It's my birthday!! I'm so happy to have lived to see another year! For this birthday, I decided to share with you 26 bits of wisdom that I've learned in my short life, one for each year. Many of these lessons I am still learning.
- Attitude is everything. So many times my experience has been shaped by my attitude towards it. I can choose joy even on the most terrible days. Sometimes, the difference between a bad day and a great day is your attitude.
- Everyone won't like you. There's nothing you can do about it. Quite frankly, you don't want some people to like you anyway. When people don't like you, it reminds you of two things: (i) you aren't perfect and (ii) people aren't perfect.
- If you try to walk home alone, you might get lost. When I was three years old, we were waiting for my dad to finish talking to everyone after church. Being impatient (and impetuous), I thought that he was taking much too long, and took it upon myself to walk home instead. On the way there, I took a wrong turn at a fork in the road and got lost. Sometimes, it's just better to wait on your Father.
- You outgrow some things, and that's okay. Sometimes it's a pair of jeans, or shoes, or a shirt. Sometimes it's a friendship. Sometimes it's a place. Sometimes it hurts. But growth is key to life, and in the same way that it would be silly to torture yourself by wearing a pair of shoes that's too small, it's not prudent to hold onto other things that you have outgrown either. (See also Genesis 13)
- In some instances God will give you no choice about something because He knows that even if you had but one other option, you'd pick the wrong one. I wish I could say that this happened to me only once...
- Respect your elders. Learn from them. There are so many valuable lessons to be gleaned from the lives of those who come before us. Listen to the stories of the older people in your family or community. There's a wealth of knowledge that they have gathered over the years, and they won't always be around to share it. Learn about your history, it will tell you a lot about who you are, where you came from, and what that means. After all, you didn't just pop up on the earth one day.
My first birthday!
- Sometimes, your family will eat all the salmonburgers. Several years ago, I made salmonburgers for my family. Salmonburgers are pretty much what they sound like, burgers made from salmon. They are hand-made, homemade deliciousness in-between bread. Anyway, I made a bunch of them and left them in the kitchen. My family members ate them all. I didn't get a single one. None. But it's okay, because the salmon burgers were still delicious, and they enjoyed them. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I think.
- "We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior." -Stephen R. Covey. I don't think I need to add anything to this.
- If you're going to do anything, do it properly. If I had a dollar for every time my mother said this to me growing up, I wouldn't have student loans. And she was right. Anything and everything that you do should be done to the best of your ability. Anything and everything in your life can minister to others. If everything you do is sloppily done or poorly put together, what message are you sending? (See also 1 Cor 10:31 & Col 3:17) And on that note...
- Everyone expects 100%. When I was a junior in college, one of my professors said this to me. She explained to me that in every single thing I do, everyone expects me to do it to 100% of my ability and make it a priority. Clearly, if you do five different things, chances are you'd give each about 20%, but that's not what people expect. Each person expects 100%, no matter how many other things you have on your plate.
- Patience is a practice. I know you've heard "patience is a virtue" many times, and it is, but it is also a practice. It is intentionally telling yourself to take a moment, or several moments, to calm down/cool your blood/think things through before acting or reacting. You train yourself to be patient, and it is just like training as a runner: every time you can go a little bit further, and you do get to a point where you can't go on anymore. But the more you train, the further away that point becomes, until you can run one of those super-marathon things without dying (or collapsing, or just giving up). (See also #3.)
- There's a blessing in things taken away too. Most of the time, when we think of God's blessings, we think of things given to us. Blessings are indeed gifts from God, but there are times when the "gift" is something being taken away, instead of being given.
- Be thankful. Even when life does its absolute worst, be thankful that you are alive. Be thankful that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Be thankful when you have a cold, because it means that your immune system is functional. Just be thankful. (See also #1)
- Marriage is like a pair of shoes. This one, interestingly enough, came from my graduate school mentor. She told me that it doesn't matter how cute or fancy they are on the outside, if you're going to wear them for a long time, they need to be comfortable (and sturdily made). I hope to make use of this bit of wisdom someday.
- You never know who is praying for you. As a teenager, I was involved in a dance ministry at my church, a part of which was a combined group with dancers from other churches. Every year we'd have a little awards ceremony. One year, the leaders gave out tokens of appreciation for the adults who had prayed for us over the year. Many of the people who got up to receive these little gifts I had never seen before in my life, but because I was a member of the dance ministry, they were praying for me! How awesome is that?! You just never know who's interceding on your behalf, lifting you up in prayer.
- Don't be afraid to be different! It is our differences that make us distinct, that make us unique. So don't be fearful of doing things a little differently from the rest of the crowd.
- The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. Have you ever thrown something away and then needed it shortly thereafter? Or found something that you really needed once you no longer had need for it? Or received something, met someone, gained an opportunity that seems wonderful, but you KNOW you aren't ready to fully receive/appreciate it? Timing is everything. More importantly, God's timing is everything.
- Everyone needs a wilderness experience. Seriously, at least one. College in Ithaca was mine. I was far away, basically in the middle of nowhere, and I knew no one when I got there. Ithaca has been the place where I've spent some of the loneliest days of my life thus far. It's also the place where I have grown the most, both as a person and as a follower of Christ. Some lifelong friends have also come out of that Ithaca experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
- Don't miss a message from God because you don't like the container it came in. God speaks through anything, and indeed, God speaks through everything. The Bible is filled with stories of the crazy things and messed-up people that God has used to get the attention of His people.
- Sometimes, you have to say no. My mother always used to tell me when I was younger that I didn't know how to say no. As a consequence, I was always too busy, and my time was over-committed, so much so that I'd catch a cold and be sick for weeks because I didn't have time to get better. But gradually, I've learned to say no (or at least, "not right now"), because I don't have time to do all these things and do them well. (See also #10)
- Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24). Your greatest impact is found in dying to self. If you're just caught up in you, you can't bear any fruit. I'm pretty sure this verse will teach me many more lessons in life.
- Tell people how much you appreciate them. This past year, one of my favorite secondary school teachers passed away quite suddenly. She made a huge impact on my life, and taught me how to dodge markers aimed at my head, as well as the most excellent Spanish (I stopped Spanish after 5th form/10th grade and my senior year of college I took the Spanish placement exam and placed into 300-level Spanish [i.e. almost SIX years later]). I never got to tell her how much I appreciated her, or even that I ended up being a language major in college. How I wish I had.
On my 19th birthday!
- Everything that's true doesn't need to be said. I'm not saying to lie to people, but if the truth isn't constructive (constructive => construct => building up), then is it beneficial right at that moment? For example, when I was in fourth form (~9th grade), one of the girls in my class decided to shorten her school uniform skirt by folding its hem on itself and stitching it up. As a result, her school skirt had a hem of about 5-6 inches, which was quite noticeable, and quite frankly, did not look good. She was also sporting a red weave that day. Self-conscious, (mostly thanks to the snide remarks coming from other students) she asked one of the other girls how she looked. The girl replied, "Your hair looks bad, your skirt looks bad; you on the whole look bad." Was it true? Yes. Did it need to be said? Probably not. Definitely not in that manner. (Also, refer to #17.)
- Encourage others. My senior year of college, I was a tutor for students in 100-level biology and chemistry. All of them were students of color, many of them were first-generation students as well, and all were science or pre-health majors, and were struggling in the intro science classes that they were required to take. But we worked hard, and they had practice problems and analogies (and the occasional marker thrown at them for saying foolishness). But I didn't realize until much later that the greatest thing I did for them was that I believed that they could do this whole college thing. One of them said to me one day, "Shanique, sometimes I think you believe in us more than we believe in ourselves." My reply to her was, "Well, someone has to believe in you." They all have either graduated from college, or will graduate this academic year.
- Pick your battles. Not everything in your life requires that you respond to it. It took pretty much the entire 26 years that I've lived thus far to learn this one. I don't think I'm done with this one either.
- Every year that you live, there are more lessons to be learned. And I look forward to them, even if they are difficult ones.
11010 <--- my age in binary because, bits. (Confused? Click here.)
Any bits of wisdom to pass on to me for my birthday?