My friend, former teaching colleague, and fellow blogger, Dave Shoemaker, loves to create lists. One of his most recent was a list of ten things he wants the Class of 2014 to carry into life with them. After reading them over they represent nothing new, just the same old truths that really are the keys to a successful life. So important that committing oneself to just a couple could have immense positive effects on one’s life.
I decided it may be helpful, and enjoyable, to add my own thoughts to a few items on Dave’s list.
“Don’t let high school be the highlight of your life. Be proud of everything you accomplished, but don’t be one of those people who, when they’re 45-years old, realize the highlight of their life was something they did in high school.”
Certainly making your life be all about what you once were is a dead end street. I’ve never met anyone who was happy because they set their feet in concrete when they were 18. Life and happiness is all about experiencing and adjusting to the new. The constant upgrading rebooting of one’s experiences.
“Find something you like to do and do it. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t start a job you hate just for the paycheck and get weighed down by bills until you can’t afford to quit and do something you actually enjoy doing. “
It’s called digging yourself into a rut., a hole from which you can’t emerge. Avoiding it requires being aware of your actions and what the consequences may be. You have to be in control of life’s vehicle, not just permitting it to freely careen from tree to tree.
“Money isn’t everything and ultimately won’t make you happy. People disagree with me all the time regarding this, but I couldn’t believe it more than I do. Sure, money helps, you have to pay the bills and all that. But ultimately it’s family and loved ones that make you happy. Trust me on this one.”
One of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had paid fifty cents an hour and required me to get dirty and sweaty everyday. But, it never got boring and I never regretted having to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. It would have never paid my bills but boy was it fun.
“For God’s sake, if you use credit cards pay them off monthly. I know, more money advice. But damn it, don’t get sucked in by the credit card companies. It’s way too easy to pull that card out and run up debt on the thing. If you must use credit cards, I implore you to pay them off every month. Believe me, if there’s anything on this list I wish somebody had told me, this is it.”
No single thing I ever did paid off as much as avoiding major debt in life. Like most working-class people I had to occasionally borrow but I made the effort to pay it off as quick as possible. Debt can be the grave you live your life in.
“You are who your friends are. Look around you. Who do you hang out with? Because that’s you. Take an honest look, and if you don’t like what you see some changes are in order.”
If you sleep with dogs you’re going to get fleas has never been truer.
“Give. Remember that, ultimately, giving is more satisfying than receiving. It’s an old adage but it is absolutely true. If you really want to have a fulfilling life, GIVE.”
Giving really does feel good and it doesn’t have to involve money. Giving of one’s time, talent, energy, knowledge is every bit as important as money. You can be remembered by your generosity just as much as having won the state basketball championship. There will always be a plaque on the wall of McClain High School honoring a man named Konneker. Not because of what he accomplished in life, but for what he gave back.
“Always have a goal. Always be working towards something. Enjoy every day but always have something you’re working towards.”
And it doesn’t have to be a big goal. Matter of fact, it wouldn’t hurt to start most days with a small goal that is easily attainable. My goal most days is to write something. Nothing I write is likely to change the world but when I look back at it I feel better. I feel accomplished. And if I learn that someone has actually read what I wrote, I feel doubly accomplished.
“Get out of here. At least for a while. Whether it be to go to college or something else, leave your hometown and experience living somewhere else. Sure, it’s OK to come back, but living elsewhere for a while will give you a better perspective on life. Do it. Leave for a while. You’ll appreciate and understand the world much better, and that’s a great thing.”
Maybe the most important thing I ever did, was getting away from my hometown, my family, my friends, my church, my culture, and everything else that was familiar. You just can’t become aware of life’s options if you stay within that zone of comfort you’ve always known. I’m one who came back, but only after ten years of learning about my options.
When I came back home to live I ran into too many friends who had stayed and at some time each expressed disappointment in their decision to not venture out into the world. To a person they somehow expressed that they wished they’d done what I did, go into the service and not getting married and having a family straight out of high school. They all lived with that major regret, one I’ve never experienced because I made a deliberate decision to raise my right hand and let Uncle Sam’s Navy show me the world. Decisions have consequences just as not making decisions does.
Oh, and don’t ever quit leaving home and seeing how the other half lives. Travel is one of the things that constantly fills your life with variety and excitement.