Of course I thought about death. I thought a lot about death. I’ve lived as if I’m dying everyday for a year. I’ve thought about killing myself, how did I not think of death?
– Image courtesy of weheartit
However, turning my life around it and recovering the emotional damage I’ve caused myself, I found that you come back stronger as a person. I once tell myself stupidly that how I should plot my suicide is: “to leave a legacy, then naturally die.” If I don’t have a legacy yet, I’ll keep delaying my death. That’s why I exercise a lot and eat healthy.
Yet Jane E. Brody, a science journalist who share a similar goal with me (but from the opposite, undoubtedly more optimistic perspective) has the following goal: “to die without regrets.”
She’s recently published an article on New York Times about important life lessons she learned from the elderly, who’ve dedicated their wise opinions to the Cornell Legacy Project. I feel like I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie all over again, just that at a still-innocent age of 21 (soon-to-be 22), I can still change a lot of things about living a successful and satisfying life that’s personally meaningful.
You are not responsible for all the things that happen to you, but you are completely in control of your attitude and your reactions to them.
I can still remember the time when I was about to have my IGCSE in secondary school. I was thinking about leaving Jakarta for furthering my education, only that I was so determined to major in drawing, art, and the like. My family encouraged me to take that major because ever since I was little I have been drawing a lot of stuff anywhere you can possibly imagine. Ever since I return to Jakarta to finish my secondary school, unfortunately, my school did not set the subject Art as a requirement for their curriculum. I did not draw for some time – I just doodle out my teachers’ faces and some of my friends, but that’s it.
The amazing thing was I started to focus my creative powers into another subject area that equally gives me the freedom to express my thoughts – English. I write a lot. I was a perfectionist about it. I don’t think it’s very difficult – and that I enjoyed writing a lot.
But I took a different path for my college major – I chose Art. None of my teachers knew I had the ability to draw, although most of them knew I have an observant eye because I always choose the descriptive essay as my mightiest sword. Brody wrote on her article: “… many talented young people have denied their true passions, choosing instead to pursue careers that promise fast and big monetary gains.” It struck me. I’ve been so lost for the past couple of years about my school and future career and all that. I knew I’ve made the wrong decision by not listening to my own heart but to my own brain. During my freshman year, I thought working hard was the priority. But now I know that your passion is your biggest priority.
Drawing has always been difficult for me. It requires a lot of research about the human body and the natural proportions of some human poses (and other animals). I think it’s tedious, it takes a lot of physical energy to absorb these things, but I’ve always known that I can do it. I can do it. I’m the youngest in the family and the only girl in the house – my parents don’t exactly trust me for most things out there, especially about taking good care of myself. I spent most of my childhood doing everything that can prove I can do it. I can do it.
But after a while, it gets tiring. I learned that it’s better to put down that pride and let these people who love you take good care of you. There are not many people in this world who genuinely cares about you, not even your friends who you thought would always look out for you no matter what.
I never wholly gave up writing. All schools have fundamental writing classes everyone’s required to take, and I always do my best in these writing classes. I never really knew why.
As I grow up, I try to find all the reasons why I can’t write. Because I’m in an Art Major. Conde Nast won’t want me. I have no professional experience going out and trying it in the media biz. All sorts excuses I tell myself everyday, up till now. I have a newfound habit of sweating the small stuff, until I reconnected with one of my best friends. “It’s not like you to give up,” he said. And finally, I’ve accepted the fact that even though I’m a feminist, a girl has her own physical and emotional limitations. Too much of a burden and you can self-destruct. While thinking about that I immediately back out of my grand plan after college, making my own biz and all, and decided to go freelance for the long run.
It takes a whole lot of willpower, and an extra mile that sets me apart from other accomplished Journalism students, but I think I’m ready just as well. College life spent in America only brings me back home to Jakarta. Because I know I won’t be able to do anything without my loved ones around me.
Conservative, you may say, but I was born and raised in cultures valuing collectivism, even though I learned the value of that independent streak the Western culture has taught me.
This is only a finishing chapter of an aspect of my life. It may not be a small stuff, but there are bigger stuff to sweat for, to run for, to die for.
For 3 to 4 years running, I’ve never fallen for a decent guy. Or any guy. Throughout my life in San Francisco, I’ve always been single (except for my first semester being in a long-distance relationship). I’ve always put my love life behind and my own future first. Although deep down I know that I’m not that emotionally fit, and that means when I’m having a heartbreak I know I can’t do anything else (thank God drawing does not require much of your left brain so you don’t have to think too much analytically). However, last summer I turned my love life around by, finally, giving boys a chance. I’ve never been the one who responds to all the guys whenever they text or call. When I’m bored I always find stuff to do. But after a long talk with my mother, she demands me to open my heart. How long am I going to keep my heart closed? Even if I know I will die soon?
So, out of nowhere, I have all the great candidates I started to talk with. But there’s one guy out of all who’s really consistent, super persistent, and still keeps in touch with me every single day. And that’s my current boyfriend, who loves and worships God more than me (to that I’m most thankful of ). I’ve always been afraid to seriously date a guy because I don’t want to be the one who nurture him, nags him, tells him to do this and that, but if a guy is obedient with God, then I know I won’t have to worry anything. Of course there are plenty of wonderful guys out there whom I’ve rejected, whom I thought of the relationship will be like if I did respond and accept to them. Then again, there are other things outside my love life that I have passions about. Those who know me well can relate to the word I’m going to say next: Sexcited.
Here’s a handful list of lessons Brody provided from the Cornell Legacy Project:
ON MARRIAGE A satisfying marriage that lasts a lifetime is more likely to result when partners are fundamentally similar and share the same basic values and goals. Although romantic love initially brings most couples together, what keeps them together is an abiding friendship, an ability to communicate, a willingness to give and take, and a commitment to the institution of marriage as well as to each other.
An 89-year-old woman who was glad she stayed in her marriage even though her young husband’s behavior was adversely affected by his military service said, “Too many young people now are giving up too early, too soon.”
ON CAREERS Not one person in a thousand said that happiness accrued from working as hard as you can to make money to buy whatever you want. Rather, the near-universal view was summed up by an 83-year-old former athlete who worked for decades as an athletic coach and recruiter: “The most important thing is to be involved in a profession that you absolutely love, and that you look forward to going to work to every day.”
Although it can take a while to land that ideal job, you should not give up looking for one that makes you happy. Meanwhile, if you’re stuck in a bad job, try to make the most of it until you can move on. and keep in mind that a promotion may be flattering and lucrative but not worth it if it takes you away from what you most enjoy doing.
ON PARENTING The demands of modern life often have a negative effect on family life, especially when economic pursuits limit the time parents spend with their children. Most important, the elders said, is to spend more time with your children, even if you must sacrifice to do so.
Share in their activities, and do things with them that interest them. Time spent together enables parents to detect budding problems and instill important values.
While it’s normal to prefer one child over others, it is critical not to make comparisons and show favoritism. Discipline is important when needed, but physical punishment is rarely effective and can result in children who are aggressive and antisocial.
ON AGING “Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Growing older is both an attitude and a process,” an 80-year-old man said. The experts’ advice to the young: “Don’t waste your time worrying about getting old.”
Most found that old age vastly exceeded their expectations. Even those with serious chronic illnesses enjoyed a sense of calm and contentment. A 92-year-old who can no longer do many of the things she once enjoyed said: “I think I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Things that were important to me are no longer important, or not as important.”
Another said, “Each decade, each age, has opportunities that weren’t actually there in the previous time.”
Maintain social contacts. Avoid becoming isolated. When an invitation is issued, say yes. Take steps to stay engaged, and take advantage of opportunities to learn new things. Although many were initially reluctant, those who moved to a senior living community found more freedom to enjoy activities and relationships than they had before.
To those who worry about dying, these men and women said the best antidote is to plan for it: Get things organized, let others know your wishes, tidy up to minimize the burden on your heirs.
ON REGRETS “Always be honest” was the elders’ advice to avoid late-in-life remorse. Take advantage of opportunities and embrace new challenges. and travel more when you’re younger rather than wait until the children are grown or you are retired.
As Dr. Pillemer summarized the elders’ view, “Travel is so rewarding that it should take precedence over other things younger people spend money on.” Create a bucket list now and start whittling it down.
ON HAPPINESS Almost to a person, the elders viewed happiness as a choice, not the result of how life treats you.
A 75-year-old man said, “You are not responsible for all the things that happen to you, but you are completely in control of your attitude and your reactions to them.” An 84-year-old said, “Adopt a policy of being joyful.”
The 90-year-old daughter of divorced parents who had lived a hardscrabble life said, “I learned to be grateful for what I have, and no longer bemoan what I don’t have or can’t do.”
Even if their lives were nine decades long, the elders saw life as too short to waste on pessimism, boredom and disillusionment.
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