Punctuate Life

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Advice for 20-somethings

I am aware that no two paths are alike and everyone is unique but human beings have this kind of herd mentality that they find hard to resist. And time and again we struggle with the same ideas and situations. This is especially true when one has graduated from high school and stepped out into the world. There is a burning desire to be independent and prove yourself to the world. To be successful and earn big bucks. To make your parents proud. To be better than your friends, even if you wouldn’t admit it to yourself.

There is nothing wrong with all these lofty goals except that they leave you unfulfilled. On the surface it seems like all these things would make you happy but on the contrary they just keep you trapped in a system that gives too much importance to appearances.

Some of us feel we owe something to our parents who have raised us and supported us. That warped sense of responsibility sometimes makes us blindly follow their bidding even though it is not what we want. We have a greater responsibility to ourselves. To be authentic and to follow our heart. Because that is the only way to happiness. And only if we are happy can we spread joy to others.

If you are miserable pursuing your parents failed ambitions and dreams, you get resentful. The poison spreads and ruins your relationship with your parents. You cannot succeed at something you don’t love. Maybe you can do it very well and get a lot of money for it and for some of you that is success. But really it goes deeper than that. It is a sense of fulfillment, belonging, something that makes you feel alive, a sense of joy that you share with all around you. When you find that, I want to say you have succeeded. But in my experience someone who follows their heart, knows that there is no destination, only milestones on this glorious path. We can’t do the same thing all our lives, we are much too talented and diverse. So be flexible and diversify. Embrace change and don’t get stuck in a rut.

Don’t blindly follow the timeline society has spelled out for you. Graduate, find a job, date, get married, have kids, send kids to college, retire, etc. Some flit from one stage to the other seamlessly and effortlessly. Others struggle and think something is wrong with them. Why can’t I find a job? Why can’t I find a mate? Why can’t I have kids? I can’t afford to retire! So on and so forth. Believe me I’ve been there and I’ve learnt that there is a time and a season for everything. If you find yourself working hard and having no social life, nothing is wrong with you. If you find yourself taking a break and raising your kids, it’s not the end of the world. If you can’t retire then there is so much more the world needs from you. None of it lasts forever. A dry spell is always followed by a torrential downpour, that leaves you gasping in disbelief at your good fortune. Some of us are late bloomers, some young geniuses, some mid-life career changers. Don’t fall into the one-size-fits-all myth that society keeps feeding you. Break free and follow your own timeline, knowing that the meandering paths lead you ultimately to where you want to be.

Work to make a living but don’t let work consume your entire life. Don’t make the mistake of saving up all your money to enjoy your retired life. What if something big like a health condition or untimely death of your spouse leaves you in debt. What if you wait for your kids to leave home so you can see the world and your kid decides to go to a neighborhood college and stay home. So many things can upset your best laid plans. So remember to live in the now and enjoy every day. Money and success are not the only things worth pursuing.

Take care of your health because that is the one big thing that determines how well and how long you live. Young people tend to take their vibrant health for granted. They skip meals, eat junk, party, sleep late and seem to bounce out of it. It’s ok to do these things once in a while, but to make it your lifestyle is hazardous to your health and well-being. Cultivate moderation now and it will serve you well later in life. Don’t wait for your health to go south before you start a good exercise and diet regimen.

Dare to be you, even under the scrutiny of your peers. Resist the temptation to follow the herd even if they seem to be headed to greener pastures. Spend some time on personal development and quiet contemplation. Don’t always look outside for the answers, learn to look within. Don’t blame your circumstances when things go wrong, take the responsibility to change it. And stop trying to please everyone and to have it all and do it all. It only leaves you exhausted and frustrated. Prioritize and work toward meaningful goals, while you focus on health, happiness and well-being. Success simply has to follow.


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Be Careful What You Wish For…

Anyone who knows me knows this, I love to cook but hate doing dishes. Thirteen years of doing dishes hasn’t changed anything. I’m still not in a state of acceptance – this is something I have to do (as long I cook and eat) and I need to make peace with it. I secretly wish that someone else (husband or kids) would do it for me on a daily basis, or I would stumble on a magic wand that I could swish over the dirty sink and it would be transformed into a sparkling pile of dishes neatly arranged on a dish rack! This wish grew stronger in the beginning of last year when I found myself working and trying to cook and do dishes every night. Guess what? A year later my wish came true but not exactly in the best way.

Everyone who knows me also knows how much I hate the cold and after a five-year hiatus in sunny Florida I’m back in a place where the temperature hovers around zero degrees. What you don’t know about me is that I have this strange affliction that makes my feet and hands get really cold, blue and in extreme cases swollen, numb, red, itchy and flaky. After seeing the state of my hands, my husband took over the task of cleaning dishes. He used to help with dishes over the weekend but not on weekdays when he’s bogged down with work. Now after a long day, he finds himself in front of a sink full of dirty dishes.

Part of me felt good about it but part of me felt bad for not being able to do something as simple as washing dishes. Able to do dishes and other chores around the house is a sign of good health and energy. How many people find it hard to get through everyday chores because of poor health? And here I was perfectly healthy and capable, but so blind, discontent and royally spoilt to wish for something so idiotic!

So my wish has been granted but instead of feeling elated I feel like a complete moron. Thankfully, the universe doesn’t mind do-overs. Although a do-over of my pea brain may be impossible, I can do over my wish list. So here goes…I wish for vibrant health and vitality and a diligent spirit that doesn’t shirk from everyday chores. A spirit that welcomes a helping hand if one is offered or simply carries on happily when no help is forthcoming. A sound mind that can discern and wish for things that are not shallow and selfish.

Hopefully this will be the year that it all finally sinks in – that I have it good and should stop comparing myself to others. That I should wish more for others who are suffering instead of wanting more for myself. To put the needy little ‘I’ in an iron casket, bolt it and let it sink to the bottom of the sea.

Maybe you made wishes for the new year. Be sure to examine those wishes to see if there are any selfish motives or agendas hidden in it. A good idea would be to count your blessings before you start making a wish list. Feel deeply grateful for what you have – whether it’s health, family, a fulfilling career or friends. Then from there look forward to see if you can add to your bounty. If you start making wishes from a place of lack, your wishes are deprived of the magic of a grateful heart. No matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse than you. So try really hard to be thankful and be careful what you wish for because it just may come true!


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21 Life Lessons to Remember in 2015: Guest Blog by Dinesh Damodaran

 

1. If something in your life needs to be fixed or changed, don’t wait until the end of the year to make it a resolution.

2. Learning is a lifelong and continuous process, it is the best investment you can make in yourself. Learn about things, the world around you, people, about yourself, learn something, anything, but be sure to learn.

3. Don’t fall in the trap of judging other people by their intentions especially when you tend to judge yourself by your intentions.

4. The weight of expectations you feel on your shoulders are the ones you placed on yourself. Let it go, and you can move towards your destination faster.

5. Be comfortable being alone and spending time by yourself, if you can’t stand your own company, nobody else can.

6. You can’t control what other people say, think or do, you can only control how you respond.

7. Never react or take a decision when emotional, this goes for both positive emotions and negative emotions.

8. Practice altruism, doing things for other people without expectations is liberating and your best contribution to making this world a better place, one selfless act at a time.

9. Don’t be afraid of change but be afraid of staying in the same place. Everything changes even you, you are not the same person you were yesterday because who you are today is the sum total of your life’s experiences. Embrace change, it is the greatest gift you can ever get.

10. There isn’t always a right and wrong, only different perspectives, break down those mental barriers and become more inclusive. You may be the hero in your tale, but you just might be the villain in someone else’s piece.

11. It is okay not to be perfect, an obsession with perfectionism is another form of procrastination. Sometimes getting it done is better than waiting for the perfect conditions and opportunity.

12. What you are doing at this moment is the most important thing in your life, make it count.

13. Multi-tasking is over rated, focus your energy on doing one thing and doing it right and to the best of your abilities.

14. People in your life come and go, they were there in your life for a reason, and they probably left for a reason, both their presence and absence is a gift, learn from it, grow from it, become a better person to the other people in your life.

15. Don’t live in your past, it is a great injustice to your present. Let it go and your present will come alive with many possibilities.

16. Love yourself and accept yourself for who you are and what you are, only then can you love and accept those around you.

17. Don’t compete with anyone but yourself, invest in developing yourself, personally, professionally, emotionally and spiritually. Work towards becoming a better version of yourself.

18. Accept that sometimes the things you want may not come in the manner you expect them to, if you have a goal or an aspiration work hard for it, if you fail give it a go a few more times, but if it isn’t working out, maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Be open to other possibilities of reaching your destination. The mountain may have only one summit but there are many ways to climb it.

19. Hardships are not a curse, they are your greatest opportunities to grow and change, weather the storm – come out stronger and better. If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.

20. Heart breaks condition you to shield your heart from future hurt. But the only way you can receive love is if you open your heart to the possibility of love.

21. Take the road less traveled, you know where the all too frequented road goes, and even if the road less traveled leads to some place you didn’t want to go, you are still wiser for the experience.