Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Things To Do Before You’re 26

So, my friends are extremely tired of my ranting and raving lately about how I’m turning 26. I mean, wouldn’t you be? You’ve been young and vibrant all your life and now boom, you’re entering a new tax bracket, and checking the next age box on application forms. (You are also applying for a heck of a lot of things : jobs, promotions, postgrad, and sane relationships). Anyway, I will rant and rave as long as it takes me to come to terms with this “late twenties” phenomenon. Isn’t it wonderful how you start noticing itsy bitsy little annoyitsies like how your cancer risk is at its max, how if you have babies any sooner or any later, you are basically doomed. And how (men) either love people way younger or way older than you. You are totally caught between a rock and a hard place. But! I am so blessed to have lived these 26 years. I have no regrets, just painful lessons. LeAnne Womack told me to dance, and though the knees may be a little less stable now, I’m still dancing! *pant*

To those lucky enough to be reading this before your 26th birthday, pay attention. These are 10 things I did or should have done before the big 2-6, and they are, my friends, things everyone ought to do before they become old weasels like myself (An old fabulously beautiful weasel *blink blink*). Disclaimer : We may all take different routes to reach the same destination. Just because you haven’t done one or several of these, doesn’t mean you should look back and sulk. Infact, be inspired to do it now, I don’t care if you’re 39 or 93.

1. Get a degree. Although some of the most important lessons of your life will be learnt outside the classroom, you NEED a sound, formal education. I don’t care if you go to an elitist private school or a state university, or if you do it in stages of certificates and diplomas, but before you reach 25, have a B next your name. Life is not too kind to people who don’t have it these days, and think about it. You get to spend some years in a place where you might meet your future partner (You won’t, but it’s great to believe).

2. Get a life. Your life is a gift, and you only have one. Live it. Do you. Take care of yourself. Teach yourself how to love you more than anyone else dares to. Respect who you are, flaws and all. Discover what your life’s goals are (you won’t know all of them very accurately but it’s good to get a headstart). Live your life for you, because if you don’t, you will have your heart broken, your ego bruised and your self esteem diminished every second month. If you make loving you YOUR responsibility, and not anyone else’s, you can only expect the best from yourself. Grab life with both hands, and live!

3. Fall out of love. Okay, so I will almost guarantee you will either fall in love in the first 25 years of life, or think you have fallen in love with the greatest person that ever lived. That is an absolute given, and yes, 25% of the time you might be right. But falling out of love is a greater blessing than falling in love. It just doesn’t seem so because it’s wrapped in tears, heartbreak, sadness, guilt and hopelessness. You will never know how bright the future is if you don’t let go of the past. No one drives a car with their eyes fixated on the rearview mirror. Fall out of love, and learn the lessons. Realize that it’s never the person that has broken your heart, it’s the situation. They were just the engine that made the process possible. And they did you a favour, because now you know better. Forgive yourself for feeling awful, forgive them for being in a situation that ended up hurting your feelings, and embrace the situation for it did not know that it was merely pushing you into a greater destiny. Find a shelter that works for you. God works for me, and in Him I can never be disappointed, no matter how disappointed I feel! (this point not only applies to falling out of love with toxic PEOPLE, but also toxic habits!)

4. Experience a different culture. I don’t care if you befriend someone from another country, date them, read the atlas, travel, watch soap operas in a different language, or learn a foreign dialect, just do it. Interracial relationship rates are fast increasing, and tolerance is a must. The global world will take you any and everywhere, in your career, and you will meet people completely different from you. Everyday. Sticking to your “roots” and allowing yourself to accept other people for who they are, are not mutually exclusive. Learn the art of appreciating the spirit of the person, and not attaching useless labels like male, female, black, Asian, short, red-haired, brown-eyed, single, or disabled. And besides, living in your little narrow one-channeled cultural corner will not land you a job with the U.N (And you know you would love a job with the U.N)

5. Meditate. For me, this translates to ‘prayer’. Some people believe in God, in a “higher power”, in a “sense of spiritualism”, however you may define your belief, it is crucial to your growth to find time each day to meditate and reconnect yourself. In our teenage years, we are often swayed from side to side, from music genre to friendships, from fashion trends to career choices. Heck, I wanted to be a pilot at some point. I flew into the USA for the first time just days after 9/11. From the same airport. And I experienced some intestine-turning turbulence over the Bermuda triangle. This was nature’s way of saying “why don’t you stick with Medicine and Dancing”. A good friend of mine really wanted to be a boxer, too bad she was 1m tall with absolutely no strength whatsoever, and had to settle for the corporate world. Meditate, think, stay silent, be you. Everyday. Without fail.

6. Be organized. Yes, this does include an organized mess, like the one I was, all through varsity. I am not talking about not having pieces of paper fly all over the place. Even the most organized people have those. Know what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, what possible setbacks you might experience, and how you will get through them. And leave room for surprises. You will never be defeated. I guarantee you. Organize your thoughts, your path, and everything that has to do with you. I used to wake up everyday and write down what I planned to accomplish on that day, even what I wanted to eat. I usually only got 50% right, but it gave me practice for the real world. This does not mean you should not follow people’s advice. It only means, when you get the advice, you are better suited in knowing whether it is wise to follow it or not. Yes, you will get disappointed. Many times. But stay organized, even in your disappointment. Like I always say, Sweat in the first 25 years, so you can chill infront of the fan for the next 50. (Don’t ask me about the life expectancy, I know I will live past 75. grin)

7. Drink Water. You have it, you live in it, it lives in you, use it. Water is the miracle we all ignore. It does wonders for your skin, your health, and your energy. Your muscles need it, your cells need it, your brain needs it. Love your body enough to give it water as much as it needs it. Research says 8 glasses of water, subsequent research says that was B.S. (as all American Scientists like to prove), but Stats don’t count on this one. Just drink water. Period. (oh, it helps with your period pains too!). My rule of thumb is generally take more glasses of water than you do anything else. Yes, that includes … anything else. *smile*

8. Get a computer, or have access to one. It is absolutely necessary to be computer literate. Look at all the Terms Of Reference in Job Adverts. See? Get well-versed with the Office pack, it will come in handy. Of course, not everyone can afford to purchase their own computer, but thank heavens we have access to public libraries where we can get to use these for free. Computers have replaced many many jobs, we live in a digital world where soon we’ll have chips under our skin telling our boyfriends where we are and who we are with. Robots are getting to be models these days, and 12 year olds are building remote-controlled curtains. Our cars can park themselves, and our meals can tell us when they are ready. We are on cellphones and internet more often than we speak face to face, and heck, those phones are getting to BE the PCs. Be well-prepared for this world, be a tech-lover. Besides, you’ll love things like Photoshop, games, mp3 players, and flight simulations (those are too much fun)

9. Play Free-Cell and Chess. I have loved games all my life (not the kind men like to play). But of all the games I’ve played, these two games have taught me a lot of tips about life. In life, you will be dealt with the most confused set of cards and you have to maneuver them the best way you know how, with a very limited space and timeframe with which you can do all this. Sometimes, the worst happens before the best, other times, the opposite occurs. If you’re going to organize 52 cards on 4 spaces, you need patience and determination. And Sometimes getting to one simple goal requires moving many cards and taking different routes. Not everyone gets to be a doctor at 30. Not every partner you meet will be the one. Some can conceive as easy as ABC (pun intended), and it takes others years to get there. Some people are millionaires the moment they are conceived, others take a different path and get there by 50. it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there. And there’s nothing like Chess to jog your mind and teach you the hierarchies of this world (and there are many). This goes back to organization. We live in an entropy-driven world, where we are constantly fighting for control and organization over our lives. You need a mixture of strategy, patience, perseverance and focus.

10. Give. Think about all you have been given that you haven’t paid for. Your life, your breath, your body. Oxygen, water …You didn’t send an application to your parents while you were still half an egg and half a sperm and tell them you want to live past your 26th birthday. You didn’t ask to be as gorgeous as you look, and as genius as you are. You didn’t locate the other half egg-half sperm in another woman’s belly to be your loving life partner. It was given to you. By God, by the universe. As your read this, neurons are firing in the right places of your brain. Your fingers can scroll down the page. Those are things you usually haven’t worked for. Now, there are things that YOU’ve worked for, that others haven’t given the opportunity to receive them YET. Give to people, whether they are less or more fortunate than you. Help where you need to, and smile when you can. It’s hard to put new blessings into a clenched, withdrawn fist. When I was young, I never understood why we always lived with 3 cousins in the house, or why I’d have to sacrifice some of the things I loved for someone else. Giving not only opens up a new dimension of blessings for you, but it allows you to connect with someone else’s needs. And they in turn, reconnect with yours. Like my favorite book says, It is more blessed to give, than to receive. I can name many examples, but Oprah would insist I go on her show, and I am seriously too shy 

Friends, life is cruel. From bottom to top, from corner to corner, everyone has their issues. But you don’t have to be cruel to yourself. Life is a simply a set of cards that have been dealt to you without your choice, and we all should be blessed, firstly, to have had these cards, and secondly, to have the mindset and ability to make the best out of the set in our dealings with others. We take better care of our cars, our clothes and our ipods, more than the one thing we can only ever one of. Yes, you will hurt, yes, you might cry, you will be happy somedays, distraught other days. You will get disappointed and helpless. You will have a deep dark secret only you know, you will climb a mountain for your dream, only to realize it was never at the top. You will feel like not getting out of bed some days. Discover everyday, the treasures buried deep within you. Ask yourself what you really love, and identify the things you are absolutely crazy about in the mirror. Only when you release love into your own heart first, will you be able to genuinely give it away without reservation.

Happy 0 – 26!