Advice. We’ve all gotten it, uninvited or not. Some advice is good, but some pieces of advice are the type of things you nod enthusiastically about while you hear it, then simultaneously (and internally) roll your eyes and let the words slip seamlessly through one ear and out the other. It’s always in good taste to be polite and hear everyone’s take on how you should handle your life. However, it is not in good taste to take all the advice you receive to heart.
Sifting through advice is like sifting through a mountain of mundane paperwork: torture. Sometimes, though, there is a decent piece of advice that passes before your eyes (or ears). You’ll know this piece of advice is good if it sticks with you, echoes in your ear and appears in your dreams (okay, maybe not always in your dreams, but somewhere in the subconscious). It’s the words you find popping up uninvited in your mind during your time of need. I have ever only received a few pieces of advice throughout my life that have stuck with me.
Advice doesn’t always have to come from your second cousin twice removed or a nosey aunt at Christmas. Advice can come from the latest hit on the radio or the bestseller on the shelf. It can come from the number one movie at the box office or a friendly receptionist at the doctor’s office. Advice, no matter where it is from, can be effective. The beautiful thing about advice is that no one piece of advice can apply to every single person. Advice is unique. Even more specific than person is the time in which advice is received. There are times in our life when we have received life-changing advice without even knowing it because at the time we received it, it made no difference (or worse, made no sense). In time, though, some advice becomes relevant and inspiring.
Here’s some advice I have received (from various sources) that has helped me through some tough times:
1. Do what you love no matter what.
Sure, this sounds hokey, but it’s actually advice from multiple sources who have learned how to do this the hard way. Basically there is no plan B, there is only plan A and don’t give yourself the option to fail. If you have a dream, if you have a goal in mind, don’t settle for anything less. Go for it. Do the thing that makes you happy because no one else on this planet is responsible for your happiness except for you. If you do something you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. I keep this in mind, especially when I get scared about the future or job market. You can’t let things get you down. You can’t let things that are out of your control deter you from pursuing the thing that brings you joy. Just go out and do it. Stop doubting yourself, stop making excuses and instead, make it happen.
2. If it can be done now, do it. Don’t do it later.
This piece of advice has always saved me time and stress. If you can do something now, then do it. Don’t wait around for other things to pile up. If it is possible to finish a task, finish it. Just because it is easy or won’t take much time now doesn’t mean that later on it won’t become more complicated or add to your list of things to do. As much as I hate my procrastinating tendencies, they still rear their ugly head now and then. I’m still working on this one, but getting much better at it as I age. If you can do something now, do it. Don’t wait. It really does make life easier.
3. Take chances, take risks because life is short.
Okay, life is the longest thing we will ever do. That much is true. Life, however, can also seem short when you think about missed opportunities or regrets. I’ve heard that we regret the things we didn’t do, not the things we did. I’m not sure that I agree with that completely, but I understand the message behind the saying. In life, sometimes we are only handed an opportunity once and it’s important that we take it in the moment. Take a leap of faith. I hate that saying and I hate when people tell me that, but taking a leap of faith can sometimes yield some pretty fantastic results. The point of taking a chance, taking a risk or taking a leap of faith (whatever the hell you want to call it) is to break out of your comfort zone and experience something new. It’s been my experience that when we experience something new, especially something we aren’t always comfortable with at first, we grow. Growing up is a painful, beautiful and confusing thing, but it’s absolutely necessary.
4. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t feel so good.
I am still trying to figure this one out. In my entire life I have always known if I am doing something wrong or something right based on how I feel about it (amongst other criteria of course). The problem with this is that when you become an adult, things start to get really complicated. When you’re out in the world on your own, things aren’t black and white anymore. There are times in our lives when we have to choose between doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing, but the feelings no longer correspond. There are times when we have to pick between the lesser of two evils or make a decisions we never thought we’d have to make. Sometimes doing the right thing feels as bad (or at times, worse) than doing the wrong thing. Growing up isn’t easy and making grown-up decisions isn’t always easy either.
5. Never let fear make your decisions.
This has been a very helpful and useful piece of advice that I have always carried with me. Never let fear dictate your actions. Just because something scares you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. This goes hand-in-hand with taking risks and venturing outside of your comfort zone. Fear is a vicious and very powerful thing. Psychologically, it is one of the most influential things in our lives. Fear is powerful because it can sway us one way or another. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” No quote has been as true or as powerful for me. It’s true though. The only thing we have, as humans, to fear is the feeling of fear because it can dictate our entire existence if we let it. Just because something is scary doesn’t mean that it is bad. Just because you are scared to move away from home or take a chance doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. I can’t express the importance of putting fear aside. Fear, while powerful, is not an emotion important enough to base life decisions on. Sure, it’s natural fear some things, but other times, fear has to be put aside and courage needs to take its place. After all, having courage doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Courage is doing something despite being scared.
And here’s a note from me, from what I have learned so far:
6. There is absolutely such a thing as a quarter-life crisis.
It’s awful and scary. No one (except others having a quarter-life crisis) will understand it. Alcohol helps a lot, but as usual, isn’t a solution. When people tell me to “be myself”, I break out into a nervous sweat just trying to figure out who that is! I don’t know who I really am yet. At my age, I feel like I should, but when I poke my nosey self into other people my age’s business, it seems to me that they don’t have that figured out either. I find comfort in not being the only one without a solid plan. I also find comfort in not having a plan. I don’t want to be tied down to one thing or another. I want to roam for a while. Plans can be comforting in their conformity and predictability, but for me, that gets old really fast. For now, I need time and space to breath. I need my future to be the unknown. I’ve never been one to fall in line with tradition or expectations. For now, I will enjoy my quarter life crisis (or inconsolably panic about it, depending on the day). For now, I will bathe in the unknown and make my own way in this crazy place we call life.