“I’ve never been any good at New Year’s Resolutions, so here’s some New Year’s Advice from an 18-year-old with nowhere near enough life experience to give you New Year’s Advice.”
– New Year’s Advice: Perspective and Irony, December 31st, 2013.
That was a year ago, on this blog. And here I go again.
I’ve never been good at New Year’s Resolutions, so here’s some New Year’s Advice from a 19-year-old with nowhere near enough life experience to give you New Year’s Advice. Having said that, this is not so much New Year’s Advice as Previous Year’s Lessons, which can be passed on in some form to others as Advice. We all learn from our mistakes, after all.
I’ll begin with the early lessons – think less about the nature and scale of the universe around you. Be aware of it, by all means, but keep it locked away in the back of your mind, behind a door that you no longer have the key to. To truly comprehend it is to render yourself paralysed by your insignificance and inability to influence it. You may read these words now and accept that you are in fact insignificant. But, to borrow phrasing from Sherlock, “You see, but you do not observe.” The difference between hearing those words and feeling their meaning is akin to the difference between someone telling you they farted and smelling it for yourself: You neither need nor want the latter. Let yourself be taken by smaller, more human worlds. Distract yourself with conversations over a McDonald’s at 3 am, walks along the ship docks at twilight, and sharing a bottle of wine with a friend on a park bench at the river’s edge. The world around you is large, and you are small. Take that to heart and expand your life as much as you can, but do not be disheartened if you fail to touch everything you wanted to.
Apologise for your mistakes. Never assume you are faultless, even in situations when everyone agrees that you were “in the right.” Extract from disagreements the moments in which you were even minutely at fault, or assumptive, vindictive, vengeful and cold. Apologise for those small things, because even though it makes you feel weak, it causes others to perceive you as strong and self-assured. It might also open up the possibility of the other person doing the same. Principle, not pride, is worth pain. Pride should be swallowed, as goes the common phrase. Some people agree with this and even act on it, but somehow always find a way to projectile vomit it back into someone’s face. Don’t projectile vomit into people’s faces. That particular piece of advice should be taken both metaphorically, in this context, and literally.
Distance yourself from the people around you who can find nothing better to do with their time than whine about the world around them, and how it is unfair. Neither spend time with them, or be one of them. Both, in their own ways, will depress you. If you find yourself complaining and feeling sorry for yourself, hit your own head with a book and then get the fuck over it. The world is not against you; it just simply doesn’t give a damn that you exist. Once again, accept that simple paradigm of nature, and then create a small corner of the world that you can call your own. Surround yourself with people who tell you how amazing it is, and ignore the small injustices, especially the ones over which you have no control.
Trust people, regardless of your prior experiences. Distrusting the world around you will leave you a lonely, depressed person. Humans are, by our very nature, pack animals. We are not meant to be alone. Let all kinds of people into your lives. It doesn’t matter if a few of them destroy you; the decent ones will pick up the pieces.
Do not surround yourself with like-minded people. Surround yourself with those who think differently to you, in almost every possible way. The more exposure you get to different view points and different interactions with the world, the more you grow as a person.
By enlarge, be patient with everyone. You have no idea who that person will be in a few weeks or months or years, and you will never cease to be pleasantly surprised by them as they change for the better. A certain degree of impatience is good for you, because it protects you from people who waste your time, but there’s a limit which is defined. The test for that limit is simple: if you find yourself leaving behind people who are trying to help you, then something has gone wrong. Impatience, after all, is only meant to protect you from people who deliberately waste your time and hurt you, not those who care for you deeply, but make mistakes.
Don’t strike people from your friends for their negligence or mistakes. Yell at them, by all means. If someone has neglected to consider the outcome of a certain situation and has hurt someone as a result, yell at them to your heart’s content and make sure that they feel bad for what they have done. But then keep them around, and watch as they change. They will. In these circumstances, broken trust is almost always down to misunderstanding on both sides of the argument. And decisions made based on misunderstanding, I hope you’ll agree, are bad decisions.
On the other hand, if someone hurts you on purpose, then waste no more of your thoughts on them. Extricate them from your existence and disregard them entirely, no matter what they say in protest. If someone you trust commits a deliberate action against you, then they can, and will, do it again. This, incidentally, is one of the conditions for which impatience is valid.
Be aware of your own biases and world view. Be suspicious and critical of ideas that are consistent with notions of the world that you already hold dear. Not doing so is known as confirmation bias, and it is the single most potent form of idiocy the human mind is capable of. In all aspects of life, we form our own pictures of the world, imbibing ideas that reinforce it and disregarding evidence that we are wrong, no matter how much evidence there is. Question yourself every time you chance upon a belief that appears to agree with your view – the overwhelming likelihood is that it doesn’t agree – your mind simply wants you to believe it, because it is easy. Listen to the voice in the back of your head, or rather, the front of your head. The voice originates from a part of your brain known as the medial pre-frontal cortex, which whispers to you when something has gone wrong with your rational processes. It is always, universally, right.
Listen to everyone who tries to give you advice, including strangers, and your friends and family. With strangers, use the advice they give to evaluate them. With those you know and trust, use the advice they give to evaluate yourself. Friends always act with your best interests at heart, and they know you better than anyone else. And sometimes, they spot things that you can’t see. If they tell you that something is wrong with the way you are acting, then they are most likely to be right. Even if you don’t like what they have to say, even if they are criticising you, appreciate the fact that they are taking the time to be truthful and honest with you, because it tells you that they still think you’re worth the trouble. It is not easy for them to be frank with you – and you should not be insulted or worried when they do so. You should be worried, however, when you’re doing something wrong and no one is telling you. It means they’ve given up on you, and it’s the worst position you can ever put yourself in.
Make efforts with friendships you’ve had in the past. Make time for them. If there aren’t enough hours in the day, then wake up earlier and sleep later. The people you meet in your life, the people you trust, are the only truly valuable choices you make in this vast world of ours, and you chose them for a reason. Uphold it. Those who you’ve grown distant with, write them a letter and tell them about your life. Remind them why you are friends, why you ever connected and then connect again. It feels strange and “random” to reach out to someone who you’ve lost in recent times, but once upon a time, when someone reached out to me from the past, it felt good.
That last piece of advice is the one that gives me my New Year’s Resolution. As you may be able to tell from my last post, there are a lot of people who I want know again. There are a lot of people who I’ve grown distant with and want to catch up with. There are some from my old school days, who I met very late and never got the chance to know, and something tells me that we might have been good friends. There are even some letters I’m writing for people, just to tell them about my life, in the hope that they might tell me about theirs. This year beginning January 1st, I’m have a lot of stories to tell and people to discover. I honestly have no idea what I’m going to say to them. I am well aware, as a side note, that I’m going to look like an idiot.
Happy New Year’s to everyone, as it comes to you.