By Aubrey Schultz
Life is full of lessons. From the moment we are born we begin a long journey of learning, growing, and flourishing into the person we are meant to be. Through each phase of our lives the lessons we learn and the values we establish become deeper and more profound. As a senior in college graduating this spring, I am able to look back on my last three and a half years at Central Washington University and pinpoint the top five life lessons I have learned since being here. Moving away from home allowed me the independence and perspective I needed in order to develop my own opinions, establish my own beliefs, and gain experiences that now reflect the life lessons I will choose to live by.
Life is available only in the present moment.
Often times, college is a trap for what I like to call “future-tripping”. You know, you’re sitting on the couch at 10pm eating a bowl of cereal and watching Netflix when BAM. It hits you. What am I going to do after college? Where am I going to live? Am I even ready to be a real-life-adult?! Before you know it you are questioning anything and everything, and life after college seems like a terrifying nightmare so you spend the rest of the night in a panic. Yep. You’re future-tripping. What I’ve learned, is that life is only available in the present moment. If we are constantly thinking about what comes next, whether its “where will I be in 5 years” or “what am I going to have for lunch tomorrow,” we are missing out on life’s truest and most available form of happiness. Don’t let life pass you by because you were too caught up in what comes next or what just happened. Of course it is always good to prepare and think ahead, but there is a difference in anticipating the future and becoming obsessed with it.
It is better to give people the benefit of the doubt than it is to fill in the unknown with negative assumptions.
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Ever heard this saying? Allow me to shine a new light on it for you! I have recently discovered that a large amount of the time and energy I put towards negative thoughts and destructive ideas are all a product of my own imagination.
Assumptions are nothing but a ginormous trap for feeling like total crap.
It’s true! As human beings we sometimes live a very self-centered life. Every day we wake up, go through an entire day, and go to sleep as ourselves. We ONLY experience life through our own perspective. So, it’s inevitable that sometimes we are going to get wrapped up in ourselves, right? Right. However, it is important to remember that every other person you come into contact with is also a human being who is also experiencing life exclusively through their own perspective.
At the end of the day, we are SO much more alike than think. Someone glared at you during passing period? Maybe they were still thinking about that test they just failed when their eyes just happened to meet yours. You heard rumors about someone speaking negatively about you at a party? Yikes. Maybe the peer pressure kicked in and they slipped into the temptation of bonding with someone over mutual annoyance of another human being. Or better yet, maybe that rumor you heard was completely made up in the first place.
We are ALL human, so it should be easy to understand when someone isn’t perfect, because neither are we! Don’t get me wrong, some people just suck and really do have bad intentions. In that case, those people simply aren’t worth your time or energy. But in most cases, people have good intentions! Life is just really hard and confusing. And it’s impossible to be perfect all the time. So cut your friends, family, and peers some slack. We are all just trying to navigate through life together. Life is easier when you just give people the benefit of the doubt.
Once you stop learning, you start dying.
Learning. What comes to mind when you read that word? Learning. For most of you, I would imagine you think of something like school, class, research, studying, tutorials, lessons, etc. Well, I have developed a completely new connotation with this incredibly important word. Life is all about learning. And no, I’m not just talking about the list of boring words I mentioned previously.
Believe it or not, learning can be really fun and thrilling once you change your perspective on what it means. To me, learning means developing, extending, transforming, expanding, and discovering. These words give life purpose. I find that as a human being I feel the most happy, victorious, and purposeful when I am constantly and consistently learning. And even the tiniest, nonchalant, and simplest learning moments count. In fact, some of the most profound things I have ever learned bloomed from the simplest ideas.
For example, yesterday I was reflecting on my high school experience. (yikes, right?) In doing so, I started to question the insecurities I had, the relationships I made, and the thoughts that went through my mind during this season of my life. After a lot of pondering and discussing with some close friends, I learned SO MUCH about myself! I was able to connect a lot of my own flaws and self-struggles today to early-on factors that really shaped the person I am now.
This new discovery and understanding of who I am and why I am the way that I am had me SHOOK. It made me excited to continue life with a better self-understanding and an excitement to discover new things not only about myself but about everything in life!
Most times, the negative things we point out about other people are direct reflections of the insecurities within ourselves.
Ya know what’s really hard? Admitting our own flaws and insecurities. Seriously. It takes a lot of humility and vulnerability to set our pride aside and be truly honest about the faults and imperfections that exist within us. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way, after several instances of escaping this difficult process of self-reflection.
I have discovered that unfortunately, it is MUCH easier to blame others in moments where we feel insecure or threatened than it is to simply fess up to our own insecurities.
Here is an example.
When I was a freshman here at Central I felt small, discouraged, and scared. Reasonably so, right? College can be scary! The transition from being a big fish in a small pond to being a smaller fish in bigger pond left me feeling really insecure and unsure of my capabilities. However, at the time I wasn’t honest with myself about these feelings.
It is only looking back that I am able to identify this period of self-doubt I went through. Looking back, I can also identify a pattern in the way I viewed others, specifically the ones who were successful and handling this transition much better than I was.
“Omg she just thinks she is better than everyone else,” or “Psh, he is so pompous and flaunty.”
I wish I could revisit my freshman-year-self and say “Does she just think she is better than everyone else? Or do YOU just think she is better than everyone else and that makes you feel insecure? Is he pompous and flaunty? Or are you just jealous of how successful he is?”
This new perspective has changed my life. I have learned more about myself than ever by reversing the negative feelings I have towards others into a reflection of what is going on inside of myself. And nine times out of ten, the negative attributes I observe about others are completely wrong and fabricated in order to protect my own ego.
Ever since this light bulb went off in my head I see the world differently. I am able to appreciate so much more about people because I no longer blame my insecurities on them. This process was really hard. I can tell you right now that it definitely wasn’t easy to realize and fully admit that I was the product of such toxic behavior.
But it was worth it, because not only do I have a more positive perspective on others, but I am more in tune with myself than ever before.
A meaningful life is what you define it to be.
If I had one piece of advice to share from my experience these last four years, this would be it. This has been the key to my own peace of mind and contentment.
So often, the world likes to tell us what happiness and success look like. Maybe it’s a certain amount of money, a certain career path, a specific order of events, or any other societally praised outcome.
I have definitely been a victim to this sort of pressure.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of living to please others or living to meet a certain expectation that others or ourselves have set for us. Somehow we convince ourselves that happiness looks a certain way and that our heart will magically be happy if only we stick to a certain path or if only we live a certain way. I have found that true happiness is much simpler than it’s made out to be.
Find what makes YOU personally feel fulfilled and over-the-moon about being alive and then live that.
What is it that makes your heart beat fast? What about life gives you chills (the good kind of chills) when you think about it? What is something that you could talk about for hours and hours that leaves you feeling thrilled, fulfilled and enthusiastic about life?
The most admirable and impressive person in the world is someone who is truly happy. Despite anything else, the person who is truly content and blissful always wins.
Think about it this way.
Some people feel on top of the world when they run a marathon. Others would rather die. A meaningful life is what YOU define it to be. And no matter what other people tell you, no matter what the world portrays happiness to be, YOU are the only person who truly knows the answer to that question. It’s going to be different for every single person, and that’s okay!
Life is simply too short to do anything but what makes you feel like your truest, most authentic, happiest, most fulfilled self.
Aubrey Schultz is a Hype Street Team Coordinator with the CWU Publicity Center. She will graduate this spring with a BFA in Musical Theatre.