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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
What have you learned? What are you learning? 
9th-Jan-2013 11:20 am
My daughter is turning 18 in a little over two months.

I happen to think we don't have enough ritual in our lives. There needs to be something to commemorate this, a young woman becoming an adult. I'm writing/planning something. :)

But one of the things I want to give her is something I need your help on.

I want to give her a book of advice from people who are on the path she's about to step onto. Not just me, but all kinds of people. All of you. It doesn't matter where you are on the path, whether you yourself have only just become an adult or whether you have six grandkids. You have something to share.

It would honor me if you'd share your knowledge and advice with my daughter as she steps onto the path. I will bind this book and give it to her on her 18th birthday, along with some other supplies for the road ahead.


What have you learned?
What are you learning?
What do you wish you'd known?
What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?

Tell me anything you think applies. If it's private, e-mail me at shadesong AT gmail.com.

Thank you. :)
9th-Jan-2013 04:55 pm (UTC)
From your friendly, neighborhood HR person: READ
Read the instructions, read the long-legal form, read what you're signing up for, fully read emails. Just read!
9th-Jan-2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
What have you learned?

The only person you have to make truly happy in your life is yourself. The rest will fall into place. If you're happy, the rest of the world will see it and fall into happiness with you.
Be yourself, all the time.
Love unconditionally and passionately. It's worth the risk.
Life really is a journey, not a destination.
Your parents will always be there for you no matter how small or large your need is.

What are you learning?

Doing what you love is more important than having all the things the world thinks you need. Money isn't everything.
Never stop learning. Question everything.

What do you wish you'd known?
Trying to please everyone around you is tiring and draining. Remembering to be selfish once in a while with yourself is okay. Being happy with yourself makes a difference. Learning to be alone, not lonely, is a tough one to handle but the worth lesson.

What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?
Laugh out loud, dance in public, wear silly hats, take every oppurtunity given to you to try something new, don't look back.
9th-Jan-2013 05:24 pm (UTC)
Something that would have saved me a lot of angst and wasted introspection:

You are not your thoughts. They do not define you, or have anything to do with who you are.

You are your actions. The choices you make define who you are.
9th-Jan-2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
Be patient with yourself (and trust your subconscious). All of the really big, lasting changes in my life haven't been the ones I resolved on on purpose, they've been the ones I woke up and realized I was already in the middle of. As Dorothy Sayers says in Gaudy Night, we really only know what things are of overmastering importance when they have overmastered us. (Also, if you haven't yet, I recommend reading Gaudy Night.)

Often, but not always, before that change happens, there's a period of formless discontent where I feel something needs to change but I don't know what. Avoid the temptation to flail around changing random things at that point. If you can figure out the underlying issue and what would make it better, great, but otherwise, waiting is surprisingly effective.

However, don't wait for all the pieces to happen at once or in the right order. If you know what you want and can make a piece of it happen now or soon, go for it, even if you always thought something else would happen first, as long as it doesn't really need to. Buy a house even if you don't have the spouse you always thought you'd buy your first house with. Marry the spouse if you're ready even if you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up. Most of us have scenarios in our head about how things are likely to go, based on our families or our friends or whatever. There's nothing wrong with that, but make sure you can tell the difference between things that NEED to happen in that order and things that just usually do, so you don't miss opportunities that knock in unusual orders.

Don't try to make yourself feel what you think you should, or not feel what you think you shouldn't. (Jealousy, insecurity, anger, grief, lust.) This almost never works. The real feelings just get smushed down inside you. They require a lot of ongoing energy to keep smushed, and eventually they burst out and make trouble that you weren't prepared for. Admitting what you're feeling doesn't mean everyone else has to automatically defer to those feelings, but it's the first step in figuring out how to genuinely resolve or live with them.

It's not necessarily true that if you do what you love, the money will follow. Sadly, the world needs some jobs garbage collectors and toll takers, and doesn't need millions of rock and movie stars. Definitely do something you like and value for your career, something where your days are pleasant and at the end of the year you feel you've accomplished something worth doing. But unless you have an overmastering passion that you're willing to sacrifice almost everything else for, try to strike a balance between doing what you love for work and doing what will earn you the resources to do other things that you love besides work.

In the early stages of a relationship, before you change something about yourself to make somebody like you more, think if you'd be mad if they asked you to change that thing. And if you would, don't.

If you work a lot with your brain, try to make something with your hands once in a while, even if you're not good at it. It's soothing. And, I imagine, vice versa.

Try to talk to people of different ages, races, classes, opinions, and genders regularly, so you don't feel like you live in a bubble.

Peanut butter gets gum out of cloth and baking soda and vinegar clean gross gunk off of pans.
9th-Jan-2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
In general:

  • Anything you fear owns you. Step up to your fears and confront them. It may take several tries, but it will diminish them.
  • Get out of your home town after college (your home town being where you went to high school). Don't just move across town -- move away. Find out who you are when you don't know anyone. You'll discover that things you think everyone can do are actual skills.
  • A marriage is a contract -- it's not a wedding day. Do not get married until you are no longer scared of a two-year cell phone plan.
  • Ignore any pressure to get married until it makes total sense and you'd be willing to do it at city hall (but don't do that unless it's a really nice city hall. A wedding without family is a bad setup.)
  • People you think are your friends may just be polite jerks. Don't try to negotiate them back to friendships. Let them be with their zoetrope shows. Real friends help you cry and help you pack. Real friends call you.
  • Nervous breakdowns are normal. People just hide them.
  • It's very normal to be smarter than your first few therapists. Eventually you find one that you can't outsmart. Then the progress happens.
  • The secret to pickling is fresh dill. Pickled carrots that only soaked a couple days are amazing.
  • If you're actually not interested (in something or someone), walk away. Don't just say no: leave the scene. Otherwise the seller will keep trying.

During college:

  • Don't take all of your prereqs frosh (freshperson) year. You'll feel like a train wreck by Thanksgiving. If you can wait until junior year on any core courses, do it -- you'll have more of your skills by then and they'll seem like gut courses.
  • Don't be afraid to be a geek about an esoteric topic. That's how you wind up a specialist in a career.
  • A degree in the humanities will prepare you for major parts of any job: meetings, presentations, objections, analogies, previous lines of attack. No one ever actually goes back and reads Oedipus Rex in adulthood if they didn't dig it in college, but anyone can go back and take a business course.
  • Don't assume you have to be friends with the people on your floor.
  • Booze isn't interesting until you get to craft beer and cocktails.
  • Nevertheless, don't be afraid to go to drunken parties (but go with friends). You need to know exactly why you hate something, and you may even find something you like (such as hearing all the gossip as the designated driver).
  • Your best college memories will be the extra-curricular activities. By "best" I mean "the skills you actually use every day" and "the friends that hire you ten years down the road".

After college:

  • Take one lesson on driving stick. Then buy a used Japanese car (or a used VW if you can wing it, but the repairs will cost more).
  • Don't be shocked if an entire trade goes away, especially the one you may have your heart on. (Yours is teaching, which is not. However, watch it change a lot.)
  • The first time you have a boss younger than you will happen sooner than you think. It'll be like pulling the curtain on the wizard.
  • The secret to sales is flirting with intent to take no one home. Everything in America is a sales pitch: engagement proposal, holy rollers, gurus, blue plate specials.
10th-Jan-2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
I just wanna say this one caught my eye:
"It's very normal to be smarter than your first few therapists. Eventually you find one that you can't outsmart. Then the progress happens."
- and that it's very true! (The same goes for health practitioners in general, I find.)
9th-Jan-2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
What have you learned?
Keep your promises, set your boundaries.
Know when you're making a promise, and know when you're setting a boundary.
Setting your boundaries allows you to keep your promises, and vice versa.

You never know how much authority you have until you exceed it.

Being gentle with yourself is not only useful for success... it's required.

The most ephemeral human emotion is gratitude.

Humans are wired for stories. Do not underestimate the power of narrative.

What are you learning?
Don't judge your success versus that of others. It doesn't change anything, and you don't know which path they took or what they sacrificed to get there.

If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing badly.

Make sure that the things you don't want are not masquerading as the things you do want.

What do you wish you'd known?
Your path will change. You'll live.

Fictional role models are recipes for disappointment, because they don't have to work within the bounds of reality. You, on the other hand, do.

What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?

"I want to see the look on their face" is never a good enough reason for anything. This is mostly because it's never the look you were hoping for, the second-order effects are unpredictable, and the return-on-investment on your time is horrible.
9th-Jan-2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
That last one nails it. I'll even offer that if you can't wait to cash in a revenge by doing X, do not do X and assume you will spend a lot of time apologizing in vain. Reacting from emotions, no matter how long you work on the response, is still irrational.

It's what one learns in driver's ed: use the adult mind. You're never going to "teach a lesson" with your car in traffic.
9th-Jan-2013 07:09 pm (UTC) - This is the coolest thing EVAR, Mom!
What have you learned?

Writing well is a far more valuable skill than I ever imagined. Some of the smartest people I've ever met couldn't write their way out of a wet paper bag.

Some people are meant to be with you for a while, and some the long haul. It doesn't necessarily mean anything bad about people in either group. Take 'em as you find 'em and be willing to move on when it's time.

A weird, persistent, inexplicable gut feeling that "something isn't right here and I think I'm in danger" is a damned fine reason to GET THE HELL OUT. Of an elevator, a situation, a relationship, what have you. (Had I learned that one at your age, I might not have married what's-his-face. You don't want to know the details.)

Wear your sunscreen. Everywhere. Religiously. When you're getting carded in your 40s, you'll appreciate it.

What are you learning?

It's perfectly acceptable to decide that a person who behaves in certain ways no longer qualifies as a "friend." Length of friendship, depth of friendship, and social pressure to remain friends need not override your right to decide that some bad behaviors are deal-breakers.

You never stop getting scared. But you get way better at acting despite your fear, and that's liberating.

If you're really lucky, you never stop evolving.

What do you wish you'd known?

A very jealous, controlling romantic partner is a bad partner--RUN AWAY.

Keep your skills current. Especially technical skills.

It's okay to be imperfect.

Sexism is real.

Weight lifting is really good for you, if you can do it. Your posture and your bones will thank you.

What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?

Try on new things (clothing, subjects of study, hobbies, causes) that seem interesting, even if you're not sure they're "you." If they work, that's awesome! And if they don't, the stories will be very entertaining.

Learn to work a room in a cocktail party, fundraiser, political function or similar event. Being able to do it comfortably can increase the odds of a serendipitous meeting with someone who can open a life door you desperately want to walk through. (The secret? Everyone else there is probably as nervous as you, so think about making them feel noticed and important. The few who DO feel important and at ease will be flattered and the rest will be grateful.)

Serendipity has better odds of finding you if you get off the couch now and then.

Have at least one hobby that you do merely because you love doing it. It's okay if you're not good at it, so long as doing it gives you the happies.

Sometimes, when life sucks and there's not much I can do about it at the moment, I practice the Muhammad Ali "rope-a-dope" method of dealing with Teh Suck. I cover up as best I can, let it tire itself out punching me, then beat the snot out of it when it's all worn out. It's a good thing to remember for those moments you can't outfight/outsmart/outrun.

Love will kick your ass, but it's still pretty cool. Try it as much as you can.

I'm serious about the suncreen.
9th-Jan-2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
I've learned that love is not something to sacrifice for, but to create for.

I am learning that to live with love for others, I need to know first how to love them without asking for more than they have offered, and that giving them more as soon as they ask can reveal a less mature love on both parts than expected.</p>

I wish I had known that freedom can be a binding, can trap us away from gifts given by self-control.

My advice is that when you think you cannot resist any longer, you still have reserves of self control. Those reserves are for your use alone in any matter you deem worthy, and giving up should not be treated as a weakness but a choice. Stay strong when it's worthwhile, give up when it's worthwhile, and if both or neither, consider with care.

9th-Jan-2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
For Elayna:

You've got this. You might not think you do, not right this minute, when things are loud and confusing and complex and moving faster than they should be, but you've got this. Inside you you have a bright mind, a strong heart, and a will that iron itself would envy. It's okay to trust in those things.

Consult with others, if and when it's the right thing to do, and get information and advice as the situation merits, but remember, you are already equipped to make good choices. You are already equipped to be smart about things. You are already equipped to shine.

It is okay to be confident. It is okay to be sure. It is okay to stand your ground. It is okay to march in your very own parade, when you're it - drummer, trumpet player, and baton twirler all in one.

It's all going to be okay. You'll see. The road from here to there is hard to spy out in advance, but you're more than ready for every step of it.

You are stronger than you ever knew it was possible to be. Remember that. It is important.
9th-Jan-2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
If you can, choose mercy.
If you must, choose justice.
Thoughts are things, choose them wisely.
In all things, choose yourself.
The world conspires to shower you with goodness.
Pay attention.
9th-Jan-2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
Best advice I never had, and took me years to figure out.

Do. It. Now!
Whatever you want, dive in, take risks, enjoy life, and always have a fail-safe backup plan figured out in advance!! Because whatever you do, you will sometimes fail and it's always a good idea to have a safety net. Failure is OK too, you learn from mistakes and whatever else, you're having fun!

It's Ok to walk away.
Some people/situations are just plain too much hard work for too little return. It's not worth sacrificing your sanity for it. You need to look after yourself first.

Always ask yourself; How much do I trust this person/institution?

Always have an escape plan and know where the exits are. But relax and have fun. This applies to relationships and jobs as well as places.

Communication is key, to pretty much everything!

But above all else.. just because you grow older, does NOT mean you have to grow up! It's ok to revert to childhood and play sometimes!

Edited at 2013-01-09 08:22 pm (UTC)
9th-Jan-2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
What I've learned dovetails pretty neatly with what I'm still learning:

If you have not yet done so, learn how to manage your finances. You will NEVER be financially independent; you will always have to have some source of incoming funds to do the things you need/want (that order is important) to do.

Books I'd recommend for this are Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace" and "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki. There are likely other good books out there, since a lot of problems people face today can (and do) stem from poorly managed finances.

I cannot possibly narrow down to one thing I wish I had known; there's too much to say. The catalyst for that learning, however, was leaving the town I grew up in. You need some time away from parents and family and the friends you've made to this point to learn about who you are without them, and the sooner you do that, the better off you will be. You need to learn, for yourself, the things you will be willing (and able) to do when you have to worry less about it getting back to your parents.

This is not as scary as it might sound. Even back in the late 90's, we were pretty connected for communication and that has only improved since then.

I'll pull some advice from an old book that a lot of people would discount for a lot of reasons:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

(I should point out that for all my advice about getting out and doing your own thing away from your parents, they sound like they have their heads on right. My points are not mutually exclusive.)

9th-Jan-2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
What have you learned?

The truths I hold dear do not necessarily apply to anyone else. Be willing to hear other people's truths and leave them alone if it doesn't actively hurt you or others.

In a relationship, be it friendship or lovership or family-ship, don't retort in anger, disappointment, or frustration. These are the people who matter to you most and will forgive you, but your barb might hurt them and you more than you expect. This also goes for talking without thinking: that really quick reply that popped into your head might sound funny but actually be cutting to the quick. (Personal experience talking.)

What are you learning? (see above caveat re: truths.)

Having a great group of friends is wonderful and important, but nothing beats or replaces having one-on-one friend time when you can really dig into important conversations. Have more than one friend for these conversations - it'll help when friend A is busy and you really need to talk to someone. It's okay if not all friends are this type of friend.

Following your heart can be really hard and scary and distressing, but the hope is that "in the end" it's worth it. The best you can do is be as true to yourself as possible. There is no "end." It should be worth it "during."

Talking about budgeting between you and a partner is never going to be an easy conversation. If you're lucky enough to be with someone who shares your philosophy on spending and saving and all that, thank your lucky stars.

What do you wish you'd known?

If something makes you that happy, fight tooth and nail to keep it. Talk it through, yell about it, cry, just make it work.

If someone gives you an ultimatum, it probably means that they don't want to hear your objections or adhere to your boundaries, and even if it hurts, you should probably not meet it. Let them deal with the "or else."

What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?

Don't get too busy to do that thing that expresses your joy. Sing, paint, write, run, walk, cook, create, build, giggle; go to the zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, forest, beach, mall, museum, volunteer, whatever: don't forget it for long.

Listen to your body: learn to recognize hunger cues and what happens when you ignore them (at your PERIL!), learn how to stretch and warm up, and take care of your teeth.
9th-Jan-2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
What have you learned?

There is no one right lifestyle or career. Be deliberate about your choices in these regards, as a lack of a choice is still a road to walk. Take the time to face the costs of your choices of lifestyle or career, but also deliberately celebrate the advantages granted by your choices.

Swallowing what you feel can make you physically ill.

What are you learning?

Failure is another chance to learn and evolve.

What do you wish you'd known?

If a person cannot admit what they want, be careful of their commitments.

Take the time to find the limit of your strengths and weaknesses with honest efforts, as alone as you can manage. The expectations or capabilities of others need not define you, and allowing them to cost me a good deal.

What advice do you have for your new sister on the path?

The world has some sharp corners. Fear will not help you avoid them. Preparation will.

I heartily encourage you to participate in a statewide or national group or activity. There is a breadth of human capability, experience, and story that must be encountered to be believed, much less understood.

Take the time to create. It may do more to heal you than you'd expect.
9th-Jan-2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
What have I learned? I've learned that people are amazing and awful and wonderful and caring and terrible and not to be trusted. I've learned that there is breathtaking beauty in the world and that sometimes beauty is enough. I've also learned that being early, reading the directions (and generally following them) is a good thing.

What am I learning? I am learning that I really don't understand humans and that more than anything else, I find them hard to work with even though I crave affection and respect.

What do I wish I'd known? Only you can help yourself. You don't know how to do something? Look it up on your own first and then ask for help. You will learn so much more this way than trying to get someone else to show you or tell you. You aren't helpless or hopeless, you just need to find the best way for you and your best way is not going to be other peoples best ways.

What advice to I have for you? Make your own decisions. You really want to take art and programming with Java, then do it. Don't let anything hold you back - not money, time, fear, friends, the world. Never underestimate the good that seeing a therapist that fits you will do for you. Don't be afraid to say no to time commitments, requests for help, and fun things if you don't want to do them. Don't wait until the last minute to do your homework - no, you won't produce your best work at that time and yes, doing a rough draft process days in advance really does produce a better paper. Have fun but temper that fun with discipline. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and don't be afraid of hard work.

Good luck!
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