Katie, a close friend of the family, is just 21 and already publicly out of the closet. “I am deeply attracted to women. I’m a lesbian,” she admits openly. She has been involved in two long-term, intimate relationships in the last three years. Both relationships were with women her age. When I asked her why she lives this lifestyle, she said, “Because I feel like myself, completely alive, when I’m with another woman. I can’t feel this way when I’m with a man.”
Ryan, one of my grade school buddies, is now a Roman Catholic priest. He has chosen to follow a life of abstinence, instead devoting himself wholeheartedly to God and the principles of his faith. When I asked him why he chose to follow this path, he said, “Because I find peace and abundance through my faith. It keeps me connected and allows me to make a difference.”
Another friend, Courtney, an amateur bodybuilding competitor, is addicted to working out. “I can’t go a day without it,” she says. So she enters to the gym every morning at 5AM, performs a solid hour of weight training, and follows it up with another hour of cardio before heading off to work. When I asked her why she partakes in such a rigorous workout routine, she said, “Working out makes me feel alive, energized and at peace. It’s a way of life.”
A fourth friend, Antony, is a remarkable chef. He currently works at a fine Italian restaurant, but plans to open his own café in the near future. Antony struggles with an obvious vice; he enjoys eating as much as he enjoys cooking. His doctor recently told him he is nearly 60 pounds overweight. When I asked him why he isn’t more concerned with his weight as it relates to his health, he said, “When I cook, I feel free… free to be human, free to be creative, free to be me. When I eat what I cook, I experience the fruits of my labor. There’s nothing more satisfying than that.”
How fascinating. Human beings draw on sexuality, faith, exercise, and cooking to achieve the same thing, a feeling of being alive, free, connected, self-fulfilled and at peace.
The Meaning of Life
Personal development gurus, psychologists, politicians, philosophers, bloggers and various members of my social circle have frequently concluded that the future of humankind as a whole is in jeopardy because we all pursue life’s meaning in fundamentally incompatible ways. I firmly oppose this conclusion.
Life’s meaning, in my experience, is about the feeling of being alive, free, connected, self-fulfilled and at peace. Whether we use sexuality, faith, exercise, or cooking as the means to attain this experience, we’re all in pursuit of the same thing.
Human Beings Overshadow Their Labels
When I asked my lesbian friend if she could relate to a Catholic priest, she said no. And when I asked my exercise-obsessed, athletic friend if she could relate to a chubby, Italian chef with no desire to maintain a healthy bodyweight, she said no. In both cases, I wasn’t surprised with their answers.
I then conducted a little social experiment: I invited all four friends over for drinks at my condo this past Friday evening without informing them that the others were coming. The outcome was rather insightful.
When they transcended their informal labels (e.g. lesbian, priest, athlete, and chubby chef), and instead became real, live human beings occupying the same room together (e.g. Katie, Ryan, Courtney, and Antony), they all discovered powerful similarities among themselves as human beings that vastly overshadowed the vague differences they experienced as informal labels.
A Universal Struggle
I believe the worst thing we can do as human beings is to interpret our own pursuit of life’s meaning as fundamentally incompatible and dissimilar from the pursuits of others. Our basic pursuits in life aren’t that different. Thus, labeling them as different only isolates us from each other, which ultimately stifles the progress we can achieve together as a whole.
The best thing we can do is to accept the fact that labels mean nothing, and realize that the seemingly nonsensical choices of others actually do make a lot of sense if we have the patience and fortitude to uncover the reasons behind these choices. In doing so, we will likely expose the same universal struggle that drives our own pursuit: To feel alive, free, connected, self-fulfilled and at peace.
Photo by: J. Philipson
When I was in elementary school my parents told me it didn’t matter what I did when I grew up, so long as it made me happy. “Happiness is the whole point of life”, my father said. “Your mother loves to help people, so she became a nurse. I love reading, writing and poetry, so I became an English teacher. We both find happiness in the work we do each day.”
A few years later when I was in junior high, my grumpy 6th grade homeroom teacher put me in detention for “being difficult”. She went around the classroom and asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up. When she got to me, I told her I wanted to be happy. She told me I was missing the whole point of the question. I told her she was missing the whole point of life.
What do we all want to be when we grow up? Happy… that is all. Find what makes you happy and do it until you die.
Photo by: Mareen Fischinger
Time flies. Life is what you make of it. Everyday is a day of opportunity.
Think it. Seek it. Find it. Live it.
Life is too short not to make the best and the most
of everything that comes your way everyday.
– Sasha Azevedo
- Do something everyday that excites you.
- Read classic novels.
- Travel somewhere you’ve never been with someone you’ll never forget.
- Settle on a reasonable long-term goal and do 3 things everyday that bring you closer to your goal.
- Avoid TV.
- Buy happiness with a smile.
- Get involved in your community.
- Talk to perfect strangers. Make new friends.
- Help others when you’re able.
- Get in shape. Walk or jog a mile every morning.
- Learn one simple skill every week.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Take notice of the simple joys life has to offer.
- Be creative. Build something from the ground up, no matter how small.
- Learn a new joke everyday and tell it to someone else.
- Spend a few quiet minutes alone each day… think.
- Dedicate yourself to discovering solutions in the face of problems.
- Surround yourself with positive people who share goals similar to your own.
- Study for a degree that intrigues you or take a few classes in your field of interest.
- Organize a monthly game of poker (or any game) with your best friends.
- Watch the sunrise at least once a week.
- Watch the sunset at least once a week.
- Engage yourself in a meaningful hobby.
- Ask your spouse or best friend to be your business partner and get something fun started on the side.
- Express your creativity in art, photography, music, film, etc.
- Try something completely new every chance you get.
- Listen to a variety of music on a regular basis.
- Study the people you admire. Analyze their habits and duplicate them.
- Tend a small garden and eat your own produce.
- Have incredible sex at least once a week.
- Pull the trigger on doing something you’ve been thinking about for a long time, but haven’t yet had the guts to do.
- Socialize, socialize, and socialize!
- Visit friends and family you haven’t seen in years.
- Stop tip-toeing around like a little pipsqueak. Own your ideas. Follow them through to fruition.
- Throw a quarterly blowout party at your place. Invite all your favorite people and let them bring someone along.
- Spend more time outdoors entwined in Mother Nature.
- If you hate your job, find a new one. Life is short. Don’t be scared to bounce around until you find a job you enjoy doing.
- Get into the habit of realizing that it is never too late.
- Stop being so serious. Lighten up. Laugh.
- Go after as many life experiences as time permits. Explore the world around you.
- Learn to surf… and surf. It truly is a remarkable experience.
- Rise earlier. Take on the world when your mind is fresh.
- Be compassionate. Be a friend every chance you get.
- Organize yourself and your living space. It will save you precious time.
- Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start enjoying what you do have.
- Set 3 priorities each morning and accomplish them by nightfall.
- Focus on the positives. Never dwell on the negatives.
- Be romantic. Surprise her.
- Challenge yourself. Don’t take the easy road to mediocrity.
- Stop wasting time on non-essential chores.
- Learn to get things done effectively.
- Shit happens. Move beyond your mistakes immediately.
- There’s a big different between being scared and being prepared. Always be prepared.
- Educate yourself every chance you get. Be a jack of all trades and a master of few.
- Eat slower. Enjoy your food.
- Be slower. Relax.
- Use time-saving tricks and properly manage your time.
- Leave work at work.
- Perfect is the enemy of good. Shoot for living the good life.
- Eat at least one meal a day with family or friends.
- Ask for help. You’ll never get what you don’t ask for.
- Always ask questions. Doing so will save you time and grief.
- Learn to say no.
- Always keep your eye on the prize. Maintain your focus on the outcome, not the current road block.
- Play hard. You only live once. Live it up!
- Spend less than you make.
- Do one thing at a time… and do it well.
- Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
- Be efficient while giving your mind a rest: Write stuff down.
- Own less. Do more.
- Avoid the common cold. Wash your hands before eating.
- Stop driving like a maniac. It’s less stressful and far safer.
- Practice self-sufficiency. Once you attain it, nobody can take it away from you.
- Be spontaneous.
- Always keep your promises.
- Sleep well.
- Remain approachable to others. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you will receive.
- Make a continuous habit of realigning your habits with the things that make you happy.
Photo by: jjjohn
Sometimes we just need to kick back and enjoy ourselves. What follows is a list of 101 simple pleasures and enjoyable activities to explore without breaking the bank. This list only skims the surface… the possibilities are endless.
These are the good old days you’re going to miss in the years ahead.
– Author Unknown
- Check out a book from the library and read the afternoon away.
- Break out the old mix-tapes and mix-CDs of yesteryear… soak up the memories and sing your heart out.
- Picnic in secluded areas.
- Bake and eat homemade cookies.
- Start a blog.
- Hike outdoors and explore Mother Nature.
- Head downtown with a friend and two digital cameras. Shoot as many funny and interesting photos as you can. Then go home and sort through them all.
- Find old stuff in your attic, put it up on eBay and watch the bids role in.
- Play old-school board games like Monopoly and Scrabble.
- Read interesting articles online… Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, Metafilter, etc.
- Brew a fresh pot of coffee (or tea) and share it with someone over an interesting conversation.
- Take a candlelight bubble bath.
- Learn to play guitar (or any musical instrument) online.
- Go swimming.
- Crank up the tunes, break out the Wii and invite some friends over.
- Fly a kite.
- Research and discover new bands and musicians similar to the music you already like.
- Re-watch a great movie you haven’t seen in years.
- Host a long night of $10 Texas Hold’em Poker with 9 of your friends. Make sure you understand poker odds.
- Learn to play other card games too… especially Spades!
- Find and pick beautiful wild flowers.
- Test-drive a really expensive car.
- Drink cheap beer and share funny stories with your friends.
- Fire up the backyard BBQ. [Read more…]