There are moments you understand, you accept (unhappily sometimes), and you’re completely baffled by in life. Moving abroad can give you some of these big moments, good and bad, but so can growing up and interacting with people. And the more you socialize and get to know other people, the more you think about your own life, judge yourself, and judge them. Judging people isn’t always nice or fair, but I’m beginning to agree that it is human nature. I don’t necessarily understand why, or why we have this thing in society where we can’t be happy for other women and we are constantly competing for something, but alas, that’s another topic swimming around in my head.
Regardless, as I’m now in my late 20s, I kinda wish there was stuff my mom would have told me about life and growing up. It feels like no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will experience things that you did not anticipate or want. And this is my list to share with you-
Stuff No One Told Me About Life:
1. When you move around in and outside of the country, you get older, your life takes a different path— your friends will not always be there for you. Like a job interview and application, you will have to polish yourself, make good first impressions and try hard to make new friends. Another thing– not everyone you meet will want to be your friend. And that’s ok! Just know, unlike Friends and other sitcoms, you will have moments of loneliness and you will feel like there is no one in the world to talk with about it (especially abroad). But when the time comes (and you’ll feel it), you will try harder to make lasting friendships.
2. Your dream job might in fact be just a dream. Nothing is impossible, dreams do come true, and you should always strive to pursue your dreams, blah blah. But sometimes things don’t work out, there is no job available where you’re looking (hello Germany and my desire to be a librarian again), they don’t accept your credentials….and at those times you have to go, well what can I do for right now? You can get hung up and keep looking, never settling for something different or lesser than you’d like, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Do what you have to do so that someday you can do what you want to do.
3. Be yourself, and never compromise who you are for anything and anyone. Be strong! Stand up for yourself, even if you have some character trait that is difficult and isn’t immediately liked by others. You are the only constant in your own life, for better or worse. You can either fight yourself to be different or you can accept your own idiosyncrasies and just explain it to others who don’t understand. And believe me, those who understand won’t care and those who are offended won’t matter.
4. Complain when you need, you absolutely need, to complain. If you go to a restaurant and you order pasta and they send you a pork-chop, and you really frickin’ wanted that pasta, well you’d complain right? You’d say something to someone. Why is life, as a whole, any different? If you aren’t happy, talk about it. Vent. Get it out. In doing so, you might find a solution to your problem, you might realize things aren’t so bad, and you might meet people who understand what you’re going through. It’s healthy and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. Besides, isn’t complaining a whole lot healthier than being destructive toward yourself or others?
5. Always tip your servers. Unless they threw a glass at your head and called you fat, or any other criminal and heinous thing- tip them. And don’t be cheap about it. They work just as hard as you do, even if you don’t see it.
6. Don’t judge books by the cover. Literally. There are plenty of great books out there with terrible covers. And once you get past 50-60 pages (if it’s small, 100 if it’s big) and you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it. You aren’t in school anymore, there isn’t going to be a test later about it. This also applies to people.
7. Take care of yourself. Learn to moisturize properly so you don’t get bumps on your skin, do some physical activity that you like doing (I love tennis, can anyone tell me where to do this in Nürnberg?), read books to keep your mind sharp, and challenge yourself when you’re bored. I swear, this is the best life lesson I’ve learned so far. If you don’t take care of yourself as you get older, remember, no one else will do it for you.
8. When you’re young, wine isn’t the first thing you want to drink. As you get older, realize wine is awesome. And there’s lots of different kinds, so if you hate one, there’s bound to be one you’ll like. And also- wine isn’t a drink for and of yuppies (which I always thought). Do as the Europeans do, enjoy it and stop judging it.
9. You are not one of the X-Men. No matter how hard you try to develop telekinesis or telepathy or weather-changing abilities, you simply cannot be an X-Man. But remember, there are people who think you are special and worthwhile even without mutant powers, so you owe it to them to stop wasting your time trying to be something impossible.
10. Real-life, grown-up love is not a fairytale. You might never have formal dates, you might never have worn the perfect dress for the first kiss. The proposal might not be as romantic as you hoped and imagined it would be BUT romance is in the little things like remembering to make someone tea when they’re sick, or cuddling up on the couch while watching a movie. If you only accepted things based on what you believed things to be when you read unrealistic books and watched even more unrealistic movies, you would not experience anything! The same goes for travel. Paris may not be as magical as you thought, and Rome is really, really crowded. But that doesn’t make it any less romantic or lessen your experiences. Travel! Love! Be happy! Nothing is never what you expect, and thank goodness it isn’t— imagine how boring that would be?
And that’s what I learned so far. That and- sunscreen (even if you are half-black), when in Italy forget about dieting and eat the damn gelato!, and it’s ok when you don’t know the top songs on the charts (they aren’t that good anyway… :-))