It might seem funny to some people that I have no regrets for anything I’ve ever done. I’m never sorry about stuff either. That probably sounds really arrogant but I always used to say to kids ‘Don’t bother saying Sorry. Either you meant to do it and you’re not sorry, or you wouldn’t have done it’ and it’s as true now as it ever was. Plus, we say sorry because we regret stuff and I can’t regret anything.
I think of life as a series of learning curves. I would. I’m a teacher. It’s all about learning. I’d rather take a lesson away from stuff than take a regret. I’m human. I make mistakes, but I don’t regret them – that would just be wasted energy. And if I make the mistake once, I learn. Sometimes it takes me a lot longer to get the message. It took me 10 years of being miserable in teaching and three job changes before I realised the lessons within:
1. I’m not cut out for bitchiness or misery and I can’t work with people who would rather be mean than be nice. That’s an important lesson. Now it means I only surround myself with people who are nice not mean and the occasional showdown with an imbecile in an office or on a phone-line is easy to walk away from.
2. I’m not cut out to be in the teaching profession as it is right now. That’s neither of our faults. It’s a different beast than one I can ride.
But I bet I have another 37 things I’ve learned – not regrets for crappy stuff, but lessons that life has taught me – sometimes in really, really tough ways and sometimes in really, really lovely ways.
3. Family are who you are and nobody knows you like they do
4. Sometimes, people let you down. It’s not because they want to let you down, but because it’s the only way they can get out of whatever it is alive. Sometimes, they’ll rob your promotion. Sometimes, they’ll not do the things they say they’ll do. Sometimes, they really, really land you in it. But they’ve got their own stuff going on and not a lot of it will actually be to do with you.
5. Don’t regret the end of friendships or love lives. These things always have a sell-by date. Sometimes, that date is the day you die. Sometimes it’s the day after you met. But it will end some day. That’s the only thing that’s inevitable about it. So enjoy it while you can. Friendships are like cream cakes. If you don’t make the most of them whilst they’re available to you, then they’re going to go sour. And they will sour eventually. Such is life. Some friendships are like a tin of hot dogs – they’ll last for ages and are great in an emergency. Their best before has been wiped off and you can’t really remember what it contains, but it’s great to have as a stand-by.
6. Never be afraid to let people into your life. By shutting people out, the loneliness will drive you mental. It’s only when you let them in, and let them see you that you realise how connected you are. This comes with a cost – and that’s that things always change and decay. Such is life. It IS better to have loved and lost.
7. Our time on this planet is brief beyond belief. Look at some video footage of how small earth is compared to the rest of the universe. Imagine the size of you on that planet. We’re not even anything as a planet, let alone a person. And our time on this planet is short when you put it in perspective of how old the galaxy is. You’re virtually insignificant. That is, except for your nearest and dearest. They’re what is important, not whether you have the latest iphone.
8. Sometimes, you can’t do right for doing wrong.
9. If you need to tell someone to appreciate you, they’re not going to. Ever. Even if you tell them. In fact, that’s counter-productive. If you aren’t appreciated, move on. This is very true of jobs. I reckon a very good employee is appreciated for about a year.
10. Everyone IS replaceable, but everyone is unique.
11. People make mistakes. Step away from those people who keep making the same one.
12. If it looks and feels like an episode of Jeremy Kyle, steer the hell away from it. The same is true of car crashes and imploding stars.
13. Sometimes, children don’t appreciate their parents until they’re old. The lucky among us get to tell our parents just how much they mean to us.
14. Some people have very crap parents and won’t feel the same way. But I do believe, even of the worst parent, they’re doing the best they can in the best way they know how.
15. If you go around seeing the worst in everybody, it’s all you’ll ever see. 99.999% of humankind are good, helpful people who might not have you as their main priority, but who probably think like you.
16. We G8 or G20 countries are blessed beyond belief. We’ll never fully appreciate what it is like not to have to worry about where our next sip of water will come from. 1 in 5 people on the planet have that worry.
17. You can’t carry around middle-class white person G8 guilt and you can’t just keep doing charity to make up for your accident of birth. Your birth might have been an accident, but it is up to you how you use it to do the most of what you can in life.
18. Despite this, altruism is THE best gift of humanity. You might not have a lot to give away, so give the most of yourself to everyone you can.
19. Forget religion and politics and banks once in a while. Nothing is too big to fail is a very popular meme right now, but it’s true. Nobody exists right now who remembers Ghenghis Khan. Time might be a tough salve on a personal level, but on a global level, we’re very good at forgetting the worst wounds inflicted upon us by the worst men (or women)
20. If you don’t celebrate what is good in life – literature, art, theatre, music, community, singing – then you forget what mankind can do right when we put our minds to it.
21. And if you think mankind has made some terrific achievements, go and look at the world. Whatever we can do, Nature trumps, every time. Look at the stars. Look at the river. We are fascinated by these things much more than we ever are by stuff than man can do. And they’re just small stuff for Nature.
22. Don’t be cruel.
23. Especially, don’t be cruel to animals. They need us to look after them. That’s the best we can do.
24. Many animals are better than some people.
25. Everything changes. People don’t like this. It can be scary. The most miserable people are those who haven’t realised that it is the nature of mankind to change and those who try to cling on to the past.
26. Only ever look back if you want to see how far you’ve come or enjoy the past. Forget all the rubbish. It just weighs you down. Make it your life mission to only remember the good things having learned from the bad then left them behind.
27. Nothing you do is unique. Someone’s always done it before you. What’s intrepid to you is a cake walk to someone else.
28. Ask yourself ‘will this matter in 10 years time?’ and ‘will anyone even remember?’ and you’ll find, when the answer is no, that your troubles will be a little lighter.
29. Find your sanctuary in life. Sometimes that’s a person. Sometimes it’s a place or a state of mind, but keep it with you always – if only as a state of mind.
30. Don’t accuse people of stuff. Mostly, if you accuse them of a thing, it’s usually something you are doing yourself. There’s this woman I know. She’s a Jeremy Kyle show thing. But she likes to say ‘take a good look at yourself!’ when really she’d do well to apply that to herself. Know that most accusations are transference and guilt. And then let it go. People are only human and it’s not about you. It’s about them.
31. Remember in your sad times that though there are sad times, they never stay sad. Like the sun always comes out, and it does, it ALWAYS comes out, something happy will come along. It just does. That’s life.
32. And know that, when there are happy times, enjoy them, but know they won’t last. That’s life too.
33. You might lose out sometimes if you put your trust in people. But mostly you won’t. Don’t let the trustworthy out there get soured by the untrustworthy. You’ll always get back more than you put in.
34. Share. Gift. You’ll always get back more than you put in on that, too. Don’t be afraid to put your emotions and energy into people – more than they do for you. Life isn’t a balancing of books, a scratching of backs. Enjoy the giving and expect nothing. If you expect nothing back, you can’t ever be let down.
35. Whilst you shouldn’t expect or demand anything in return, if you expect people to act as you would do, mostly they will. And if they don’t, don’t concern yourself with it. Step away from the wreckage of it and just forgive them (to yourself) that they let you down. They had their reasons. Either they’ll beat themselves up more over it than you ever would have wanted them to, or they won’t give a shit. And if they didn’t give a shit about letting you down, you’re lucky they let you down because at least you saw the truth in them. They might be a minority, but there are some people out there who are twisted up beyond belief.
36. Most people don’t need you to tell them what their weaknesses are. If you need to tell them, they won’t believe you.
37. Support all the good people you know as much as you can. And then some. The more you support them, the more they’ll support you. Pay it forward.
38. Some people will go out of their way to help you. A guy in Tokyo once drove me and some other gaijin across town in his tiny car because we were lost. We only wanted directions, but that man’s magnanimity is more appreciated than he will ever know. Most people are good like that if they’ve got the ability to be.
39. Don’t bother listening to me and my lessons in life. Better people have said what I say in better ways hundreds of times over. Note to self: read more, listen more, talk less, write less. Someone, somewhere has the answer to your question, the words you need to hear.
There you go. 39 pieces of advice. I bet you already think like this already, mostly. Meh.
I think it comes down to this, for me.
Look for the light and accept the darkness.