Now that I’m dead, I want to tell you a few things. No matter how young you are or how young you feel, you need to know this one true and important and unavoidable fact: you will end up dead, like me. Some day it will definitely and absolutely happen. It is an inevitability in the truest sense of the word.
What follows is a list of things I did and things I believed in, when I was more like you – still kicking, full of life, and with what seemed like innumerable days ahead. Some of these things I did more than others, but it goes without saying that I should have done more of it all.
It’s a short list, so this shouldn’t take long. At this point, you’ve got a little more time than I do, so I’m hoping you’ll indulge me.
BE THANKFUL FOR SMALL THINGS
It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or agnostic, devout or atheist – you need to greet each morning with the awe and wonder it deserves. Something, whether it be God or the cold mathematics of randomness, has contrived to let you see another sunrise. Show a little respect for those powers that be.
If you have your sight and your hearing, if you’re able to walk with your two legs under your own power… consider yourself in the majority, and consider yourself incredibly lucky.
On my absolute worst day, I used to think to myself “Hey. At least I can still walk.” And by remembering that there are some in the world who couldn’t say the same, well… suddenly things weren’t so bad.
Giving thanks for small things is something we often forget to do. When you give thanks for small things, it starts to make everything look like a gift.
RISK LOOKING FOOLISH FOR A GIRL
Love is all about the grand gesture: the heartfelt poem, the honest letter, the first phone call and the first knock on the door.
Don’t be worried about failing. Crashing and burning is part of being utterly and hopelessly head over heels. It comes with the territory. Love is very much foolishness and risk. If you’re not taking a chance, you’re not really in love.
But listen – make sure not to be creepy. Go big, but if the answer is no… go home. There’s being persistent, and then there’s being a stalker. Don’t be that guy.
SING IN THE SHOWER
I don’t know the science behind it, but singing in the shower just makes things better. I’m sure it has to do with the extra oxygen and some fancy chemicals in the brain. But what I know is that it works.
If you’re sad or tired or generally not in the mood to be heading to work… singing in the shower is a surefire way to improve your mood.
In the movies, people are shown singing in the shower when they’re happy. What I’m telling you is that if you sing in the shower, you will end up happy.
ON TRAINS AND BUSES, OFFER UP YOUR SEAT TO OTHERS
If it’s crowded, and there are obviously others who should be sitting down… offer up your seat. If you’re young and in relatively good shape, you can spare the 10 or 20 minutes standing.
Here’s a tip, for those times when you want to offer your seat but don’t want to make someone feel old. I typically look for a purse or a bag, and then say “Excuse me. That looks heavy. Would you like to sit down?”
This approach lets others save a little face. You’re not directly commenting on them per se – you’re redirecting the focus elsewhere… and in doing so, giving them a way to accept your offer without acknowledging age or infirmity.
CALL YOUR MOTHER, AND TELL HER YOU LOVE HER
Do this now.
EASE UP ON TEENAGERS
You were young once. We all were. But in the years since that time, we’ve forgotten what it was like, back then.
Remember when everything was crucial and immediate, when there was only the here and now? Remember when every phone call, every conversation was charged with an intensity that was almost palpable? When your skin was burning, and you felt like yelling at the top of your lungs?
Between the hormones, peer pressure, school work, and the constant search for identity… teenagers are dealing with a ton of shit. Ease up a little bit, the next time you find yourself around the young.
There was a point in your life when you were young, when you knew less than you know now. Trust that the young will learn as you did, but that they’ll do so in their own way.
FORGET THE PAYCHECK, FOLLOW WHAT YOU LOVE
I strongly believe that if you do what you love, the money will follow. I can think of no sadder fate than to work 8 hours a day, 40 days a week, putting all the energy and effort towards something you aren’t personally invested in.
My parents grew up as immigrants. And like all immigrants, their main priorities in life were the essentials: food, shelter, clothing, and steady employment. I was immensely fortunate to have grown up with these needs largely attended to, freeing me to pursue interests instead of necessities.
Beware the large paycheck at the expense of your self. While more money will allow you more amenities, the people who are working shitty jobs for great pay are the ones who eventually have breakdowns and mid-life crises. You never hear of artists or musicians throwing their hands up, selling everything they own and running off to start an alpaca farm in Vermont. It’s nearly always the business executives.
WRITE A POEM FOR SOMEONE
There’s a pleasure to be had from the economy of words. Whether it’s a poem to a lover, a poem for a wedding, a poem for a funeral… everyone should write at least one poem. Everyone should have at least one moment when they’ve chosen their words carefully and precisely.
I recommend the sonnet. It’s a beautiful form.
DRESS UP FOR HALLOWEEN
If you want the secret to staying young, here it is. Once a year, you’ve got the chance to adopt a different persona, whether you don a mask, a cape, or perhaps both. Every October gives you the chance to become an entirely different person, if only for a day.
Children spend a great deal of time in the world of fantasy and make believe. When we suspend our belief, we become more like children… and become more open to possibilities. As adults, each year pulls us more and more towards the reasonable, rational nature of the real world.
You have to spend every day of the year as yourself. Isn’t taking one day off a reasonable, rational thing to ask for?
There have been a few remarkable moments in my life, where I’ve encountered strangers (or strange situations) and asked questions. You know what the interesting thing is? If you ask someone to tell you about themselves, they invariably will.
As people, there’s something hardwired in us, to make us want to share ourselves with others. When someone asks, it comes off as flattery. My conversations with complete strangers have almost always been fascinating.
I once met a stranger with a key on a necklace, and found out its story and significance. I met a guy on a bus with a mohawk, and found out what he does to keep his hair standing up on end. I met a guy who wore a bracelet adorned with 7 inch steel spikes, and found out where and why he bought it.
Once, I met a guy standing outside the back door of a bowling alley, and after asking him about his job… got invited inside, to marvel at the 30 immense machines that kept the pins and balls moving.
Always ask the question, and you’ll almost always be surprised at the answer.
I’ll close with this small snippet: find your passion, and grasp it as tightly as you can. The world is designed to make you let go. We are, each of us, given an indeterminate amount of time to spend as we see fit.
Spend your time like the valuable currency that it is.