Being 22 is weird.
And sure — so is much of 21st-century life in your early-to-mid 20s. We even coined the term “quarter-life crisis” to describe the arresting terror of realizing that — in the utopia of the modern first-world country — we still manage to find ourselves feeling lost and confused.
And then subsequently feel guilty for even feeling such things.
And there I go again
To the next further removed level
Of that same exact feigned humility!
(And this for me goes on and on to the point of nausea.)
— mewithoutYou, “Wolf Am I! (And Shadow)”
This is why having a book or small journal of quotes is essential to surviving in an ever-expanding world.
(That was a bonus quote, by the way. You’re welcome.)
Words are powerful.
I probably don’t need to tell you that. But just as much as life can devolve into a daily grind of deadlines and responsibilities can a few choice words elevate us into a better perception and a newfound sense of purpose.
So here are a few quotes — unfortunately in the ever-hated listicle format — that I use among others to keep my head above water during the day.
1. Seneca, on the shortness of life.
People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.
We waste time. We waste a lot of time.
I write desperately on this subject — so much so that for at least a month I had one of those neat Top Writer badges on my profile on the subject of Productivity.
That makes me no better or worse than anyone. In fact, I’d wager I waste more time than you. My living situation takes a lot of the edge off of the need for motivation, and my freelance income often suffers from my desire to consume content rather than create it.
As a lazy and naturally stingy person, this quote damns me when I need it to. As much as we’d like it to be, not all motivation needs to be nice.
It needs to be effective.
2. Mark Twain, the innocents abroad/roughing it.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
Earlier, I mentioned that I was stingy — which is only partially true.
I’m incredibly wasteful on travel. I spend money hand over fist to fly cheap and fly far, far away from little old Atlanta, Georgia.
The further I travel, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I grow. It’s not opinion or politics — it’s mathematics.
If I could take just one moment to speak tangentially on this subject — and if I could make one recommendation to you, dear reader — it would be to travel far, get out of the car, and really look around.
I know that I’m at risk of sounding like another voice in the cacophony of those who cry out “damn those millennials who cannot put their phones down!”
But seriously — if you need to hike to get a photo to dump on Instagram under the #wanderlust tag, you’re doing hiking wrong.
This quote reminds me to travel far, live broadly, and to stop thinking that my little neck of the woods — or even my own country — is the best and brightest that this world has to offer.
And in the interest of completely undermining everything I just said, here’s a picture of the Olympic Mountains I took after quite literally writing my way to the mountaintop —
Not pictured — the terrifying drive down a winding mountain road at night to return to the hotel.
3. Albert Einstein, on the method of theoretical physics.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
I like minimalism. In both its functionality and in the aesthetic it can bring to a space. There are many quotes on the art of simplicity, but come on — if you’re going to quote some, quote Einstein, right?
In all seriousness — Einstein nails down something particularly important.
Simplicity is something that we should strive for — but not overshot. Keep what you need, but no more and no less.
This is part of the reason why I have six shirts and sixty vinyl records. One brings me joy more than the other — and the shirts are of pretty good quality, to be fair.
If you don’t know a lot about minimalism as a lifestyle, peruse around my favorite subreddit and see if it sounds like a good mindset to adapt. Don’t be too freaked out by how comprehensive some of those users get — some people like a hands-on discussion more than others.
Take what you can, implement things however you can, and focus more on enjoying the results (and the rest of your life) rather than the dogma.
And finally —
4. Don Hertzfeldt, world of tomorrow.
Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time.
Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now.
Now is the envy of all of the dead.
I am hard-pressed to name a favorite movie or band, but my favorite auteur is — and probably always will be — Don Hertzfeldt.
This quote, spoken by a descendant thrown back in time to her matriarch, is essentially a long and eloquent way of expanding upon the ultimate motivational quote:
You are dying.
To be honest, little more motivation should ever be needed. In the unknown reaches of our numbered days, we cannot afford to lose a second — either willingly wasting away, or pontificating on the meaningless of things alike.
If existentialism is your thing (or really just movies in general), try out Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such A Beautiful Day.
The hour-long experimental film is, in and of itself, a minimalistic depiction. The characters are literally stick figures — painfully drawn by hand and shot on traditional film. Even the special effects were simulated and placed atop the foundational layers.
I recommend venturing into the film alone and with no previous knowledge of the events that take place. I have cried in sorrow, and in joy, but I have never understood the tears I always shed in the final act of this film.
If you need more convincing, try out a fairly spoiler-free trailer.
Anyone and everyone needs motivation every once in a while. While I see so many of whom I consider my Medium peers complaining about the abundance of productivity and motivational words that pour from this and so many other places, I’d like to think that it’s needed.
In a world where the Internet is segmented and algorithmically designed to provide us with the sweet sounds of our echo chambers of choice, shaking things up is essential to growth.
The converse of the statement “everyone needs motivation” is “everyone could be doing better.” So — while I don’t recommend obsessing over success — I’d like to think that an online space full of motivation and hope is a net positive over some of the alternatives you’ll find.
So take these quotes or leave them. Whatever keeps you happy, motivated, and striving for something greater.