in which my obsessive consumption of popular culture is merged with meager insights.
One day, Bia posted this on my best friend’s Facebook wall, and tagged me. And I watched Sarah Kay, over and over, as she performed two beautiful poems. In between, she talks about how she got started doing performance art, and how she used lists to get her students to start writing poetry.
I thought about how nice it would be to make a list of ten true things, and shortly thereafter, Isa tweeted about writing it. I told her about our Special Synchronized BFF Brain Waves, and we decided to publish our entries together. Because she is way more diligent and responsible, etc. than I am, she posted hers on the agreed-upon date, and you can see it here, on Everyday Isa.
As for me, I struggled a little bit, but here is my list. It is by no means a complete list, because I can assure you that I know more than ten things. These are some things that have been true in my life, and I hope that some of them are true to you, too.
1. SHOWING UP TO EACH NEW DAY WITH A SMILE MAKES BAD THINGS GO BY FASTER.
I know that I come off as a pretty happy person, but the truth is that I am a wallower. A wallower does what he is best at, which is to wallow. I don’t like being a wallower. It feels awful, because your mind keeps on reverting to awful things and awful thoughts.
Recently, I’d been upset with a person, and I kept on thinking about how sad and frustrated this person made me. And I was kind of stuck in this cycle of thinking about shitty things, and I went to bed feeling kind of defeated and tired and sad. The next day, I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror. And then, I smiled myself. And then I immediately felt better and lighter.
I know it sounds kind of dumb to do (so do it in a private place!), but it was a small pick-upper, a small encouragement. There are some problems you can’t smile away, though, and I know that. It just makes things easier to handle, I suppose. Wisdom from The Big Lebowski:
The Dude abides.
2. LIFE IS GOING TO PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE. PUNCH IT THE FRAK BACK.
Or, just don’t let it push you around. I realize there are people here who do not advocate punching. In the fifth season of Doctor Who, the Doctor tells Amy, “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things… The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things, and make them unimportant.”
Life comes with both good things and bad things. Both are there, and both are inevitable. What we can do is choose how we deal with our own pile of bad things. Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky said this in an interview:
“The world is filled with many heartbreaking moments, but if you only concentrate on those, then the dark cloud will always be above your head. […] We try to look at life with soft eyes and a smile. It’s too easy to cry.”
There are definitely going to be some bad days, and grey days, and days when you don’t want to get up, when you don’t think you could possibly leave your bed—but these days will pass. I’ve had my share of these days, and from where I stand right now, it seems silly that I didn’t think they would ever be over, but they will be.
“I’m not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.”
— “Paper Towns,” John Green.
Always remember that you are strong.
3. YOU CAN’T EVER GET RID OF YOUR FAMILY.
And I’m thankful for that. I’ve had a handful of fights and misunderstandings with my family, and I don’t always agree with what they think or what they do, but I can say, personally, that they have always been there for me, and that’s something that I’ve always found comfort in.
I know I’m blessed with the family that I do have, and everyday, I’m grateful that I get to be stuck with a wonderful group of people who, in their own ways, appreciate me.
4. FIND SOMETHING TO DO THAT MAKES YOUR HEART HAPPY, AND THEN KEEP DOING IT.
I know a lot of people are stuck in careers and situations that they don’t really want for themselves. The trick is to find something that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be a big career change; it doesn’t have to be massive or intense or potentially life-altering. It just has to make you happy, no matter how simple it is.
This Little Miss Sunshine quote may not apply to everyone, and it’s not a giant middle finger to the rest of the world (at least, that’s not how I take it). I’d like to think of it as figuring out how to get around things that get in the way of what doing what you love. For Dwayne, it was a disability that prevented him from learning how to be a pilot. What’s keeping you from doing what you love?
I used to joke that “everything I know in life, I learned from Rushmore,” and while that may be hyperbolic, I have picked up a few things. This is one such tidbit, that I keep going back to again and again. It’s “The Secret”:
5. TRY, TRY, TRY.
I’m a strong believer in trying until you absolutely can’t anymore. To borrow from the brilliant Katrina, I’d like to think of myself as a “never-give-upper”.
“I think about all of the things I’ve done, Oskar. And all of the things I didn’t do. The mistakes I’ve made are dead to me. But I can’t take back the things I never did.”
— Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer.
I’m a supporter of trying out new things. I’m constantly doing new things, because there are so many wonderful things to try. I didn’t use to be like this, because I would always be afraid of trying something new and failing. I never tried to learn how to drive a car because I was so sure I’d be awful at it. For twenty-one years, I was so convinced I couldn’t paint, but I tried a different kind of paint and it turns out, I’m pretty okay at it.
You can’t know what you’re good at without trying new things, and you can’t get good without practice.
6. THERE IS NO END TO LEARNING.
T.H. White wrote:
“‘The best thing for being sad,’ replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, ‘is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.’”
The world is filled with so many things to learn. It’s not limited to doing things, or figuring out how things work, or trying to see how you can make money the quickest way possible. You can try to get to know people, or places, or even yourself.
There are endless things you can try to learn, and the best part about all of this is that you’ve got a brain that can handle all these possibilities. Use it.
7. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE GOOD THINGS!
When your life is falling to pieces, and the world is pretty much in shambles, it’s easy to forget about the good things. But trust me, there still are things to be happy about. There are still many reasons to celebrate, and acknowledging those things will make the world seem at least even a little less bleak.
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
— from Knowing What’s Nice by Kurt Vonnegut
So many people pay attention to the bad things that they forget about what they’re blessed with. I’m totally guilty of this, but I think I’m getting better at it.
8. I’VE GOT BIG PROBLEMS, BUT I’VE GOT A BIGGER GOD.
I don’t talk much about my religion (I’m a Christian) because I don’t quite know how to articulate my beliefs in a way that people can understand or appreciate, and at the same time, is true to how I feel.
What I do know that when things get too tough, I can count on someone to help me through it. When I have been sad, or overwhelmed with the pile of (metaphorical) crap I have to sift through, I know I’m resting on something so much bigger than I am. It’s comforting and encouraging, yes, but it’s so much more than that.
And something else that I know to be true: He has never, ever let me down.
9. ONE TRULY IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE IS COURAGE.
“The Gift,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer
“Those who lack courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.”
— Albert Camus
I’m a big fan of courage. Only because it doesn’t come naturally to me. (It’s been proven. Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw.) I admire people who reek courage because I know that they are always risking something, despite the fear. I know how crippling fear can be. I am the sort of person who gets paralyzed by every little thing that gets in my way. But I’m really trying not to be.
I’m trying to be brave!
10. I’M PUT TOGETHER BEAUTIFULLY.
There was a time when accepting a compliment, no matter how graciously, would make you arrogant. That time was pre-high school, when I could never really know how to react to someone saying good about me. Recall the Mean Girls conversation between Queen Bee Regina George and homeschooled Cady:
RG: But you’re, like, really pretty.
CH: Thank you.
RG: So, you agree?
RG: So, you agree? You think you’re really pretty?
Responding with a ‘thank you’ to a compliment was like a death wish. It was akin to agreeing with a compliment, and how dare I agree to something good someone said about me? For a time, I was suspicious about the praise I got (for what I did, how I looked, how I wrote). Did people really mean these things?
But, I got over it. I present you the reluctant acquiescence of the one and only Angela Chase, from a show that was way ahead of and tragically killed before its time:
“Sometimes it seems like we’re all living in, like, some kind of prison and the crime is how much we hate ourselves. It’s good to get really dressed up once in a while and admit the truth. That when you really look closely, people are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually… beautiful. Possibly even me.”
And I sign off with a song that always makes my heart feel full, which is how I know it to be true: