Stoop Kid’s Afraid to Leave the Stoop
If you’ve ever seen the movie You’ve Got Mail, you’ll understand me when I say I have the “Kathleen Kelly Syndrome.” I often have trouble saying exactly what I mean. Instead, I find it easier to outsource by using quotes or songs to convey my message. That’s why you’ll find a few of my favorites scattered throughout this post: my senior column.
While I could overload you with Third Eye Blind, Barenaked Ladies, John Mayer, or Lady Antebellum, I’ll try to do my best to give you some original content with a side of wisdom. I’m not going to pretend that at 21 I have figured out some magnificently profound outlook on life, but I do know what helps me cope with the fear of the future and every other daunting emotion I feel day in day out as I try to make my mark on the world.
Don’t Let Your Expectations Ruin Your Perception Of Reality
You wake up every morning and develop new expectations whether you admit it or not. You have hopes for how the day is going to turn out; pass a test, hang out with a friend, get an interview. You make plans that you assume will work out exactly the way you want them to. Then, as is the universe’s plan, something happens and throws a wrench in the whole operation. Frustration and disappointment ensues, and you’re stuck focusing on what didn’t work out instead of finding the positive side of things. I know, easier said than done. But chances are, the situation is not as earth shattering as you may think at first glance. If you take a second to find an optimistic angle you will feel a lot better about how things worked out, and less like the universe is out to get you personally. You have the choice to make it a great day.
Progress Is Sharing The Burdens
A few weeks ago I watched a YouTube clip focused around the theme of ‘progress is sharing the burdens.’ The message was that each one of us has the capability of helping others in need based on our own skills and resources. A big part of the way I live my life goes along with this idea and can be summed up by this quote: “The surest way to make yourself happy is to make someone else happy.” For some reason, this saying really works for me. Helping others by sharing their burdens makes me feel like I have a place in the world and a job to do, and seeing the after effects – a smile on a friend’s face, the total for the Penn State Dance Marathon raised at the end of the weekend, or even a simple thank you – lets me know that I have succeeded.
Facing Fears, Facing Life
I never wanted to ride the roller coasters. Not even the small ones. That feeling where your stomach is halfway up your esophagus as you head face first towards the ground never struck me as an experience I needed to have. Little did I know, that’s exactly how you feel at various points throughout your life, even if your feet are planted firmly on the ground with your body parts in all the right places. At some point in high school I tricked myself into getting on a roller coaster, and though I laughed/cried hysterically the whole time, I didn’t want to get off. I’m pretty sure I rode the same ride a few times in a row. I figured out the best way to trick myself into getting on the ride was by saying ‘it will be over in a matter of minutes.’ Since then I’ve been able to calm any resounding fears with the same attitude. It works on everything from going to the dentist (I have 6 wisdom teeth that have to come out right after graduation, god help me) to taking a test, or going through your first big-kid job interview. Any time I find myself facing a scenario that is scary, daunting, or new, I think back to my fear of that stomach-in-throat feeling and I step onto the ride anyways. As we all know, life is so short sometimes it feels like it was over in a matter of minutes.
The Answer Is 42
We go through life constantly questioning ‘the system,’ rarely getting any answers. Each of us has our own way of getting through the tough times and being thankful for the good times. Religion, philosophy, and artistic expression are a few ways humans cope with the daily mysteries of life. I can’t profess to being religious. I don’t thank God or any similar figure for my blessings. I believe in myself and my ability to take control of my life and make things happen. If something doesn’t work out the way I wanted it to I try harder. Years ago I found a quote that has since defined the way I live, and has filled the void left by not having any sort of official “faith” to pray to. Rainer Maria Rilke said:
“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answers.”
Print that quote out and tape it to as many surfaces in your daily life as you can. Let it resonate with you in the same way it has with me over the past 6 years. Don’t waste your time trying to find the answers to life. They always say it’s not the destination that matters, it’s how you got there. I am living the questions, facing my fears, sharing burdens, and accepting reality. When I graduate in two weeks I have faith that I will go forth and conquer.
Sarah Kay performs her poem “If I Should Have A Daughter” at a TED event in March 2011.