- Make mistakes. That’s what humans do. Don’t be afraid of failure and making mistakes. No human is perfect. We all do goofy things fueled by emotions that we don’t quite understand. There’s so few mistakes in life that you can’t come back from. I have seen people survive huge missteps and come back stronger than ever. I have also seen people struggle more than succeed and they still keep pushing on like they don’t know how to quit. Take chances in life. It could blow up spectacularly in your face, or it could be awesome. There’s just no way to know without actually taking the chance.
- Get hurt. Let’s face it, everyone gets hurt by something or someone early on in life. And then it will continue to happen in life. It really sucks when it happens to you and sometimes even more when you have to hurt someone because you need to tell them something they don’t want to hear.
- Find something you enjoy. A hobby, job, pastime, intense interest, volunteer opportunity, whatever you want to call the way you invest your free time. If it brings you joy, it qualifies! This isn’t what you have to do, it’s something you WANT to do.
- Give up your heart. To a friend, a family member, a partner, a pet, a child, a coworker, a neighbor. It doesn’t have to be a spouse or romantic partner if that’s not your thing. But loving someone feels so good inside. Petting your dog/cat/fish/rabbit/squirrel/skunk/skink feels nice and makes them feel loved too. Or maybe not. Maybe your pet is an asshole and you find that absolutely endearing. It’s all good. Just give love to someone.
- Learn something. Whether it’s school, a trade, a fun new skill, a new hobby, DIY home improvement projects, an athletic feat, a new game, how to use a new phone, how to interpret stars, or how to cook new things. Learning is awesome and helps your brain rewire itself to get rid of damaged pathways.
- Figure out who you are. Not who everyone tells you to be, or not who you think you should be, but who you actually are. What’s important to you? What makes you tick? What is the one thing you can’t live without? What brings you the most joy? Are you outgoing for real or just forcing yourself to be because this world treats introversion like a character flaw? Do you like mornings or nights? Or neither? What’s your favorite way to meet new people? Are you scared of new things? What makes you want to be brave? What day would you relive and why? When everything is quiet around you, what does the inner you tell you about yourself? If you could do or be anything with no consequences, no one would care, and you had no limitations, what would you be? If the answer is nothing like you currently are, figure out why? Are you scared to be who you want to be? Does it seem too hard? Will someone be disappointed?
These are just a few of the things spinning around in my head these last two years after military retirement and figuring out who I really am after 20 years of being mostly the same as I was and the same as everyone around me. Learning not to fear failure and not being who I thought I was supposed to be are the two biggest lessons I have spent the most time on. It’s been really hard sometimes because I feel like I will disappoint everyone around me. But I am learning that disappointing myself is a far worse issue. Being happy for me means being who I am supposed to be and not who I was told I am supposed to be. Waking up for the second time since my dad apologized for all of those things tells me that I am definitely on the right path now. I still can’t believe I live in a world where my dad has acknowledged and apologized for hurting me all those years ago. And then telling me I was brave to bring that up to him. What a crazy new world I have created for myself. It’s totally worth it.