Ten Things I’m Glad I’ve Learned

I’ve learned a lot of things in my life so far, and some lessons are more memorable than others, whether or not they are more important. This list compiles the ones that have gotten me further.

I’m glad I’ve learned:

1. That I’m afraid of being alone. I was raised in a big family, in a close community and an easy routine where I saw the same faces regularly. I never needed to be alone. But then I began the process of growing up; fell in love, said goodbye, moved to college, and realized that sometime, somehow, I am going to be one small person in a big crowd. It was going to happen, and I realized that it terrified me. I didn’t want it, to grow up and lose the people who knew me better than I knew myself. But at that time, I had the best friend in the whole world by my side, who knew how I felt and why. She was the one who brought my fear to my attention, and I’m grateful. Because as soon as I learned about it, I started learning how to fight it.

2. How to be alone (sometimes). I am an extreme introvert. My parents worry about me often because of how long I can stay in my room and go without talking to anyone. It is quite contradictory to what I just told you, to my fear of being alone. It goes hand in hand, and I don’t know how that works either. But it works for me because, as Charles Bukowski said, “Beware those who seek constant crowds for they are nothing alone.” I know that in a crowd of people, I am not a part of them. I just happen to be among them. I draw strength from myself, deep in the wells of my own thoughts, and I exist alone. Yes, I will get lonely if I go long enough without sharing my thoughts with anyone, and somewhere in time it will begin to hurt. But I will continue to exist, and that means I’ll get the chance to find someone.

3. The power of words. This can be divided into two: reading and writing. Reading is a passion passed down to me and my sister by our Dad (and which I’m very grateful for!) It is also a passion I’m known for. I don’t get tired of receiving books for Christmas and birthdays, or any occasion with gifts. They add color and comfort to a world that leaves me jaded. It has given me many lives to live, and worlds to live them in. Reading has been my escape, just as writing has been my outlet. In painting my own words, I get caught between being too confusing and too brutally honest. But it has always made me feel better, and that has always been the important thing.

4. To love the color green. Friends who have seen enough of me would notice that I adore the color green. There was once a time that I flatly stated, Green is probably the last color I would ever like. The story of how I became in love with green is a rather cute one, but I won’t share it so it remains a special inside story between me and my best friend. (Clue: it involves a boy.) Now, the sight of green makes me happy in a way that my old favorite colors couldn’t do. And the story of how it came to be reminds me how came to be. It reminds me of the big meanings that can come with little things. And simply, it makes me happy, and I’m glad I allowed it to try.

5. That things can change. (Need I say more?) I both fear and long for change. Routine can get so comfortable because I know that I get better as I go, with practice. It becomes easier over time, and soon I don’t have to think too much about the life I’m living. I just live it by habit. Sometimes, on the other hand, a cruel winter comes along and sweeps me, or maybe sometimes I find myself buried twelve feet under, and it basically sucks. I’m eighteen years old, but it didn’t take me that long to learn that things can change. And better yet, that they change for the better.

6. That things will change. Just like learning to be by myself, like falling in and out of love, like new friends and places, and bidding goodbye to old ones, I have had to face a lot of changes. Sometimes I don’t like the change, and getting used to it is a difficult river to cross. But half of my battle has been taken care of when I reach the river already knowing that it has to be crossed. I’m more ready for it perhaps, and hopefully, stronger. Change is the only constant in this world. I have come to expect it, accept it, or even better, embrace it. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get to make it work for me.

7. That my family will never let me go–and that’s a good thing. My family deserves so much more than a paragraph, so I will try and save them for the later stories. For now, I have lately come to the conclusion that my family is, has been, and will always be, one of the best things to ever happen to me. Perhaps I have been a brat for most of my life, but they manage to look past that and see their sister and daughter, and love me for that. I have a happy childhood to come back to, and it feels great to come back to it.

8. How to fold a paper boat. Again, this sounds strange and perhaps a little petty. But last year, I had an experience in which I fell in love with the idea of a boy, and somewhere in the middle of it, I was folding paper boats. It was a shallow source of happiness–so shallow that no one could take it away from me. I promised to no one in particular that if I should ever see a flood, I would fold paper boats and set them free in the flood. I am not in love with his picture anymore, and I have not seen a flood for myself yet; but those boats have been a symbol of my floating in murky waters. And that I can always refuse to sink.

9. The power of a smile. I am not a very happy person. When I am sad, I swim in my sadness. But somehow recently, I began to pay attention to that saying that simply the act of smiling can make things better already. So I’ve been trying. One morning I woke up and just wasn’t in the mood. I hid my face and (warning: I am crazy) tried to muster a smile to myself. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I did it. Sometimes people catch me in an unguarded laugh, so they compliment me and tell me I’m prettier that way, and I should smile more often. It’s rewarding, it feels wonderful. And yes, smiling when I’m hurting makes things feel a little better. I’ve decided to hold on to it.

10. To choose myself. One of the toughest lessons to learn. One of the lessons I’m still learning as I go. Many people will not understand, or will mistake this as selfishness. After each of the lessons I’ve listed down here, I keep arriving at the conclusion that I am the most important thing I have. Not the only, but the most. Because when people leave and reappear, or when things and places change, the only one I can keep up with is my self.  All of these things I learn? They don’t mean anything to anyone else, just me. When I feel happy or hurt, I am the only one who feels it for me. So (and you can take this as a lesson for you, too), I’ll let go if it gets way too much for me to handle, and I’ll embrace it if it’s all I’ve ever wanted. No one is better for me than me. So I’ll choose me.

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