Teen Talk January
13 Resolutions for 2013
By Madison Dalton
It is January once more and for me, the New Year typically ushers in a laundry list of unrealistic resolutions. I tell myself I’ll go to bed sooner, vow to exercise every day, read more, consume less caffeine, and, of course, be an all around better person. In fact, I once kept all but two of these oaths for an entire day. Well, this year I’ve finally decided that I no longer want to set myself up for complete and total failure. Still, I’m not willing to totally give up on the idea of creating vows for personal improvement. So, I decided it was time to go broader and deeper. I hope these thirteen blurbs of basic truths for 2013 will encourage you in this upcoming year as I am optimistic they will inspire me.
1) Remember that all of life is a poem.
It is a symphony, it is oil on canvas, it is a perfectly choreographed dance all rolled into one. You don’t have to agree with me on this one, but I challenge you to just pretend like you do, at least for a little while. Each time the sun rises we witness light falling on a thousand miracles that don’t have to exist but do. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” Each day we see flowers, blades of grass, children laughing and remembering how to play, and hear birds chirping, feel the playful tug of wind against our clothes and interpret from all these gifts hope, joy, love. And you can’t lessen the shine of any of them any more than an ant can ruin a Picasso by crawling over its frame or a speck of dust can kill the voice of a baby grand. So you might as well choose to love and cherish it all.
Stand slowly and resolutely. Life is both painfully long and incredibly short. It is too long to live with regrets and too short to squander senselessly. There is no honor in following the crowd when the masses are wrong. There is no bravery in “keeping a peace” that does not exist. “Everybody else is doing it” is not an excuse. It’s a poor attempt at euphemizing “I don’t respect myself or humanity in general”. You are priceless. So don’t sell yourself short. Ever. The moment that we forsake truth for ease is the moment we become empty. And nothingness is the only sensation that truly hurts.
3) Count your blessings.
Literally. Every morning. I’m sure your life can be tough sometimes. But I’m just as sure that everyone else’s life gets rough too. Life was never meant to be easy. It doesn’t owe you anything. No one is going to admire you for the footprints you don’t leave in the sand. So fight. Try. It is not possible to lose an ideal, it is not possible to lose a state of being. So if you’re trying at the right things, success will be inevitable.
4) Stop counting cards.
Seriously. It’s illegal. I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliché “it’s not about the hand you were dealt, but how you play the game”. Don’t listen to it. Life isn’t a game. Climbing the ladder to “success”- that’s a game. Storing dead trees in a bank – that’s a game less worthwhile than Monopoly. Intelligence, popularity: they’re jokes. Trying to become powerful – that’s an addiction. But life, life is not, nor will it ever be, a game.
Life deals you cards, yes. It deals cards unevenly, definitely. But those cards don’t matter unless you actually try to play with them. Life was never meant to be easy, it was most certainly not meant to be fair, but it was meant to be lived. You can feel you have it worse than the rest of the bunch, you can give up because of your self-pity, but that will never change the fact that people will not think twice about the things that you did not do and the steps that you were too scared/afraid to take.
5) Do not be afraid.
As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote “avoid fear, though fear is simply the consequence of every lie”. Mike Donehey, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North (one of my favorite bands) succinctly summarized this Dostoyevsky’s words in the phrase “fear is a lie”. The end. Fear is simply not real. It exists, or rather flourishes, in our society, to be sure. But that is only because we have allowed the few negative circumstances in our lives to weaken our backbones to the point that we no longer feel we can stand without trembling.
I get scared thousands of times a day. Everyone does. Typically not in surfeit, but enough to make us hold back. In fact, I am genuinely convinced that anyone who claims to be wholly unafraid is lying as a result of being too scared to face his or her fears.
So here I go, setting myself up for failure again. I don’t actually expect to live without fear. But I do expect myself to become strong enough and disciplined enough to train my heart to fear very little. It is the nature of man to fear the unknown. Yet it is also the nature of this world to relentlessly throw unknowns before us. I am confident that such fear can relatively easily be turned into hopeful, positive anticipation. Or at least, I refuse to be too scared to try.
6) Get stingy with your seconds.
You can use the word “thrifty” instead if it makes you feel better, but I like the idea of coveting time. We wake up each morning filthy rich, with 86,400 seconds in our pockets. I, unfortunately, am prone to squandering them all on pieces of junk or letting myself get ripped off by something I am told is important. Yes, we start the day with a lot of seconds. But it is easy to let each and every one of them sift through the sieve of time before they can be truly spent, as singer/song-writer Regina Spektor would say.
Time doesn’t have a retail value. There is no going back. Worse yet, you get stuck with whatever you buy with it. I am a strong believer in ridiculously excessive forgiveness. I like to lavish my mercy on everyone I meet, or at least try to. But spider man’s Aunt May said it best when she told him that forgiving oneself is the hardest thing to do. Every second presents a profound opportunity: you get to put something into this world. Your thoughts, your actions, your words, your voice inflections—they don’t go away. They all sweep up into a huge bundle that is you. Good or bad, your choices impact yourself, your world, but, most importantly, those existing in your world.
7) Be a tissue.
Remember to let people use you. I know this sounds weird, but all of the greatest people I have ever known always let everyone walk all over them. Think Ghandi and Martin Luther king. Then think about some of the people you really admire in your own life. I hope you’ve known at least one push-over. I don’t mean the kind that sacrifice their morals because they can’t stand up for themselves ot who get hut because they don’t respect themselves to fight back, by any means.
But think about those the people who can roll with the punches because they just genuinely love people. Love people enough to realize that we are all good. Sometimes we just have bad days, weeks, years, because sometimes life hurts a bit too much to handle. And its okay to be a tissue for people in times like that. And no matter how much negative light our society throws on the phrase “used like a tissue”, it won’t change the fact that we all get sick and need tissues sometimes. Not only that but we love tissues. And the people who use them. Kleenex sells. We all catch a cold once in awhile that our immune system isn’t quite tough enough to fight off. So be a tissue and they’ll appreciate it even if they do throw you away afterwards and forget to thank you for your services. Be a tissue because I’m sure you’ve caught a cold before too. Be a tissue, because I swear it will be worth it.
8) Don’t be tough; be strong.
Strong enough to cry when needed and strong enough to laugh in those moments when you don’t want to but should.
Refuse to believe in nature or nurture. Believe instead in will-power and strength. Circumstances and people can whisper phrases in your head. But they cannot come close to forcing you to write them in the book of your life.
9) Treat life as a gift. Because it is one.
As Mark Twain famously quipped, “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” Life is not a right. Not at all. By saying it is such, you cheapen it, degrade its sanctity. For rights can be bought. Gifts cannot. Gifts, they’re priceless.
10) Be content.
Don’t live day to day focused on what you can do to get happy. Happiness doesn’t last. Joy lasts. And joy comes the moment you are able to discern between what is truth and what is a lie. For me, all the truth in life boils down to this: only two things in the world matter.
They are values and people.
I don’t live like this, not at all. I get caught up in caring deeply about a ton of senseless, silly stuff. But it never hurts to try. Trying, in fact, is the only thing we can do.
11) Don’t regret.
Listen to Katherine Masfield who said to “make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can’t build on it it’s only good for wallowing in.”
My A.P. Psychology textbook told me that most people on their deathbeds regret things left undone, not things they did.
So don’t you dare let yourself get scared out of dreaming. Don’t you dare beat yourself up for things undone. It is never, ever too late for the parts of life that truly matter.
12) Leave more than you take.
Better yet, just don’t take. You have all you need already. You had all you ever needed the minute you first opened your eyes.
13) Love people.
We’re stupid, all of us. I’m truly sorry if that offends you but it’s true. We humans have a tendency to be very pathetic. We are easily confused, still more easily distracted, and often unfathomably weak. But we are all innately good. (Sure, you can make a stout argument against Hitler, Charles Manson, Dr. Mengele, etc., but in my book they are monsters, not people. I’m quite picky about who I let into my species). I’ve had plenty of people hurt me because they were too weak to be kind. I’ve been unkind to plenty of people because I felt hurt. I’m sure we all have. So simply smile and let things go. Sometimes people are just plain nasty. But very rarely for no reason. Life can hurt and when push comes to shove we have no idea what was happening in a given persons day to drive them to say what they say. So smile and lend a hand. Because tomorrow might be your bad day. And their smile might be just what you need to turn it around. I said earlier that life was poetry. Well, people, we’re Shakespearian sonnets.