By Abubakar Jamil
As I look across the horizon at the faces of the young people around me, I weep. A once proud part of the human race, the younger generation has been described as lazy, overemotional, and disrespectful.
I myself used to have all three of these characteristics. Not when I was an adventure-seeking, rambunctious toddler, but as an older high school teenager.
It was at this stage that my foolish rascal tendencies were at their highest. I would constantly complain, care for my friends more than my family, and in general would just talk all the time.
Then came a moment when I wondered where I would end up. Would I remain on track to becoming a doctor like my parents wanted? Am I just going to keep acting like a child for the rest of my life?
This moment would serve as the spark that set in motion a process of learning life lesson, molding me into the person you're reading through your computer screen.
Since then, I've learned a great many things, but these are the lessons that I wished I'd stumbled upon earlier:
1. Everyone's opinion matters only as much as you want them to.
There was a time when everyone's opinion was mine as well. Whatever preferences I formerly held were dashed in the face of another's. This most likely came from a need to please others.
Remember that your opinion matters just as much as the next guy's, whether they make more money than you or are less popular than you. Everyone's opinion holds the same weight.
2. Your emotions are under your control.
Drama, chaos, and emotional unrest — these were what took up most of my time as a teenager. When everyone's obsessed with what's in and what's not, tempers flare; mine mostly.
If I had heard someone said rotten things behind my back, I'd erupt. Go crazy. Looking back on those tantrums now, I'm not too surprised. After all, when you have little self control, anything is possible.
The lessons here is, remain aware of how you react.
3. Arguments are pointless.
Will one small quarrel among friends decide the fate of the entire universe? In my world it felt like it. I just wanted so much to be right and for them so much to be wrong. But in the end, it only resulted in me wasting my time and in the other person storming off in frustration.
Is there really a point to arguing? Unless it's absolutely necessary, I've learned that it's better to hold your breath on things you can't control at all.
Arguing to change someone's mind is one of them.
4. Your parents only want what's best for you.
I'm not saying every parent wants what's best for you (there are outliers), but in general, parents do what they do for you in your best interest.
My parents used to make me do the dishes, cook dinner, sweep the floors, mow the lawn, take out the garbage… the list goes on and on. And at every turn, I'd whine and complain. I'd eventually end up doing it.
Now, I honestly see the value in having learned those skills. I can efficiently cook and clean up after myself — what's not to like?
And even though I despised school, I thank them for the education they helped me acquire.
5. Societal norms don't mean anything.
When you define your life by what society tells you, trust me, life gets much harder to live. You're constantly on the edge thinking to yourself, "Am I behind the times? What's the normal thing to do? Is this acceptable?"
For me, this came from not having confidence in myself to be who I am. I believe that when we are children, we already internalize this. We care not for society, but only for expressing ourselves. Then after puberty, we starting caring a bit too much.
So much so that we begin to lose ourselves.
Let's go back to who we used to be. Carefree of norms and happy for simply living a life our own.
6. You aren't stuck in any situation.
Whenever I’d lose a friend, get an awful grade, or disappoint my parents, I stewed in my own muck. Waiting for the bad moments to go away seemed to be the only solution. Fortunately, I know now that you don’t have to be stuck in bad situations.
You can go out and create better ones.
It all depends on perspective; on how you see the situation. Viewing everything as a learning experience makes life more pleasurable, even during the hard times.
You aren't stuck. You can move on.
7. You learn by doing.
This a lesson that I unknowingly followed for quite some time. I used to try everything at least once, just to see how it was like. But as I entered my teen years, I became wary of trying new things.
Skepticism enraptured me, fear grabbed hold of me, and soon… I became gutless.
I would count myself out of the race before I was even in it.
I think the lesson here is clear.
You cannot change what you didn't know back then.
Though, it would be nice to transfer wisdom across the time-space continuum. I wish I could tell my younger, immature self all of this.
I'd tell him to relax and everything will be fine. All you have to do is believe everything will be okay and believe in your abilities, regardless of any path you choose.
Nonetheless, I'm glad to have learned these lessons the way I did. Each experience helped shape me to become a better person. I don't know if any young people are reading this, but if they are, I'd like to say this:
"Listen to life and it's experiences. Everyone goes through mostly the same things."
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