Let’s admit it, 2016 has been a rough year for most of us. We had some personal and national triumphs, I’m sure, but a year-long bitter, divisive presidential election clobbered us like hail. And now, more than ever, I remember and take pride in some of the most important lessons my parents taught me as a child, that I’ll pass on to my future children.
1. Work hard for everything you want.
At times it can be a drudge, but find what you’re passionate about and pursue that. Passion ignites purpose. I was fortunate enough to have parents who never imposed a career path on me; their only requirement was that I worked to achieve anything I wanted and ‘impossible’ was only a word. I grew up knowing that there was a chance I may not always get what I want in life, but the only way to find out was to pursue my dreams. A part of that entails rarely listening to those who tell you why you can’t and instead finding the people who can tell you how you can.
2. Never compare yourself to others.
Stay focused on your own goals. By running your own race you’ll always win. Simple.
3. Don’t live above or even within your means, live below them.
I learned this particular lesson from my mother and it’s one of my favorites. I enjoy cheap rental apartments, making my own hair products, doing my own hair instead of going to a salon, making my own crafts, using coupons, shopping when there’s a sale and I eat in more than I dine out. I don’t think that’s overboard at all, *shrugs*. The point is, I grew up understanding that I should always try to spend a lot less than I make. I like to call it the Warren Buffett principle: “Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.”
4. It’s okay to say no.
I grew up knowing I always had a choice. Things like school, church, chores and having manners were mandatory. However, if I declined to hug someone I didn’t know or just met, or opted to become a vegetarian at 13-years-old, among other things, my parents gave me the freedom to
say yes or no. One of the best things any parent can do is ensure their child doesn’t acquiesce their way through life. Don’t get me wrong: I grew up appreciating the significance of compromise, but I was always aware that it’s okay to say no to things that I wasn’t comfortable with.
5. Refuse abuse.
Know when to step away from an unhealthy relationship – whether it’s platonic, familial or romantic. If it’s bad – leave. Many of us have been in horrible relationships that we simply refuse to let go of because we believe if we just love the person through their pain, things will eventually get better. It won’t. Stepping away from any kind of domestic abuse whether it is emotional, physical, sexual, or a combination is never easy, but with the right resources and as little
as two trustworthy family members or friends – it can be done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been stuck in the relationship for a day, a month, a year or several years, as long as you are alive, it’s not too late. At this point, I want to pass on what was passed down to me: Self-love and saying you deserve more is an absolute act of bravery. In the wise words of Maggie Kuhn, “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind — even if your voice shakes.” Refuse abuse.
6. Meet people of different backgrounds.
The only way to properly function in todays globalized word, is to be meet people who have diverse perspectives. It makes you more aware of global issues and adds dimension to your life. The fact is, if you don’t know people of varying backgrounds, it becomes increasingly impossible to understand their reality and that’s how biases are formed.
7. Read a lot. Read everything.
My mom is a teacher, so it goes without saying that as a child, my idea of having oodles of fun was reading a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book. It’s also no surprise that as an adult, I opted to pursue journalism and public relations as viable career paths. Read everything – no one has ever regretted too much knowledge.
8. You’ll make mistakes, lots of them.
No one loves failure, but the fact is everyone makes mistakes at some point. That’s how you grow. Don’t allow the fear of failure to keep you stuck in a comfort zone that doesn’t allow you to maximize your potential. When a failure occurs, take some time to access what went wrong, how you can correct the mistake then move forward. A loss will always teach you how to win if you’re willing to learn from the mistake.
9. No, you can’t solve all your problems alone.
Irrespective of how great you are at solving some of your problems alone, you won’t be able to do that for every problem. Seek out wise counsel in the form of parents, friends, a mentor or counsellor. It’s okay to say you need help. It’s okay not to be okay.
10. Guard your reputation.
It takes years to build a reputation and just seconds to shatter it. In the age of social media, that also means seeing yourself as a brand and managing your online reputation. Don’t overshare. My mom used to say, “Leave a little mystery.”
11. Be kind.
Sadly, ‘othering’ has become the new normal and hate has become commonplace. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to stand up for others, not only because you’d want someone to do the same for you, but also because it’s the right thing to do.
12. Enjoy life.
This is a truism espoused by my dad. He has always been a firm believer in enjoying and living life to the fullest. Admittedly, I didn’t adopt this philosophy until very recently. Sometimes we get so
caught up sweating the small stuff, the medium stuff, the large stuff…all the stuff…and forget to enjoy life’s beautiful moments – even the small ones. With that said, one of the best parenting tips I’ll pass on to my children is don’t forget to live, love and laugh – a lot!
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