What is a life-changing realization you wish you had sooner? (2017 ed.)
December 22, 2017 1:35 PM   Subscribe

This question is my favorite AskMefi post of all time and I find myself revisiting it every year or so. As I've since graduated college and entered the adult world some of these realizations have become much clearer. It's been years since that post and there are a lot of new official Mefites here, myself included. So, wise people of the green, what are some life-changing realizations you've had as you've aged?

For me, I've discovered that everything is relative (dare I say this could be called the "human" theory of general relativity). We seem to judge everything on a relative basis rather than an absolute basis. For example the moon landing was super "everybody stop what you're doing and watch this" awesome, but now space missions seem routine. Another classic example, we get accustomed to a level of service while flying and are in bitter revolt when legroom gets squeezed, despite the miracle that we are flying 500mph above the clouds. In economics for example, it is possible to be generally happy and satisfied at any income once basic needs are met, yet we have the "keeping up with the Joneses" phenomenon. A new car is only cool until you own it. This changed the way I look at growth, geopolitics, relationships, almost everything.

I hope this is not too conversational.
posted by hexaflexagon to Human Relations (147 answers total) 207 users marked this as a favorite
 
My body will not last forever. (I am 60.)
posted by raisingsand at 1:59 PM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


200 years from now nobody will remember that I ever existed, and that's fine.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:07 PM on December 22, 2017 [32 favorites]


The only person you can truly count on is yourself. And even you'll let yourself down sometimes.

Related: we all die alone.
posted by sockermom at 2:08 PM on December 22, 2017 [32 favorites]


See things through
posted by fshgrl at 2:09 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


It is okay if people don't like you.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you try to find the perfect combination of words - people still will dislike you, or refuse to do the thing you wish they would do, or whatever. This is okay.
posted by Jeanne at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2017 [68 favorites]


Don't worry about what other people think; they don't think about you near as much as you think they do, get over yourself and have fun.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:25 PM on December 22, 2017 [17 favorites]


—I don’t have to like everyone I interact with. Everyone I interact with may not like me. Both are ok.
—Being introverted is not a character flaw. It’s one facet of my character.
—I can spend my money in ways that are right for me. I pay my own bills and that gives me the power to spend—or not spend—as I choose.

(On edit—Jeanne beat me to my first one!)
posted by bookmammal at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Every minute you are working for pay is a minute of your life you have sold to someone else. Be conscious of this.

And drink more water. Lots more water.
posted by dilettante at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2017 [28 favorites]


It‘s OK not to have an opinion on something. If you have an opinion, it‘s ok to not voice it. If you voice it, you don‘t need to voice it to everybody in the same way.
Basically, sometimes shutting up is genuinely the right thing to do.
posted by The Toad at 2:30 PM on December 22, 2017 [35 favorites]


I am transgender.
posted by AFABulous at 2:31 PM on December 22, 2017 [44 favorites]


I like ambiguity. I did well in school. I'm not particularly invested in writing so I find I can do it without agonizing, unlike some other creative things; so I assumed my spelling was perfect and the squiggly red lines were due to quirky American spellchecking norms. Then I discovered 'February' has two 'r's.

Wrong all my life! Reader, now I spellcheck.
posted by glasseyes at 2:36 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Your job doesn't have to be your passion; it just has to pay you.
posted by spicytunaroll at 2:38 PM on December 22, 2017 [36 favorites]


And the corollary to what raisingsand said, look after your knees - be gentle with them.
posted by glasseyes at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Behaviour is driven by emotion, not rational thought: instead of trying to force myself to do things by berating myself, I get my emotions in order first by synthesising the feeling of having already done it. My procrastination has been radically reduced, and I'm freer to get on and do the things I need to do.
posted by matthew.alexander at 2:46 PM on December 22, 2017 [64 favorites]


Be kind, courteous and generous. You’ll be happier.
posted by bondcliff at 2:51 PM on December 22, 2017 [16 favorites]


Feelings aren't facts.
posted by witchen at 3:01 PM on December 22, 2017 [27 favorites]


My body is only going to decline from here, I wish I had taken better care of it.

Friends are extremely important to your mental health; make sure you tend to your friendships. (Something I still need to be better about.)

Sleep is so important, more important than nearly everything you do; don’t short it.

It’s okay to be vulnerable.

Therapy. A good therapist is life altering.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:07 PM on December 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


We've all adapted to our niche. We all flounder in weird ways when our niche disappears or we find ourselves out of it. People like to turn that into a moral issue, but a lot of the time it's not.

Like for instance, I'd look at people richer than me struggling to do things I consider basic, and I'd think "jeez, rich people are dumb/lazy/rude/mean." But then I realized, it's just that I've got skills they lack — and they also have skills I lack, not because middle-class people like me are dumb/lazy/rude/mean, just because their niche is different than mine and so they've had to learn different skills than me.

Similarly, I'd beat myself up for having a hard time with things that people raised poor find routine. But… yeah, no, it's not that I'm a bad person for sucking at that stuff. It's just that I adapted to a different niche. I could learn those skills if I worked at it, but it would take work.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


Worrying does not help.
posted by mdrew at 3:22 PM on December 22, 2017 [22 favorites]


Develop and maintain the widest and most varied social acquaintance you possibly can. If you have to balance your school or other work against your social network, favor the social network. Connections will get you further than skill. You have to have the connections in order to be allowed to use the skill.

Be part of multiple social circles. Then, when you break up with someone in Circle A, and they all shun you, or you find out they comprise a toxic structure and you need to get away for your own safety, you still have Circles B, C, D, and E to fall back on. Periodically review and assess your relationships with all of these circles and individuals. Use spreadsheets if you have to. I am absolutely serious about this.

What draws other people to you is looks, money, talent, useful connections, and personality. (The exact order of those will vary by the individual.) If you don't have the first four items, or maybe even if you do, develop the hell out of the fifth. Get help with this if you need to. Expect that this will be a lifetime process.

At many points in your life, you will encounter situations where there are no good choices. The best you can do is try to identify the least-bad one. There is a strong chance you will turn out to have been mistaken. The opinions of those who were not present or involved are of extremely limited value.

Self-doubt will impede you as much as any cancer. You serve nothing by wondering if you have the right to exist. If you interact with others from a state of self-doubt, you risk inducing the same in them, resulting in a mutual downward spiral. Only damaged, sadistic, toxic people want you to feel globally bad about yourself. Note that even if you comply with their wishes in this matter, it does not actually help them, either. Self-neutrality, refraining from judgement about oneself, is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Expect that this will be a lifetime process.

Self-esteem consists of having a robust and accurate concept of what you own and what you owe. You cannot develop this in isolation. If you were taught that you cannot possibly be worth your keep, if you were bullied, neglected, or otherwise abused, it will be effectively impossible to for you to calibrate the own/owe scale. Get help however you have to: Counseling, books, music, deep meditation, whatever. Expect that this will be a lifetime process.


tl, dr: Nobody does anything alone in this world. No one is self-sufficient except in trivial ways.
posted by Weftage at 3:28 PM on December 22, 2017 [111 favorites]


That stand-up comedy is more healing than any religion
posted by winterportage at 3:28 PM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


It’s Good that I exist.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:35 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


A corollary to witchen's post: all feelings are real, but not all feelings are valid.
posted by tacodave at 3:36 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Restating tacodave- All feeelings are real, but not all feelings need to be acted on.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


You don't need goals in life to be happy. You don't have to achieve any damn thing in your life if you don't want to. It's OK to be a Jack of all trades & master of none. You don't need to know all the answers to life, ambiguity is OK.

Seriously stop & smell the damn roses.

Try to leave people & places better than you found them.

Nice things are nice & it's OK to let yourself have & enjoy the nice things, but don't just buy them to show off the labels, buy them because using them makes you happy every time you do so.
posted by wwax at 3:46 PM on December 22, 2017 [24 favorites]


Take the high road in every situation. No exceptions.

Don't worry about being interesting or doing interesting things, focus on developing your character/personal values and living by them.

"Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal." (R. Heinlein)
posted by tackypink at 4:07 PM on December 22, 2017 [15 favorites]


The sustainable ratio of maintenance to acquiring-new is at least three to one, probably way higher for anything durable. If you budget otherwise you are spending your way into debt. The whole US is doing this, though, so you'll have company.
posted by clew at 4:07 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


I (a woman, in my late 20's) am just as smart and good at my job as any mansplaining pretentious man working in my field and in fact probably smarter in many significant ways. It's okay to acknowledge that, and okay to be happy about it. It's actually okay to acknowledge any way in which I am exceptional, or good at something, and to take credit and speak up and be proud and have opinions.

I'm queer.

I'm the expert on my illness and the expert on my recovery and the trajectory of my life, because those things are happening to me and my body and my brain and not anyone else's. Other people can have well-informed opinions, but the actual truth is mine, and nobody can take that from me no matter how I'm treated.

It's okay to ask for help beyond what people mean when they say "it's okay to ask for help". It's okay to be vulnerable, even "needy", and ask for exactly what you want and need, and while this can be a way people let you down, it can be a source of the most miraculous kindnesses from even the people you wouldn't expect normally.

As Leslie Knope once so wisely said, "no one achieves anything alone".
posted by colorblock sock at 4:28 PM on December 22, 2017 [22 favorites]


You can't make everyone happy. Don't make yourself miserable by trying.

Ignore sunk costs.
posted by yohko at 4:28 PM on December 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


that the clock is ticking on your career from the moment you graduate. Not that you can’t take a twist or turn along the way, but that you don’t have the same opportunities at 30, 40, 50, or 60. There are always opportunities, but they differ at different life stages, and if you haven’t kept up, things tend to get worse, not stay the same. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have some new doors open for me in my late 40s, but I’ve seen some incredibly talented people who weren’t so lucky.

Had I realized this, I would not have let family members waste so much of my 20s for me with their big dreams.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:31 PM on December 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


My parents will never return to take good care of me. I have to learn to parent myself.

I’m 36, I’m not 100% sure oven fully grasped this.
posted by bilabial at 4:31 PM on December 22, 2017 [29 favorites]


Something I've realized talking to people who have a few decades on me is that it's very easy to get injuries that will nag you for a lifetime if you're over aggressive in fitness pursuits, so when I'm exercising, I always try to be patient with my body and err on the side of scaling back the intensity rather than pushing hard to make goals in the short term. I know this won't make me immune to injury, but it seems like a good starting point.

More fun: floating in an isolation tank is cool, relaxing, and not at all claustrophobic. I'm glad a friend of mine suggested I try it out when she had an appointment one day, because it's something I'd always been curious about in the back of my head but never got around to. I might not have tried it for another decade if not for her. There's probably a more general lesson there about getting to things that interest you sooner rather than later. :)
posted by Gymnopedist at 4:35 PM on December 22, 2017 [9 favorites]


You must be your own best advocate.
posted by mochapickle at 4:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


It is possible (and preferable) to build yourself up without knocking everyone else down to do so.
posted by geckoinpdx at 4:46 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


1. We have more power and choice in every moment and situation than we realize. Reclaim that power. Even if you can't change another person or a system, you can change your response or perspective.

2. Kindness to yourself and others is the most important thing. Choosing friends, partners, and colleagues/bosses who are truly kind will make your life so much better.

3. It's not selfish to take care of yourself. Being grounded, healthy, and happy allows you to give more to others, and the people that love you only want you to be happy anyway.

4. Don't decide that you are not good enough for something you want (schools, jobs, relationships, scholarships). Throw your hat into the ring and let the powers that be decide, your job is putting yourself out there, not judging yourself.

5. Most people's bad behaviour is not meant to hurt you but a misguided attempt to be happy.

6. You can't control or change other people, and attempts to do so will likely end badly. Be supportive when you can but not a saviour.

7. A clumsy attempt to provide kind words, comfort, or help is better than no attempt.

8. Be scrupulous with your words and behaviour, lies beget lies.

9. Reserve judgment of others as much as possible, life will surprise you.
posted by lafemma at 4:50 PM on December 22, 2017 [37 favorites]


Don't make important life decisions based on the needs of people who wouldn't do the same for you.
posted by bluespark25 at 4:57 PM on December 22, 2017 [45 favorites]


Fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer.
posted by bluespark25 at 4:58 PM on December 22, 2017 [23 favorites]


Life is short. Buy the good toilet paper.
posted by Preserver at 4:59 PM on December 22, 2017 [18 favorites]


When you're at the eye doctor and they start asking you to choose which of two lenses is "better," it's okay to say you can't tell when you can't tell. LIFE. CHANGING.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:11 PM on December 22, 2017 [52 favorites]


You can end any relationship for any reason. Your reasons don’t have to be “good enough” and it doesn’t make you a failure to end a relationship.

Cheating in a relationship is emotional abuse, and you do not have to try to make it work with a cheating partner any more than you have to try to make it work with an abusive partner. If someone cheats on you, dump the motherfucker and don’t look back.

Being single, independent, and free is far more enjoyable than being in a bad or mediocre relationship.

And for women who date men: he is perfectly capable of managing his own friendships and family relationships, perfectly capable of making his own doctors’ appointments, of doing his own laundry and ironing his own shirts, of washing the dishes, of checking the mail, of noticing that the coffee table needs to be dusted, of writing Christmas cards to his family, of remembering his best friend’s birthday, of taking the dog to the vet for a checkup, of arranging a dinner party with friends. He can do all of these things. But he’s fine with making you do all of this and more, for years, for as long as you will let him. Because he doesn’t care about your feelings and he doesn’t think of you as a full human being.
posted by a strong female character at 5:19 PM on December 22, 2017 [44 favorites]


Done is better than perfect.
posted by momochan at 5:24 PM on December 22, 2017 [58 favorites]


I also wish I had known before age 27 that anger takes many forms, that it is ok to be angry, that I was quite possibly the angriest person I knew, and that I could do something with and about my anger.

Additionally, anger is often a secondary emotion. Knowing this has helped me identify why I get angry about the things I do. Sadness, embarrassment, loneliness, fear. These are harder (in some ways) to grapple with than ‘anger’ and anger is so easily turned outward, made physical. Or at least, so much more socially acceptable when physicalized than grief or loneliness.

I wish I had understood that as a woman, I’d almost never be viewed as ‘doing it right.’ I’d have taken more risks, demanded more help, been less concerned with seeming wrong, if I had known that making myself a bonsai person (someone in mefi coined that phrase, it helps) would not buy me love or care or a raise or a promotion or anything else except pain. I grew up with American rhetoric of ‘welfare queens’ juxtaposed with the demonization of women who worked outside the home so I don’t know how I missed that, Except to say that I recognized the racialization of these standards for women, and I thought how terrible it was for women to not be able to choose what they actually wanted, either because jobs weren’t available, or because the pressure to be home was enormous. And I still get told illegally at interviews that they’re nervous about hiring someone like me because they’re sure I’m going to get married any minute and run off to have a baby, and now it’s becasue they can tell I’m running out of time. It makes me wince every time.

I wish I had learned at 17 that pointing out to interviewers how shitty a statement that is would always be damaging to me and also necessary for the world. I usually don’t say anything when it happens because I always need the job more than I can’t afford to insist on working someplace that won’t be a total sexist mindfuck. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was 17.
posted by bilabial at 5:44 PM on December 22, 2017 [14 favorites]


Workers should own and control the means of production.
posted by subbes at 5:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [24 favorites]


Taking less for granted, regularly practicing gratitude, and expressing appreciation to others. Even a simple "thank you" goes a long way in letting someone know that they are valued, and proactively looking for those opportunities helps me to realize how much there is to be appreciative of.
posted by jazzbaby at 5:46 PM on December 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


When people are going off in an unreasonable way, it's not about me.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:50 PM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


That as an adult I would still just be me, but with more responsibilities and experience to help make better decisions.
posted by gatorae at 5:52 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Stuff is overrated. Experiences are what matters.
posted by COD at 5:54 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


Wear sunscreen every day.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:55 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Everyone you think is a grown-up feels as clueless as you do, possibly more so as we age.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:30 PM on December 22, 2017 [16 favorites]


When it looks like things are going to go horribly wrong and there's nothing you can do to stop it, figure out your Plan B and then relax. You've got a contingency plan if you need it, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Or, to put it a bit differently, you're never late until you get there.
posted by DrGail at 6:31 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Sex is awesome, and it can even get better. It isn't everything, but it's a lot. Don't settle for an unsatisfying sexual relationship, unless you really are satisfied with it.
posted by Rocket26 at 6:33 PM on December 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


On the other hand, sex isn't for everyone. And that's perfectly 100% OK.
posted by mochapickle at 6:43 PM on December 22, 2017 [19 favorites]


I am still thinking about this question and have more to add.

Wherever you go, there you are. Moving away or changing jobs or winning the lottery or getting married or losing weight will not make you happy if you are not already happy with who you are.

You don’t have to feel bad about watching tv and being a homebody and playing video games and living alone with cats, if these things make you happy. People who are super athletic and outdoorsy and travel a lot aren’t necessarily happier than you, and they aren’t better than you just because their hobbies are different from yours. Also, people who are super athletic and outdoorsy and travel a lot have a fuck ton of privilege both financially and physically. Maybe you want to get outside and be active but you’re battling depression or suffering some ailment that prevents it. That’s ok. It doesn’t make you worth less as a human, it doesn’t make you pathetic or a loser. You just have to do what you can with the cards you’re dealt.
posted by a strong female character at 6:53 PM on December 22, 2017 [26 favorites]


You know how you can’t cure a loved one’s physical illness by begging the universe to visit it upon you instead? You cannot cure a loved one’s depression that way either. Letting someone mistreat you BECAUSE of their depression will not help them heal.

A cat who is straining to pee should go to the vet immediately, even if that means after-hours emergency.

Use a wide rubber band as a grip around the lid of a difficult jar or bottle.

The best recipe for loneliness is to hold everyone else to a much higher standard than you set for yourself.

If you’re considering a new place, visit at various times of day; you’ll learn more about the neighborhood at 11PM than you will at 11AM. And always look down: litter and dog poop will tell you more about the local character than property values or even crime stats.

Take other people’s head injuries seriously. Someone who’s just had a blow to the brain is not qualified to judge whether it is “no big deal.”

Never start a condolence with the words “well, at LEAST...”
posted by armeowda at 7:10 PM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


I am a lot more intelligent and competent than I thought. Also much better looking.

It's okay to not please people all of the time.

If someone is annoyed, it probably isn't my fault. If it is my fault, and I ask if they are okay, it is permissible to take their response at face value and not try to solve everything for them.

Don't postpone living until {insert milestone here}. Live right now.
posted by dancing_angel at 7:16 PM on December 22, 2017 [15 favorites]


Anyone can die unexpectedly at any moment. Don’t take time for granted.
posted by a strong female character at 7:21 PM on December 22, 2017 [22 favorites]


How you feel is up to you.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 7:27 PM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


I spent a long time assuming that, if I saw someone in my workplace was wrong, helping them understand they were wrong was a critical step to them becoming right.

I now believe that for 90% of the people, 90% of the time, you can try to convince them they are wrong or you can try to help them understand how to be right, but rarely can you do both.
posted by mark k at 7:29 PM on December 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


A few more:

Hippie deodorant and detergent are mostly scams. If they work it’s a coincidence.

Keep a stash of blank note cards in your desk.

Ghost stories and pets are generally reliable icebreakers.

Remember the phenomenon of spontaneous trait transference. What people hear you say about others is how those people will subconsciously begin to perceive you.
posted by armeowda at 7:38 PM on December 22, 2017 [31 favorites]


Get small problems taken care of fast, lest they become big problems
posted by Jacen at 7:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


There is no plot. Things just happen.

Sometimes those things are bad. And sometimes those bad things happen to you.

There is no why.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [33 favorites]


I was in my 50s before I learned that I could tolerate emotional discomfort and learned how to tolerate emotional discomfort. I was raised by people who put their emotions in charge of their behaviour, and I literally did not know for most of my life that other choices exist. I used to attempt to make my kid be happy not for her but for myself, because her discomfort made me so uncomfortable and twitchy. Life is a series of uncomfortable experiences. That is not all life is, and these moments pass (as everything passes). Still, the single most-life changing skill I have developed is the ability to just sit with my discomfort. Instead of emotionally upchucking all over my friends. Instead of picking a fight with a partner. Instead of forcing my kid to feel as though she wasn't allowed to feel her feelings because it upset me. Instead of ... (insert random impulsive, poor decision/action here). Lots of people understand this fact of life but I did not. Learn to calm your nervous system, learn to tolerate discomfort, and your life will be far better.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:51 PM on December 22, 2017 [37 favorites]


I regret the times where I was not as generous as I could have been. I don't regret any of the times I was "too generous." Err on the side of generosity when you can.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:52 PM on December 22, 2017 [24 favorites]


Especially with the small things: being angry is not inherently helpful, even if the anger is 1000% justified. It doesn't excuse anything and it doesn't make anything easier to cope with. Just put it down on the nearest table or wherever and get your hands free to start dealing with the problem (or, if the problem isn't actually a problem, to forget it and feel better). Still working on this one but I think it's important for me.
posted by huimangm at 7:54 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


That it's okay to not have a clear opinion on a complex issue, and that if you do have an opinion, it's okay to not express it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:59 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


You have a sound system? It does not matter what sound system you have. What you listen to matters.
You have a car? It does not matter what car you have. Where you travel to matters.
You have a computer? It does not matter what computer you have. What you do with it matters.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:02 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Kindness matters more than you know.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:04 PM on December 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


If your GP can't solve your problem immediately, move directly on to a specialist. Don't suffer while your GP has you play the "if it doesn't clear up come back and see me in x weeks" game.

There are lots of specialists in any given field; if the specialist you are seeing doesn't take you seriously, dismisses your symptoms, or tells you that it's all in your head, don't go home and cry and think that you'll never be healed, or that maybe you really are crazy. Tell that person to pound sand, and move on until you find someone who is just as passionate about helping people get well as they are about cashing paychecks.

Be a strong advocate for yourself. Educate yourself, especially when it comes to your health.

Get angry. Get angry when you are dismissed, when you are condescended to, when you are lied to. Use that anger to help yourself and others.

Question what you think you know, and believe. Read both sides of the story, both sides of the argument. Make up your own mind. DON'T BE TOO PROUD TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, and don't be too proud to admit it when you do.

Science is never settled. The science of the day said that the earth was flat, until the science of the day said it wasn't. So read, discuss, reason, but question question question.
posted by vignettist at 8:31 PM on December 22, 2017 [17 favorites]


Goodness is a far more important trait than cleverness.
posted by velveeta underground at 9:20 PM on December 22, 2017 [16 favorites]


Most of my problems and my extended family's problems stem from avoiding difficult conversations. This is a terrible idea, and I strongly advise against it.

Knees: if you injure one, do not fuck around. Take care of that shit ASAP. Also feet. I'm staring down a knee replacement at 42 because I didn't follow that advice. I'm also seconding everything vignettist wrote above about being a strong advocate for yourself. This goes double if you are female.

Teeth: If you are a teenager or 20-something reading this, PLEASE FLOSS. DO IT EVERY DAY. Use this to do it, it's much easier. And get a Sonicare and use it. Trust me, you can do anything for two minutes. Spend one minute flossing and one minute brushing and you will save yourself thousands of dollars in dental work down the line. I realize I sound like the proverbial old person here, but it's ALL TRUE.

Finally, I've learned to prioritize the people who show up. This is not entirely literal--it dovetails a bit with the old saw about actions speaking louder than words, which might be the truest statement ever made--but it is partly literal.
posted by Vervain at 9:24 PM on December 22, 2017 [20 favorites]


Anxiety isn't simply a mental state, but we can figure out how it's localized in our bodies. In addition to this, we can separate ourselves from the "proper-basicality" of our emotions. That is, instead of having your emotions define our reality (from a first-person perspective), we can observe them from a third-person perspective in a more objective way. Also, sometimes the emotional state of our bodies define how we think, and not the other way around.

The reason that this is helpful is because a lot of our negative emotions or anxiety are grounded in past trauma events that we rationalized through in a much less informed state (say, as a child), but we learned to habituate in our body based on those experiences. In this sense, then, when we observe the patterns, we can talk to our "younger self" in a way that is informed by our older self, and learn to change thinking patterns more effectively, and also better inform negative emotions that tend to control us.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:25 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Attitude is everything.

Resentment kills a couple's sex life.

Self-awareness makes PMS so much easier to deal with.

Your first impression of a person is rarely inaccurate.

Believe people when they tell you about their shortcomings.
posted by luckynerd at 9:26 PM on December 22, 2017 [9 favorites]


It's ultimately not very interesting to think at length about life decisions.

I've never regretted a minute I've spent in nature, nor a minute in any environment where I've asked myself to notice every little thing I can. A few hours ago, I was riding on a bus with my mom to see a movie, and it was snowing, and we both spent the whole ride sharing observations about the street names and snowbanks and then silently sitting with the rhythm of transit. These moments fortify me as a human - they tell me I belong to this world, that I am secure here.

When I was in college, a friend told me "the best relationships aren't about gazing at one another, but sitting side by side looking outwards together." I'm still looking for a kindred spirit in this sense, but his advice has helped me walk away from the magnetic pull of those intense-gazing relationships when I needed to.

If you love animals, and it's a reasonable time for you to adopt an animal, do it immediately. People will tell you that having a pet will make your life less convenient -- but the responsibilities and constraints we take on give shape and meaning and joy to our days. I'm grateful every day to have a cuddly kitty in my life.

Yes yes yes to everyone writing about kindness. Along those lines: recognize how you can best give love and kindness and care to others in your life. For me, it looks like being excited for others and curious about their ideas and goals and lives, being playful, listening, making tasty warm beverages, and playing music together. You do not need to be a martyr or make yourself small to give love to others - learn ways of giving that are sustainable and honest and make your heart sing.

Honor the parts of yourself that are elusive and mysterious and maybe unintelligible to other people. Whether that means embracing an identity like "queer nonbinary trans woman" or becoming more comfortable with crying and not knowing why or not having opinions and answers at hand(I love what people wrote about being comfortable with not knowing your opinion about a topic). Practice not knowing. Also, very relevant to this exact moment for me, read the Tao Te Ching and reflect forever on effortless action because it is beautiful and brain-teasing in a wonderful way.
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:59 PM on December 22, 2017 [27 favorites]


That going too deeply into one's head to escape (insert uncontrollable life circumstance here) is no escape at all.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 10:23 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


That the single best explanation for the overwhelming majority of all human behaviour is that it is habitual.

Knowing this means wasting a hell of a lot less time looking for complicated historical reasons for things. To a really good first approximation, all personal change and growth is ultimately accomplished using a relatively small and simple collection of habit modification procedures, the most reliable of which is dedicated, conscientious practice.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 PM on December 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


That identity and identifiability are absolutely not the same thing.

Knowing this means never feeling threatened with personal annihilation for no better reason than one's identifying attributes changing over time and/or being perceived differently by other people.

As long as it remains the case that I am in here and the rest of you are out there, how I am has bugger all to do with who I am or whether I am.
posted by flabdablet at 10:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Goodness is a far more important trait than cleverness.

Seconded. And if you're looking for people to hang out with, find people who are first and foremost kind.
posted by flabdablet at 10:43 PM on December 22, 2017 [15 favorites]


It is only thankless work if you are expecting thanks.
posted by AugustWest at 10:46 PM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


Reputation is what people think of you. Character is who you really are. Worry about the latter.

Also, I think the latin is acta, non verba. Actions, not words. I wish when I was younger I appreciated that what people do and what they say are not always consistent and if you have to choose between the two, ALWAYS look at their actions/deeds, not their words.
posted by AugustWest at 10:50 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Enabling your subordinates to be rock stars is your #1 job.

Being gracious is more important than being right.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:03 PM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


Embrace uncertainty. Embrace the unknown. The darkness is your friend.
posted by AugustWest at 11:04 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


there may well be some people who have natural talents, but in my experience, that's mostly illusory. What usually precedes a talent is a desire. You find that thing that you want to excel at and you commit to it, you just keep working at it, you put in ridiculous hours, fumble through every imaginable mistake until someday one day, you've somehow mastered it -- it's become a part of you, it seems natural.
posted by philip-random at 11:28 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Trying to systematize everything in your life is a doomed enterprise and it’s better to be in ongoing, attentive dialogue with your circumstances (i.e., mindfulness).
posted by stoneandstar at 11:37 PM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


Smile. Laugh. Love. Embrace the world.
When you are walking down the street, smile at people. You can change a life that way, because you don't know their stories, but you can make them forget -- for just a second -- whatever clouds are in their way.
Smiles are contagious. They cost you nothing, but they give so much more.
posted by TrishaU at 11:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Everything is worse in your head. You get to decide which thoughts are important and true.

Never respond to an email or text when you're angry.

No one is thinking about you - what you're doing, what you're wearing, how you're living. People are mostly wrapped up in their own lives. Even the most caring and thoughtful friends are not spending their time worrying and wondering about you. This was SO FREEING for me to realize. Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Pleasing someone and loving someone are different things. Pleasing another person is often about avoiding the conflict that might ensue if we tell the truth about our feelings, needs, fears, dreams. Loving someone might involve pleasing them, but it also involves being honest about who we are and what we want. It does not mean getting what we want all the time, it does mean having the self-respect to express our thoughts and feelings and the nobility and compassion to afford that right to others. (Elizabeth Lesser)

Change is necessary and important.

Exercise is necessary and important.

When I notice I'm being hard on myself, I ask myself if I'd do the same to a friend who was having the same issue. 99% of the time, the answer is no. Be your own friend.

When you're cooking, wash bowls/pots/utensils as you go.

Feelings are data. Listen to your gut.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:18 AM on December 23, 2017 [26 favorites]


1. You cannot think someone out of a position they felt themselves into.

2. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.

3. Do what you have to do now, so you can do what you want to do later.

4. We are all built to feel and experience a wide variety of things, and it's good to be able to sit with with whatever comes up, even if it seems unpleasant.

5. There's so much more to life that what is achieved.

6. Being kind is more important than most other ways of being.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 12:31 AM on December 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


7. "Success is moving from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
posted by armoir from antproof case at 12:35 AM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


You can recouperate money, you can always increase quality but dammit, you cannot get time back.

If you get something nice, use it. Don't stash it away "for later".

Stop worrying about your weight and appearance.

Listen to what people are saying...they will tell you everything you need to know even if it's indirectly.

Most people are really just trying their best.

Eat the croissant.
posted by floweredfish at 12:37 AM on December 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


Life is about trying things and seeing what sticks. You don't get points off if you make bad decisions, change your mind about what you want, or adapt to unexpected circumstances.

Human history is not a march of progress.

Alternative ethically-driven lifestyles are not going to singlehandedly save the world. Corollary: Alternative lifestyles are not obligated to save the world to justify their existence.
posted by toastedcheese at 4:26 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Believe in a growth mindset.

If not now, when? If not you, who?

Good enough is good enough.

Confidence does not mean competence.

Look for the people who just get on with things without shouting about it.
posted by 92_elements at 4:43 AM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]


Being kind is sometimes more important than being right.

Practice courage.

Tiny steps first if the journey looks daunting.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 4:43 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just because you agree with a person about X doesn't mean you have to agree with them on Y. (Took me decades to accept this about my heros)

Not all people from a certain group (ethnic, religious, political, gender...) think or agree with each other.

Friends don't have to agree with each other all the time. Don't pick fights with your friends.
posted by 92_elements at 4:48 AM on December 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


That I don't need to debate (especially fundamentalist) religious beliefs (either the one I grew up with or others) with anyone, either logically or philosophically. I have agency: I can choose how I want to live my life and I like the choices I am making (and, I like being the one to make choices), and that's the end of the story. Fundamentalists' arguments are irrelevant to me whether they are good arguments or not.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:33 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Little, achievable wins over time get you further in the end than waiting around for the big ones.

A least half of "good luck" is being prepared.
posted by bonehead at 6:33 AM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm not likely to have kids, but I have come up with the ultimate dad-advice, something I would repeat ad nauseum to my hypothetical children until one day, much later in their hypothetical adulthoods, they'd have an epiphany and say, "holy shit, dad was right." That advice, free to a good home:

If you don't ask, the answer is always no.

More seriously, it took me far, far too long to realize that there are some things that I can do that others can't, and it doesn't make them less capable or less good, or anything. It just means we are different. Conversely, there are things that others can do that I can't. That doesn't (necessarily) make me inferior to them.

I spent a large majority of my life not realizing that there are things that I am good at, some talents I have, that other people don't have. What kept me from realizing this is, at base, a lack of self worth. I figured, if I can do a thing, it must be normal and simple for all people. When I met people who lacked that ability, I would be astounded that they lacked such basic skills, and I would hold that against them, because I'm also an asshole. Conversely, I'd see what someone else was able to do, and hold it against myself for not being able to do the same thing. It's a long road, and I don't always keep this in mind, but I like to think that this, at least, is something that is helping me to be a better person than I've been.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:13 AM on December 23, 2017 [28 favorites]


It is frequently a waste of time to look for the single ideal solution to a problem; lots of problems have multiple good solutions, or no good solutions at all.

People do things for reasons that make sense to them even if they don't make sense to me; if other people are behaving in inexplicable or counterproductive ways, that's a sign that I don't actually understand their situation and should shut up about it until I do.

I actually like exercising, just not all types of exercise. / There is no brain / jock dichotomy; it's possible to be both at the same time.*

My memory for life events can be pretty terrible even if my memory for facts is pretty good; writing things down as they happen is valuable in ways both foreseeable and not.

Personal tastes in books, media, etc. aren't right/wrong sorts of questions and tell me almost nothing about what someone is like.

Things always eventually get better; things always eventually get worse. It is possible to prematurely ruin good periods and cut short bad ones by focusing on this.

Half-assing housework once a week keeps my place cleaner than doing it perfectly every four months.

*When I look back at my old journals from high school and college, I was clearly assuming that you could only be one or the other, and since I was smart, I concluded that there was no point to trying to enjoy physical activity. Unclear where this idea came from, but it's all over the old journals, and is so weird.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:16 AM on December 23, 2017 [8 favorites]


When my kid isn't doing what I want, and in fact actively resisting, back off and find another way. Don't double down on being pushy.

Being my honest self is liberating and in fact people respect me more for it.

Right intention, right action.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:24 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh and I think I finally accepted my personality and by corollary everyone else's. Instead of thinking there is one right way to be, some ideal sweet of traits. You are good as you are. It finally made sense in my heart.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:28 AM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


1. Gender is someone else's system and doesn't have to work for me

2. If you can't make your own neurotransmitters, it's fine to buy them

3. Pain management is essential care

4. Anything short of socialized medicine is ableist

5. When people tell you they value being "good", remember to think about what the context of good is: why is this good, and who is it good for?

6. Always punch nazis
posted by bile and syntax at 7:56 AM on December 23, 2017 [20 favorites]


So much of what is best in life seems to boil down to "don't go out of your way to be an asshole."

Related: never punch down.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2017 [9 favorites]


You're not here to save everybody.

Most of the things in this world are done or said so that they can appear a certain way.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:36 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Impeccable dental hygiene is an investment that pays back huge future dividends.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2017 [7 favorites]


1. (In general) someone else's behavior or response to you is (mostly) not really about you.

2. (In general) people (including you) are doing the best they can in any given situation.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 10:42 AM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Go with your strengths. If you can build, build, if you can write, write. Learn more of what you enjoy.
Don't give away your authority. You know what you know, and don't have to kowtow to please somebody else.
Be polite, be kind. Recognize that annoying or inefficient people can be just having a really rotten day, or a death in the family, or depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression often express as anger and irritability. Be kind and firm, and then get away before you get infected.
Anything sold as 'better' or 'more' is probably not. They are terms that have no limit and therefore no real definition.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:43 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


At all stages of life, take the time to stay in touch with people in your life who are worth knowing.

Be civil almost all of the time, be kind when you can. That snarky comment may wound someone who is more fragile than you know. Being uncivil in opposition to injustice is recommended, when necessary.

Be kind to yourself, too.

It's better to be loved than to be right.

You deserve to be here. You deserve basic dignity.

Some people will treat you as badly as you let them; don't let them.

Listen to people's words; really listen to their behavior. If words and behavior don't match, the behavior is probably the truth.
posted by theora55 at 4:00 PM on December 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


Praise and blame are both the same. They're somebody else's judgement of you, and are based on what pleases that person or not and/or fulfills or doesn't fulfill whatever need they've got going on. It's fine to enjoy the first, and normal to dislike the second, but don't let either one drive you.

Especially if you're a woman, somebody is going to say you're doing it wrong, whatever "it" is. So do what you want and believe is best for a yourself in a given situation. Learn to thrive even in the face of disapproval.

If you're going to be a one-person band, you get to call the tune. If you're the only one investing in something, you get to make all the decisions. If others don't like it, they can do their own thing their own way.

The final, and perhaps hardest part of all this, is that it applies just as much to other people as it does to me. They have the right to live their own lives in their own ways.
posted by rpfields at 4:02 PM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


-Take yourself seriously, because no one else will.

-Life is not fair. No one is tallying up the work you’ve put in, or calculating how much you deserve, or tabulating how good and kind and intelligent and talented you are. Rewards are given out at random.

-Quit the job, leave the town, abandon the project. Don’t hold out forever hoping it will work when it doesn’t.

-The outdoors isn’t just for outdoorsy people.

-When things are going wrong, it may not be because you are doing it wrong. It’s almost never because you are doing it wrong.

-If you’re not enjoying yourself, if the people you are with are boring, if you’d rather be sitting on your couch, you can go home. Like for real you can just go home all by yourself without permission.

-You don’t have to do anything special for New Year’s Eve. In fact, you can sleep right through it. (It’s so much better that way.)

-Losing weight is damn near impossible; it would have been so much easier to avoid getting fat in the first place.

-Wheat and dairy should be very occasional foods.

-You don’t really need as much fat and protein as “they” tell you.

-Most life-changing realizations are realized just slightly too late, but they can still change your life.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:31 PM on December 23, 2017 [11 favorites]


One more thing: If someone is behaving in a way that doesn't make sense to me, there is likely something I am missing. This may be facts about the situation or it may have to do with their perspective (history, context, what the situation means to them). I have found that it can be helpful, especially at work, to ask some version of, "This doesn't make sense to me, so I must be missing something. Can you help me understand?
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:20 PM on December 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


To earn a living, do what you are good at.

Chase your dreams, explore your passions, but don't tie your livelihood or health to other people's reaction to your talent.
posted by ohshenandoah at 8:00 PM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Saying negative things to myself, engaging in "diet talk", being unable to take compliments, and reading traditional beauty-focused women's magazines exacerbate my depression, so I don't do those things anymore. I don't think anyone should, honestly.

I am not actually ambitious, and that's ok.
posted by emjaybee at 8:51 PM on December 23, 2017 [12 favorites]


People are not thinking and/or talking about you as much as you think they are.

You need to save way more money than you think you do, even if you are saving, or have saved, a lot. Way more.
posted by jgirl at 9:00 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Three bits, and I can't decide which helped more.

It's not about you.

You can only jump in front of so many trains; pick the big causes well.

And at some point, pivot to focus on what you're good at, instead of just exploring all the time. (Don't stop with the exploring, but at least put to use what you've learned!)
posted by talldean at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Trust your 'intuition/instinct' when you 'feel' someone is untrustworthy.

Start or foster conversations with strangers; you never know what amazing things will result.

Ask questions early, especially in a business context; answers almost always take much longer than you'd think.

Whats the worst that can happen if you do something? Whats the worst that can happen if you don't do the same something? Not my idea but something I use constantly when planning meetings.

Almost anyone who appears wealthy or 'comfortable' is almost certainly almost underwater debt-wise and working very hard to appear relaxed. Don't be that person.
posted by unearthed at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


I am not actually ambitious, and that's ok.

Exactly. Somebody thinks you have potential? Great! But fulfilling it is in no way mandatory.

Striving toward achievement is overrated. The pleasure of reaching a goal is fleeting, and disturbingly often not worth the compromises made along the way. Better to take the scenic route: practice rather than strive, and enjoy the whole thing instead of only the happy ending.
posted by flabdablet at 12:44 AM on December 24, 2017 [13 favorites]


Some things I realized only in the past few years (I'm 45):

1. If someone asks you to make a decision, and you aren't sure of what you should choose, it's totally fine to say: "Let me think about that, I'll get back to you". I found this utterly freeing. Suddenly the pressure to choose Right Away vanished, and I had enough mental space to breathe and really consider things. Seems obvious in retrospect, but it took me a long time to learn.

2. If you are trying to bring something to mind (a fact or something), and it doesn't come to you right away, just think about how important it is to know that particular fact right at that moment. I find that in at least 90% of cases, it's not important. So I learned to just say to myself, or a guy I was dating, "It's not important", and move on. Also in this age of smartphones, many facts can be looked up in a matter of mere seconds, so if it is important, you can often just look it up.

These two things have helped me reduce mental stress in the face of flagging mental faculties, real or perceived.
posted by cats are weird at 1:06 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Second post - only child edition
I wish I knew early on to make my father write a will. For anyone here who's an only, for your own mental health make sure your folks write a will, AND then get your own lawyer to check it out for normality - parents put weird stuff in wills sometimes.
Also if your folks are a long way from you think about how you'll wrap things up when they pass. It'll probably happen at the worst time for you, and you'll be under time pressure. Put a plan in place first. I nearly had a breakdown sorting this out some years ago.
Oh (and while it might be different where you live) speak to your accountant BEFORE you clean out your folk's house and ask the accountant about the best way to handle all the paperwork you'll find.
posted by unearthed at 1:15 AM on December 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


If you want your kid/teen to be an adult, treat them like one.

Not really an epiphany, but I realized when my children were young enough that they actually want you to say no to things and that they need to fail on their own. When I got divorced, it turned out that my ex and I had different parenting styles that were more pronounced when we went our separate ways. (For the record, my ex is a terrific mother to our children.) I would tell our children that they needed to make those decisions themselves, but know that I will be there to pick up the pieces if it goes awry. I made sure they knew the consequences or outcomes of their decisions and let them make them rather than tell them what to do or not do and rather than check up on them via text all day. I think the best time for children to learn to be an adult is when they are teens at home. They can practice making decisions and still have Pops there for them just in case. I get the sense that a lot of parents are all over their children to do or to do their homework, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 1:50 AM on December 24, 2017 [8 favorites]


Back for the second time to quote one of my favourite pieces of wisdom phrased as a riddle:

Q. Three frogs are sitting on a log. Two of them decide to jump off. How many frogs are left?

A. Three. Because deciding is not the same as doing.

It took me a long time to recognize that 1) it is definitely okay, even desirable, to take time to think and make decisions without pressure, but 2) once the decision is made, you have to take concrete action to make it real.
posted by rpfields at 7:03 AM on December 24, 2017 [8 favorites]


God is not omnipotent.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:18 PM on December 24, 2017


I have only recently learned to prioritize the people in my life who show up. People who are kind, who give back, who put an effort into maintaining relationships. It has been worth it.

When dealing with an office bully or a toxic family member, getting angry has never served me well. Neither has trying to be mean back at them. I am at my strongest and most resilient when I brace myself to be fair and kind.

Finally, it wasn't until a few years ago that I really embraced being kind towards myself. It was a true game-changer. I wish I had realized it sooner - that being harsh and blamey towards myself was not making me a better person. If anything, it was just the opposite.

Best of luck to you, OP.
posted by M. at 1:09 PM on December 24, 2017 [5 favorites]


Almost nothing is simple. If you look long enough, you'll find that X simple thing is actually complex, rich, has a history and you can engage with it endlessly.

Also, when you move, pack the books the last, so when the movers come these boxes are the first they can access - heavy boxes go on the floor of the truck, lighter ones on top of these.
posted by kmt at 2:24 PM on December 24, 2017 [5 favorites]


Your life can be viewed as a archaeological or geological core sample, or perhaps as tree rings, if you prefer.

Within this, no phase really lasts more than a few years at most. My five year ago self could not have imagined how I am living now, and my ten year ago self would have found it completely impossible to predict. What I will be doing in another few years is equally a mystery.

Similarly, looking back it's easy to discern just how different you have been throughout time, depending on things like your health, who you were hanging out with, your relationship at the time, your work, family situation, interests, pastimes, etc etc etc.

That's not to say that there aren't continuities. There are continuities in trees & core samples also. It's not always a clear divider between phases, so you can't always tell exactly where one ends and another begins, but if presented with two samples from different eras you can clearly tell them apart in an instant.

It's a way of seeing things such that if you're in a rut, it doesn't matter. It will change. If things are going well, it doesn't matter. Things will change. Maybe for the better or maybe for the worse, or maybe just different, but they will change and so will you.

There's probably a heavy dose of Buddhist philosophy in there, which people may detect. Impermanence, no essential self, all that stuff. Just don't sweat it too much, whatever is going on. Be present, engage with it, and then with whatever comes later. That's all there is to do.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:43 PM on December 24, 2017 [15 favorites]


6. Always punch nazis
posted by bile and syntax at 2:56 AM on December 24

Related: never punch down.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:51 AM on December 24


So conflicted!

Echoing others who have said that it's OK to admit you don't know something, nor what's the best thing to do in a situation, here's a favourite quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."


Retain the ability to function.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:55 AM on December 25, 2017


An opinion that agrees with me has little value. I already know what I know, I want to know what YOU know.

Seek those who disagree with you and try to truly understand why they do.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 1:12 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


1. Grudges don’t accomplish anything, except maybe hurting the grudge-holder
2. Just because you don’t yell at people doesn’t mean you don’t have anger issues.
3. People won’t always tell you what they want or how they feel. It doesn’t matter how much you wish it were otherwise.
4. The American medical system is messed-up and profit-oriented. Be skeptical of doctors and surgeons, especially when it comes to ‘procedures.’ You only have one body, and if you mess it up, you have to deal with the consequences for the rest of your life.
posted by panama joe at 9:11 AM on December 26, 2017


Just go fucking do the thing! !
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


Most regrets from when I was younger were kinda inevitable because I just didn't have the experience to deal with them better.

But one thing I really wish I'd learned sooner: Letting Go when something's over.
posted by ovvl at 1:03 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Being your own critic is not your job. Other people can and will criticise you; your first job is to be your own advocate.

If you are afraid to start something, give yourself permission to do it badly. But do it.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:02 PM on December 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


Be kind always, but especially when you least want to be.

This rule applies to both how you treat others and how you treat yourself.
posted by suncages at 7:25 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Spend absolutely as much time as humanly possible with your kids while you can. My god, it is a heartbreakingly short time.
posted by tristeza at 8:33 PM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


You don't need to be friends with people who are mean to you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:05 AM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


You don't have to give a reason when you say "no" to someone's invitation or request.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:48 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Forgive yourself. It's hard but worth it. Let go of your past mistakes - times when you said something unkind, made a stupid decision, or acted carelessly. Let go of the need to be perfect. Let go of the worry that you are inadequate. You do not need to measure up in comparison to some idealized version of yourself - it's okay to just be you.

I am still working on this.
posted by mai at 7:02 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


A half a teaspoon of magnesium citrate dissolved in a small glass of water right before bedtime will cure my insomnia once and for all.
posted by mumblelard at 8:52 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


For me, a big one has been: you don't have love or like all of your family. And you shouldn't feel obligated to act as though you do.
posted by Kitteh at 4:56 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


That I should be every bit as kind to myself as I strive to be to others. Sounds so simple, but is fiendishly difficult to execute.
posted by Nieshka at 4:13 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


The bar to entry on most of the things you want to do is far lower than you perceive it to be. Don't wait until you feel ready, good enough or accomplished enough to get started. You'll learn as you go just like everyone else did. They are no more capable than you but it serves them well to pretend that they are.
posted by Chrysalis at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2017 [19 favorites]


If I put my tooth whitening trays in my mouth while puttering around the house then I don't have to talk to anyone.
posted by craniac at 10:09 AM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


Don't go to grad school. It was an utter waste of time, a financial catastrophe that set me back by years, my advisor was semi-abusive and controlling, and all I got for the effort is a single bullet line on my resume that no one gives a shit about. I mostly went to make my mom proud of me, and she passed away before I was done, so it didn't even work on that count.

For me, being "thrifty" is a symptom of depression. It's good to save a healthy amount of money, but when you're saving everything and sitting on your hands at home and being miserable, that's no good either. Still trying to find a balance on that.
posted by miyabo at 3:13 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


A couple others:
When someone's an asshole, just admit they're an asshole and cut off contact. I spent way too long apologizing for others and trying to accommodate people who would never do the same for me.

It is not appropriate for your boss to ask you to stay in the office until 2 am every night after starting at 9.

People often say things they don't mean in order to seem smart, virtuous, or even just to make conversation. Pay attention to people's actions, not their words.
posted by miyabo at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


Self-love is not some abstract feeling to chase, it is actions. I had understood that love for others must be actions in order for them to perceive the love. Took me a while to figure out the exact same thing holds for love of self.
posted by Okapi at 7:52 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I sincerely wish I had bought a house when I was twenty-one because that theoretical house, sold this year, 2018, would produce an income stream that would allow me to lie around eating ramen and drinking generic beer until the day I died, without ever having to leave the house or speak to another person.

I did not make that choice, and my life is richer, healthier, more complicated, and longer because of it. I'll be angry about this until I actually do die.
posted by mwhybark at 4:41 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Also this is such a great thread, it beats the inspiration by a mile.
posted by mwhybark at 4:42 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


When someone's an asshole, just admit they're an asshole and cut off contact.

This. In particular, it's been counterproductive for me to argue with sexist assholes instead of moving to cut off contact. They loved the attention and learned nothing. One of them, if not more, even felt respected because I engaged with their assholery as if they had an serious intellectual argument instead of a delusional moral bankruptcy. Every moment spent with these men has been a waste of my time. Arguing with assholes is how I've saved face while accommodating them.
posted by sculpin at 12:08 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


(Apparently that guy made me so mad that I lost my sense of grammar for a while there.)

Not only is done better than perfect, done is often better than good.
posted by sculpin at 5:34 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


1. In third grade, I was humiliated about something that had happened in camp and didn't want to go back the next day. My mother told me "to you it's a big deal but no one else thinks about you as much as you do, everyone thinks primarily about themselves" or something along those lines-- and she was right, I went back, no one really noticed or cared. I remind myself of that frequently.
2. learning to let go of my obsession with popularity and being "cool" (or just being "normal", with cool as the ultimate pinnacle of normalness) was an ongoing process.
3. I liked being snarky to people online in forums where that was the culture, I thought it was fun and funny, until my friend told me she'd been bullied about her spelling online and it made her cry. I've tried to be kinder online ever since...
4. I had a mildly abusive roommate. I learned a lot from that relationship. I learned that it's not true that every relationship problem is something you can solve if you try hard enough, and that therefore not every relationship problem can somehow be my fault. I realized that as soon as someone disliked me, it made me hate myself, because it was as if I depended on everyone around me to prop up the veneer that I was lovable, that my inherent unlovability could only be counteracted by a constant, ceaseless, stream of love from everyone. I realized I was allowed to love myself-- as simple as that, as just deciding I was done making my love for myself conditional on being perfect. It was also a process, of learning to say no to the voice in my head that told me I was worthless scum. Not arguing with it. Just saying "No, I'm not listening to you right now," and proceeding to think about other things. Obviously it's a life-long work, but at least now it's one I'm aware of
5. One day I realized how many things my brain hid from myself. I'd committed to avoiding gossip/negative speech, and then I caught myself thinking "this doesn't count because she deserves it". It was such a ludicrous justification, and it happened almost silently, subconsciously, just one of the props my brain uses to hide me from myself, so the self-image of "I don't talk badly about other people" could be preserved. There are other examples, too-- sometimes a topic too taboo to speak about became a topic too taboo to think about, so I hid it from myself
6. Brains lie
7. At first in college if I wasn't going to get a good grade on it I didn't bother submitting it, and then one day the lightbulb clicked on-- a 40 is still a better grade than a 0. Throwing out my 40s as not good enough was doing serious damage to my GPA. This can be applied elsewhere, of course-- in anything involving effort, producing garbage is better than producing nothing., they are not equivalent (nor is producing garbage worse than producing nothing, of course)
posted by Cozybee at 10:42 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


just being "normal", with cool as the ultimate pinnacle of normalness

This one is amazingly common. Lots of people have this. I certainly did, when young. And the really weird thing about that is that I don't think I've ever met a cool person who could reasonably be described as normal.
posted by flabdablet at 11:45 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


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