50 Awesome Truths My Sister Wrote Down Before Dying

Shortly after graduating from high school in 1996, my older sister Céline gave each of her friends a handwritten booklet listing some of the things she’d learned by age 18. It was a DIY graduation gift of sorts. As sisters, we shared a lot, but I wasn’t aware of this booklet’s creation until Céline’s death, at age 30, in the spring of 2009. At her funeral, one of Céline’s closest friends kindly supplied me with a copy. Of course it moved me that he had kept it for so long since I’d like to believe that Céline did a lot of things that had a lasting impact on others.


Mostly, however, reading the booklet made me smile because the decision to distribute something entitled “A Modest Compilation of Truths” at age 18 was so very pretentious—and yet, so very acceptable from a person like my sister, to whom people turned constantly for advice. Part of what made my sister so special is that she could pull this kind of thing off. She could draft something about life truths in adolescence that would not make those for whom it was intended cringe. Céline probably would have cringed at her own “youthful ridiculousness” later in adulthood, but knowing that only makes the whole thing awesomer.

Please feel free—however old you are, or aren’t — to contribute your own revelations about life in the comments section.


A Modest Compilation of Truths, by Céline Berliet


Well you guys, here it is at last. I guess the graduation present I promised you has turned into more of a going away present. Such is life, I suppose.

Before I continue I would like to apologize for the messiness of this handwritten booklet. I really did intend to type this up for all of you, but as many of you know, computers hate me. In fact, the feeling is mutual. Since I’ve had a bit of time on my hands here in France, I decided I’d just write up my book and distribute it upon my return.

So anyway, here it is. But before you begin reading my little book, there are a few things I’d like all of you to consider and understand:

  • You may have noted that I titled this book a “modest compilation,” rather than an “instruction book.” This is not my arrogant attempt to teach any of you anything. In fact, much of the book reflects things that you have taught me, or that I have somehow learned in my daily dealings with all of you.
  • You may also have noted the word “truth” in the title of this book. That is because, as many of you know, I am a big believer in and fan of truth. I believe that every statement within this book contains at least a particle of truth. Of course, you may very well disagree with me. I am certainly not the all-knowing seer of truths. However, every statement contained in this book has, I believe, opened my eyes a bit wider, or somehow rounded out my still not-so-round vision of truth.
  • You will notice as you flip through these pages that a good portion of this book is quotes, rather than my own personal thoughts. Well, as I said before, I search mainly for truth. How arrogant it would be of me to look only within myself for something so great!
  • Remember that just because your name isn’t cited as the source of any statement in this book, it doesn’t mean you haven’t contributed to its development. All of you have, in fact, shown me truths at one time or another, and that is why I value and love you guys so much.

Enjoy. This is the one thing, out of the 103 I was supposed to do, that I actually did…

1. A conversation between Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is adlibbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re in a tragedy or a farce?

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

2. “Every gambler knows the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” – The Gambler, Kenny Rogers

3. “If you are truly confident about something, you welcome honest questions about it.” – Peter Kreeft

4. Don’t ask people questions you know they can’t answer.

5. Search less for meaning and more for truth.

6. Yes, quite often it is the case that bad people get good parking spots. Don’t waste your time being bitter about it.

7. Verb a word.

8. “Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” – George Eliot

9. “The difference between a fool and a jerk is that a fool does stupid things that only hurt himself, whereas a jerk does stupid things that hurt others.” – Dave Harvey

10. Security often comes from knowing yourself better than other people know you.

11. Most truths are intuitively obvious and remarkably simple.

12. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child; teach him. He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him. He who knows and knows that he knows is wise; follow him. (An old saying from I forget which country.)

13. “People rarely change, but all too often become “more so” of a quality they always possessed but never expressed.” – Mr. McKeon

14. Beware of people who insist on telling others how much of a rock star they are.

15. Understand the difference between procrastinating and taking time out to relax.

16. “Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out.” (I forgot who said that)

17. “There are those men who say to repay evil with kindness. But I say, how then are we to repay kindness? Repay kindness with kindness, but repay evil with justice.” – Confucius

18. “Those who are awake live in a constant state of amazement.” – Buddha (I think.)

19. “Practice moderation in moderation.” – Buddha (I think.)

20. “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing left to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” – Tom Stoppard

21. Beware of the person who has nothing to lose.

22. “War costs money.” – Bob Gardner

23. “And this lies in the nature of things: What people are potentially is revealed in actuality by what they produce.” – Aristotle

24. The Skin Horse, from the Velveteen Rabbit, on real:

Real isn’t how you are made, it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real…when you are real you don’t mind being hurt…it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges…

25. Abraham Lincoln once said to a man, “Supposing we called a sheep’s tail a leg. Then how many legs would the sheep have?” “Why, five of course,” the man replied. “No,” corrected Abe, “for calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

26. The only honest reason to ever believe anything is because it is true—not because it is pleasant, convenient, or will boost your ego.

27. “What’s up is not down and if you can’t figure that out, we’re all fucked.” – Smith Vaughan

28. As the “college process” told us, while it is true that good things come in small packages, good news often comes in large envelopes.

29. Honesty is love of truth.

30. “Your values are defined by what you spend your time and money on.” – Dave Harvey

31. “I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices.”
– Mark Twain

32. “And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul?” Mark 8:36-7

33. Don’t lecture someone after they’ve already apologized.

34. “Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”

35. As a courtesy to those who wish to check the time, press “clear” on the microwave after stopping it in mid-action.

36. To make a mistake and then not correct it is to make another mistake.

37. “Yes, sometimes life leaves us between a rock and a hard place. But flowers grow in between them, and they are beautiful.” – Anthony Johnson

38. Anybody who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

39. Sacrifice honesty before integrity. (That’s a tough one. Give it some thought before objecting)

40. “It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There once was a man, who not being able to find any other fault with his coal, complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it.” – Mark Twain

41. Mean people suck.

42. “We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” – G.K. Chesterton

43. “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

44. Most people may in fact be boring or disappointing, but this doesn’t make them worthless.

45. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

46. “Pleasant is only the activity of the present, the hope of the future, and the memory of the past.”

47. “A Cold, self-righteous prig who goes to church regularly may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” – C.S. Lewis

48. “Friends enhance our ability to think and act.” – Aristotle

49. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

50. “And she said she usually cried at least once each day, not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.” – Brian Andreas Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Surviving in Spirit is now available. Order it today through iBooks or Amazon.

About the author

Mélanie Berliet

I adore the following, in no particular order: knee-high tube socks, acrostic poetry, and my little brother. Click here to learn more!

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