After 21 years of life, I know everything now (obviously), so I figured I would share my wisdom with everyone else. Many of these things I could elaborate on a lot more, and in future blogs/vlogs I hope to do just that. But for now, here’s a distilled version of things you’ve probably heard a lot before, this time with my own take on them.
Wait...no, I don’t know everything. Not by any means. In fact, I’m still quite clueless. But that’s okay, because knowing everything, especially at only 21 years old, would be boring. I wouldn’t have the excitement of messing up occasionally and learning from it.
The future might be uncertain but that doesn’t mean it’s scary. You can’t move forward if you fear the future, if you fear what might come next. Instead, you have to dive in and just go. My late grandmother’s family had a saying that goes, Comme je trouve, French for “As I find.” Basically, you just take things as they come, one day at a time.
Seeking validation from external sources doesn’t work if it doesn’t first come from within. I think we have a real problem today of seeking validation from others in a number of ways because we cannot provide that validation on our own. We often just don’t feel “good enough” about ourselves, so we expect that other people can make us feel like we matter. But this external validation is fleeting if we still harbor our insecurities inside. Which connects to the next point...
Social media is a fun tool, but don’t obsess over it. Don’t depend on it as a source of validation! It’s not worth all of the energy. This is where so many people around my age develop terrible anxiety, because they base their self worth on how many likes or followers they have. And it is easy to say “Oh no, I don’t have a problem with that” (admittedly, I would have said the same thing to myself not long ago). Yes, to a minimal extent, getting more attention from your online presence can make you feel better, at least a little bit, but it becomes a vicious competition of the social hierarchy, to see who can be the most popular, get the most attention, and then it just never feels like it’s enough. So if you can get your validation from yourself as stated in #3, then you should be able to have fun with social media, and not allow it to become a source of anxiety.
If you’re passionate about something, don’t be afraid to express it. In fact, I’ve learned that people find it really inspiring when you’re passionate about something, whether it’s something they personally care for or not. For example, I love classical music. I’m crazy about it. If I continue to be openly and unapologetically passionate, hopefully it’ll rub off on others who would otherwise never look into classical music and make them, at the very least, curious.
Music may be my greatest passion, but that doesn’t mean it is the only thing in my life. I like having friends to goof around with; I like watching movies; I want to fall madly in love with someone someday. Some people might say this makes me “distracted” and hampers me from being the best musician possible. I say it makes me human, and gives me a richer life.
Having fitness goals and routines is great and will definitely make you feel better, mind, body and spirit, but if you spend too much time being overly critical of your body, you won’t feel good about it anymore. Fitness shouldn’t cause you anxiety, it should literally release anxiety. I used to feel so self-conscious at the gym because I compared my own body with the other guys’ who had clearly made more progress than me. But I learned to love my body as it is, and that I will make progress at my own pace, and feel great about it.
Don’t be that person who wallows in their single-life. There was a time recently in which all three of my siblings were in committed relationships at the same time, and I was the only one rocking the single life. That’s right--rocking it! Yeah, at first I felt insecure about it, but then I acknowledged how we’re all at different points in our lives. Then I could feel better about myself, and happier for my siblings.
but not all at once.
but be present.
Determine what your values are and check in with them from time to time, to see how they might be evolving or remaining the same as the years go by.
And when you know what your values are, live by them. We had a saying at my old grade school, Words teach, actions speak. So you should always consider how your own lifestyle and how your decisions reflect the values you hold dearest to your heart. Inevitably, we are at times inconsistent and arguably hypocritical in how we express our values, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live by them as thoroughly as possible.
Life isn’t always pleasant, and just as it is important to look for the light, it is also important to acknowledge the dark. Otherwise you start living in a fantasy world where everything is just fun and colorful, but remaining ignorant of life’s harsh realities. We all suffer in some way at different points in our lives, some more than others. Acknowledging this pain is healthy, because it forces us to confront the very things we want to change.
If you come from a place of privilege, use it to help others. The world we live in is full of inequality and injustice, and if by some dumb luck you were born into a place of privilege, use that position to speak up for the poor and the persecuted.
In every experience, no matter how it goes, try finding what you loved about it. For example, in our composition recitals at school, many of my colleagues will walk out the concert hall ripping the pieces they just heard to shreds, reflecting on what they hated, what they thought was ineffective or how it totally conflicted with their own aesthetic. While it is empowering to think critically, sometimes I find that these thoughts come from a point of insecurity. Instead, I try to find something in every new piece of music I hear that I like, something I would do in my own music. And if I really can’t do that, then I simply appreciate how great it is someone created anything in the first place.
“Perfection is the enemy of done,” in the words of my mother. This one really drives me nuts as an artist, because I want my work to express exactly how I feel. But to a certain point, I could make changes endlessly to a piece of music, constantly recrafting it again and again and probably not getting any closer to the “ideal.” With every piece I compose, I will get better at expressing myself. But if every single one has to be 100% perfect at this early stage in my training, then I will have a very small, likely nonexistent, portfolio.
Your own struggles matter and your own problems are real. So you should never feel ashamed about the things that bother you. You should never feel ashamed to ask for help.
I love my life, and everything about it. The good and the bad, the triumphs and frustrations; all of the experiences and all of the people. I have learned countless lessons in the last 21 years, and reflecting on them emphasizes the importance of taking nothing for granted. I have so much more to learn, but I’d like to think I am on the right track with the wisdom I have gained so far.
Oh wait--one more:
21. Tequila is not my friend.