the best way to build your own opinions and beliefs about the world around you.
Don't be a victim to fashion. Don't let the latest fashion dictate what you should wear. Don't cut your hair because everyone else is cutting their hair. Don't wear the shoes that feel like hell around your toes. Don't wear the hat that makes you feel like a clown. Don't wear that short skirt because such and such celebrity was seen wearing it. All of the stylish men and women I know wear clean, comfortable, and carefully tailored clothing. They have their own way of accessorizing and mixing and matching the pieces in their closets.Why would you want to so foolishly spend your money on what's in now and what will be out tomorrow?
Stop apologizing for your taste in anything. You want to listen to Britney Spears and dance to Katy Perry? Do it. To hell with those music snobs. Your favorite movie is Runway Bride? Love Actually? Watch them over and over again. Your favorite book is Harry Potter or a love story by Danielle Steele? That's fine, too. You don't like wine? Don't drink it because everyone else thinks it's delicious. You like milk chocolate and not dark? Eat the milk chocolate. Why? Because you should do what makes you happy.
Cherish your family and friends.Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them often. Only thing you can depend on is your family and true friends. Don't expect them to be perfect. Appreciate their honesty, because their honesty is most likely an indication of how much they care for you. In return, be honest with them. Always talk about your issues and express your feelings. Best families are the ones that are open with one another. Best friendships are the ones built on honesty.
Show the appreciation you feel toward those who are/were there for you. Not by e-mailing, texting, or calling them. Grab a pen and write a thoughtful thank you card or letter. Send them flowers. Take them out to dinner.
Feed your soul.Weather this is participating in the practices of a particular belief system, meditating, helping those in need, or whatever it is that makes you feel fulfilled. Many of us don't realize how important it is to connect with our spiritual center by removing our focus from worldly and materialistic things that pollute our minds and lives.
When you're ready (and you will never be ready...), I hope you get to experience what it's like to be a parent. Love takes on a new definition when you hold your child for the very first time. Sometimes, I start cry out of nowhere, because I feel overwhelmed with the love I feel for (you) my son. I can confidently say that becoming a parent is the best thing that has ever happened to me. That says a lot because many amazing things have happened in my life. Although it is the most crippling kind of love, I would never want to not feel this way.
[Photo: My son & I]