25 LIFE LESSONS FOR MY SON: Things I Have Learned

(A little context here. I have been an emotional wreck for the past month as my “baby” finished his last year of high school. He’s officially a graduate. I wrote these for him as he ventures from the security of his parent’s nest out into the world of things I cannot protect him from. Like all parents, I worry I have not prepared him enough. I wrote this as a last-ditch attempt to get it all in under the buzzer. )

1.     You only get one chance at living. There are so many clichés about this and for good reason. Don’t disregard them just because they are clichés. Life is short. Do all those things you’d like to do before you die. We’re all going to die so make your big decisions based on that. That doesn’t give you license to do stupid things but if you’re trying to decide between doing something you’ve always wanted to do or doing the thing you should… just ask yourself “At the end of my life, which will I have wished I’d done?”

2.     All things in moderation. If you listen to the “experts” everything you eat, drink or do will kill you. Well no kidding! But that doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself so much that you forget how to enjoy the things that are out there. We ALL die. So, eat dessert first once in a while. Have bacon on your cheeseburger once in a while. Have real cream in your latte instead of skim milk once in a while. Sleep in instead of doing your normal workout routine—once in a while. Everything in moderation.

3.     Try it once. Do the things you’re afraid of doing or dislike – do it at least one time. Then you’ll know whether your fear or dislike is justified. If you’re afraid of heights that doesn’t mean you go skydiving but you can still go to the top of the Space Needle. If you don’t like sauerkraut but have never tried it – try it on a Reuben and then you’ll know for sure. You might just surprise yourself by liking it. Besides, it’s not really living if you don’t ever try new things.

4.     Be respectful. Put yourself in someone else’s position before you criticize or pull a prank. Treat others how you would like them to treat you. Trying to be funny doesn’t give you the right to hurt someone. Neither does “Freedom of Speech” or the other things in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Seriously. Nobody likes an asshole.

5.     Don’t take advantage. As a man, you do not have a right to get laid just because a woman may be drunk and throwing herself at you. She may have problems or self-esteem issues that you can’t begin to know or understand. Respect her even if she doesn’t respect herself. Value yourself enough to do the honorable thing. If you really like her, if she’s worth it, she will appreciate what you did and respect you for it. If you see someone harming a woman, you should help. Even if all you do is call 911.

6.     Listen to your instincts. Most people don’t do this and end up doing really stupid things. If your instincts are screaming that you’re not safe—listen! If your instincts tell you to take a leap of faith with a new job—listen! If you trust your gut instinct you will never have to regret your decision because you will have made a choice based on what you felt was right with the information you had at the time – right or wrong.

7.     You will always have regrets. I know this sounds like a contradiction to what I said in #6 but you will always wish something turned out better or that you had gone right instead of left. The only thing you can do is discover what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and not make the same mistake twice. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Learn from it and move on.

8.     Admit when you’re wrong. We all screw up. But most of the time we spend our energies defending ourselves and denying our stupid mistakes. Admit to yourself and if necessary, the wronged party, that you screwed up. Take responsibility for your actions and accept any repercussions for the act. Learn what you did wrong and take the necessary steps to make sure you don’t do it again. Do it sincerely and you will gain respect and admiration.

9.     Be on time. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specified time—BE THERE! It’s incredibly disrespectful to be perpetually late. Everyone has unexpected things happen that are beyond their control and those instances are easily overlooked and forgivable especially when you’ve set an example of not being tardy.

10.  Just because you can—doesn’t mean you should. You CAN spend all your time playing video games—doesn’t mean you should. You CAN spend your entire paycheck on booze and strippers—doesn’t mean you should. You CAN drink an entire bottle of Tequila—doesn’t mean you should. You CAN call that big guy with all the tattoos a pussy—doesn’t mean you should. Use some common sense.

11. Forgive those that hurt you. Not for their sake but for yours. Carrying around hurt and anger poisons everything in your life. You will never be happy until you let that pain go. That doesn’t mean you have to keep that person in your life, it just means you choose not to let them or what they did be important to you anymore. It’s very liberating.

12. If you love someone tell them so. Tell them what you love about them. It has the most amazing impact not only on them but on you. They may be having the worst day and just a few kind words from you can change everything for them. They will usually reciprocate with why they love you. It’s wonderful!

13. Read as often as you can. Books aren’t just for learning, they are for escaping. It’s comforting to know that there are more books in the world than you will ever be able to read in your lifetime. Think how many you can read though!

14. Travel. The world is big and beautiful and a little bit scary. There are so many places to see, cultures to experience, differences to explore, and foods to try. Spend your spare time and money on experiences not things.

15. Don’t forget to enjoy what you have. We are trained from an early age to always be looking at what is coming next, look to the future, plan ahead. Unfortunately, that usually means we forget to value what we already have today. Stop every once in a while to take stock of what you do have and enjoy every day. Not everyone has it as good as you. There is always someone who is wishing for what you already have.

16. Karma is a bitch. If you’re having a string of bad luck and it seems like everything is going wrong and the whole world is out to make you miserable – that’s bad Karma getting back at you for something negative you put out into the world. Just remember the Karma pendulum will swing the other way eventually. This is the time to do something good, something nice for someone else. What you do will come back to you three-fold.

17. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Sometimes you’re just screwed. Life seems to stack the deck sometimes and it seems like you just can’t win. Take a deep breath, vent if you need to, then suck it up and keep trudging along. It happens to all of us and this too will pass.

18. You don’t know everything. You may think you do but you really don’t. There is always something you can learn.

19. Marry someone you like. There are people who get married for money, status, or lust but their spouse is a total douche/bitch. If you like them, love will come but there is no cure for asshole. Oh, and if she tells you she’s bi, make sure she means bi-sexual not bi-polar. No one wants to have a threesome with a psychopath.  

20. Not everyone is as trustworthy as you are but neither is everyone out to get you. You’re going to get screwed over on deals or by a mechanic or by someone… it happens, but that doesn’t mean everyone is a thief. On the other hand, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but it’s telling you it’s a bouquet of roses – don’t be an idiot.

21. You are not responsible for the advice you get but you are responsible for the advice you take. You see it all the time, people blame someone else “You told me I should do it.” So. Just because someone told you to doesn’t mean you had to do it. Same goes for friends. If you have that friend who is an asshole and throws beer bottles at cars or whatever, you may not be responsible for what he does but you are responsible for hanging out with him and continuing to call him a friend.

22. It’s not what you say that makes you the better person, it’s what you DO. Just look at all the people who say they’re “good Christians” and that by going to church every Sunday makes them better than someone who doesn’t. Yet these same people will spew hate against gay people or are stealing from their employer or they are molesting a little kid. Your actions speak louder than any pretty speech you can think up.

23. Don’t change who you are for someone else. If you want to make changes for you than by all means do it. But trying to change who you are at your core for someone else is like pretending you’re a dinosaur. Eventually you’re going to get tired of the game and want to go home.

24. You can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, how close to perfect you perform, there is always someone who is ready to find fault and dump all over you. As hard as it is, accept that. Cull from their criticism whatever you deem useful and let the rest of what they spew slide right off you. As long as you try your best, let the rest go.  

25. You’re going to fail. Bad things are going to happen. You’re going to be at your lowest point and feel like life just can’t get any worse. That’s when you have a choice to make. You can let it control your life, you can let it ruin your life, or you can get on with your life. It really is up to you.

Now go out into that big, wide world my son, and know that there is at least one person who is always on your side, who always has your back, and will always love you no matter what— your mom.

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