Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011: Lessons Learned

Another year is about to join the great calendar in the sky. It's been a pretty wild year for me, fraught with joy, tribulation, and introspection. I've grown quite a lot since this time of the year in 2010; life has dealt me experiences that have molded me into a wiser person, though still very far from wise. Allow me to share what I've learned in the year 2011:

  • Our trials do not define us.

    No doubt everyone has some issues with life; I would even be so bold as to say that having a "worry-free" life is an issue in itself. It's inescapable, just like some of our personal attributes. But I was taught this year that the two are very, very different. A personal problem is not part of one's personality. This life is meant to help us bring out our true character, and difficulties serve only as a catalyst. They help the process, but they stay very much separate from the parts of the reaction.
    So what's the point of this lesson? For me, it means that when I wage war against the problems in my life, I'm not fighting myself. I'm fighting for myself. Identity is a very priceless thing, something that should not be disfigured by trials that attempt to clamp onto us and pose as appendages to our very soul. In short, by rising above your problems, you will find yourself, most assuredly.

  • Life is best lived without self-interest.

    Ah yes, one of the greatest counter-intuitive facts of life. We are born with a natural sense of self-preservation, and so we seek to improve our position in this world. But what happens when we let our mind fill with those thoughts of "what's in it for me?" I'm not saying that people who strive for personal gain do not find it on occasion, but there will be times when we simply do not get what we want. In our blindness, we revile our benefactors and complain that life is unjust.
    To avoid becoming such whiners, we can instead devote our time to looking out for others. From personal experience, when I am worried for the sake of others, I manage to take care of myself subconsciously. And whenever I don't get something I was hoping for, it doesn't matter, since I still have the chance to fulfill the hope of someone else.
    Then what happens when I can't help someone I truly care for? God willing, I'll have all of 2012 to learn that lesson.

  • Communication is the greatest tool at our disposal.

    I've been gifted with linguistic ability. I can be eloquent with my words, or I can be concise, but I can do very much with words. However, it does little to help others unless I use it to communicate. Despite my talents with language, I am also a pretty quiet fellow in real life. Nonetheless, I can communicate when I really need to, so it's not really a lesson saying, "Wow, I need to learn how to talk with people." It's more like, "Wow, I need to learn to talk with people."
    For example, what I'm doing right now. Life has taught me many important things this year, but I haven't done much to share my ideas with others. So I'm using a blog to get the message out. I have many fantastic ideas on how to help others, and I have the means to share those ideas. It's only a matter of doing it, for the benefit of others (You'll see that many of these ideas overlap, but that's just a sign of linguistic genius).

  • People are worth getting to know.

    On the flip side of my brilliant ideas, other people have great experiences and insights to share with me. Communication is two-way, which means that listening is just as important as knowing what to say. And it's not just hearing what you want to hear. It's worth making the effort to acquaint yourself with the people you talk to. Everyone has their own identity, which I happen to think is their most valuable possession. And so it's about time I start acting like it when I converse with others.
    The ironic thing is that I learned this lesson when someone showed me that I was worth getting to know. It's a marvelous feeling to know that my personal quirks and ideologies are actually interesting, and everyone deserves to feel it.

  • Love is much simpler than we think.

    I am an idealist, make no mistake. I am also a deep thinker. As such, my personal philosophies end up being very ornate. Even when they don't need to be. I'll have my own ideas, and then as soon as I hear someone else's opinion that sounds good, I'll mull it over until I can incorporate it into my worldview.
    As for love, wow. For a long time, my thoughts on it were that it was something so pure it was chimerical. Virtually unattainable. It doesn't help that love is a hilariously vague word. You just look at all the Greek roots that mean different aspects of love (eros, philia, storge, agape...), but we just get the one word. Thanks, English language.
    But really, does it have to be complex? When you say, "I love you," does it have to mean volumes? The core of love is unselfishness, that the other is worth your time, attention, and affection. If that's there, then sure, it can be called love. And despite the simplicity of the definition I give it, there is a lot of power behind knowing that it is indeed love.

  • We are meant to learn from everything that happens to us.

    This one has hit me on various occasions this year. The thing worth remembering about this little axiom is that before we learn, we are ignorant. Thus, there will be a ton of things that happen to us that we simply don't understand why. Nonetheless, each one of us has the incalculable blessing of learning, of taking what happens around us and using it to develop ourselves. And when we knock off our experiences as coincidences, we waste valuable opportunities to grow.
    Is it hard to think this way? I will be the very first to admit it. But hey, I learned this lesson from something that happened to me, so it might as well apply to everything else that happens.

    Wow, meta. Even I'm getting confused. Moving on...

  • Laughter resolves our deepest problems.

    I'm going on a limb saying this, since this is something quite outrageous to say. Sure, laughing makes you feel good, but I'm saying that laughter doesn't take your mind off your gets rid of them.
    Now why would I say something so stupid? Because laughter reminds us of what's most important. It's a wake-up call that life is good, in spite of every little thing that messes us up. When we laugh, our problems are diminished by the idea that there is something much bigger than our trials, and it is freaking hilarious. And when our demons don't seem so big, they end up becoming quite manageable. So to quote one of those funny little wood carvings that I saw at a Barnes and Noble the other day, "Laugh. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. Shared laughter creates a bond of friendship."

  • There is always room for hope.

    Hope is a great way to conclude. Mainly because of how dang important it is; it's becoming a scarce commodity. From what I've seen, the world has enough people who are frustrated with life, enough people who have barricaded themselves from everything with cynicism, enough people who don't see the point in putting forth the effort, enough people who will not stop whining. On the other hand, there is always room for hope.

    "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise" (Moroni 7:41).

    We can hope in things less important that the big one, as defined above, and it may keep us afloat for a while, but we can't forget what's most important: that this life is not all that there is, yet it makes an incredible impact on what's to come. And our attitude is the greatest determining factor, so why be anything other than hopeful? Because it's not easy? Whatever. Just hope. You'll thank me later.

    But right now the clouds don't appeal to me / I feel like going home