I am not an expert on life. It’s funny to write this, considering I appear to give a lot of life advice in my vocations – writing, teaching, speaking. Heck, just look at the title of this article, “How to….” The best saying I’ve heard about advice, from Tribune writer Mary Schmich, is the following, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” So I expect people, who all have the capability to observe and reflect on life, to always consider how any piece of advice should or shouldn’t apply to them. Another way of saying this, is take all life advice with a grain of salt. Other people’s reality are not necessarily your reality.
That being said, there is wisdom in listening to others. And while experience is and will always be the best teacher, I think listening is a close second. Most of what I know so far in life when not from experience, has been from listening, from observing people and hearing their stories. In fact, wanting to hear people’s stories is likely the result of listening to my parents, who always taught me that everyone you meet has something to teach you. And knowing this firstly, and always returning to it after moments and periods I forgot to remember it, is one of the ways I will always fall in love with life.
I am currently writing this at an airport. It’s probably a testament to my life that as annoying, frustrating, and stressful as the flying experience can be, the act of travelling to anywhere has always made a home in my heart. You see I am very hard on people at times; I know this because I am hard on myself. I need people to do better because I need to do better too. And maybe more importantly, I know that we can. But being around people with places to go or sometimes not go, always brings out a curiosity in me about who people are, what they do, and what they want for and from life. But it also brings a spirit of compassion in me, wishing each person well on their journey, wherever it may take them.
Life, I think, is many things to many people. Certainly it is described as a journey with a certain destination – death – that we will all face. But before we get there, there are many stops to take – some places we stay longer than others. Some places we find ourselves in surprisingly; some places we planned to go. Life can also be described as a school in which we are students learning from each other, we share and exchange our experiences, we tell our pains and our joys. We discover new ways of thinking and being. Indeed life is described as a game, an experience – of soul and body and both, a coin, or song, etc. But whatever your analogy for life, it seems that ultimately it is characterized as an adventure. Yes, life is an adventure.
Now a presupposition of “adventure,” is that we do not know where it might take us. Think of your life. Are you exactly who you thought you might be? Are you exactly where you thought you might be? Chances are, probably not. If there’s anything I know about life, like love, it doesn’t always do what you want it to. But I’ve also discovered that however disappointing this may be in the moment, most of the time, beyond the moment, that’s not such a bad thing. Moreover, that’s part of the adventure. So now the question becomes, how do you take on this adventure?
If you’re familiar with my thoughts, you know that I focus on the pain of life a lot. Because pain is a very real experience. Life constitutes pain; expecting to be entirely free of it is a recipe for simply making more for yourself. But I’m not all about the pain. I think there is goodness in life that is beyond language’s ability to explain. And we try to explain it the best we can. But it is mostly felt, mostly experienced, mostly lived.
Ultimately how we fall in love with our lives is learning to live with the pains, but also daring to always find the goodness in the adventure. And even where there might be dark moments in this adventure, having the courage to hope and believe that the moment can change anytime; having the courage to still love. And even when we fail and fall, getting up and trying to love again and again and again. This is love. This is life. This is how we fall in love with life.