The Most Important Things That A 25-Year Old Global Citizen Would Like To Tell You About Life

I am culturally Indian but I grew up in Kenya. I had a brief span in India and Tanzania before I moved to Canada for my undergraduate studies and I’m currently studying in the United States for my PhD. I’ve learnt and grown a lot from all these places and from the people I have met and friends I have made along the way. For some reason, people are inspired by me and I seem to be quite likeable to many, which makes me question what do I do (or try to do) differently from others. I therefore always wonder what the most important things I would tell someone are, and based on my experiences in life around the world so far, I believe these are it.
markus spiske
markus spiske

1. Fit in, but also stand out.

I believe that your ability to integrate smoothly with a group of people or in a new environment without losing yourself plays a big role in the experience you have. You should ‘click’ with others by looking at what you have in common with the people you meet – whether it comes down to food, music, travel and other interests in life – trust me…you can find a lot in common despite what you think. At the same time, don’t forget that you are a unique individual who has his/her own story and is different from everyone else – don’t let the fitting in make you lose your own identity.

2. Be open-minded but uphold your life philosophies.

This seems to be the same as the previous point but it’s not (according to me). Open-mindedness is being tolerant of other people’s ideas and beliefs, arguments and statements, and allowing yourself to think about what they say and looking at things from their perspective which allows you to expand your horizons. Upholding your philosophies is about you believing in what you believe in without succumbing to the opinion of others, whether those are political views or views on religion, health and science, books… anything. There is no universal truth (this is the truth, trust me). If you think someone’s taste in music is pathetic or their way of life is just terrible, you will not go far with interpersonal skills and developing strong relationships. I am not asking you to do what they do but remember everyone is different, just like you.

3. Have a diverse set of talents and be awesome at some.

The more diverse you are in terms of skills (sports, cooking, arts, stitching, fixing broken cars/bikes, among others), the more you can connect with others and provide yourself the opportunity to meet different people and click on different aspects of life. However, with the time everyone has, it’s impossible to have all the talents possible or be the best at each one, so make sure you are really good at some things which shows that you care more about certain things and are focused, and accept that you’re not the best at all – but some for sure.

4. Value time.

Your time and everyone else’s time. This is a finite resource we all have and it’s priceless. If you know you can’t make it to an occasion or are late, have the moral responsibility to inform the other(s) and apologize – lying does not help and you lose respect if you cannot be honest about being at fault. On the other hand, if you truly believe your time is important (and it is!), make the best of it. There’s only so much time you can give someone until they keep failing you and become a disappointment.

5. Be optimistic, be encouraging and be confident.

Everyone has a lot of problems in life and adding more negativity to someone’s life does not help. Your positive vibe and energy makes a bigger difference to those in your life than you realize. Trust me. Also being optimistic and confident about yourself is possible and you have to try to do that all the time – it’s not always easy but you need to strive for that all the time.

6. Strive to be better than everyone else and believe that you can be.

This sounds so narcissistic but you know that’s not what I’m trying to imply. Sometimes you need to look externally to improve internally. By looking at others’ lives (trust me, everyone looks at everyone else) and competing, you can find motivation and energy to make yourself a better human. Be more hardworking, appreciative, kind, more optimistic and healthier by observing others. You need to also believe you can, and if others believe in you, you should believe in yourself too. All day, every day.

7. Be real and be honest.

It’s really sad if you are faking your life and feelings because of your environment and because of the fear of rejection/not fitting in. No one has a perfect easy happy awesome life and if you think by hiding your true personality and liking things to please others, you’ll be in a tight spot. If you don’t want to go out for an event or are not interested in something, make sure you make that clear, otherwise you’re going to disappoint yourself. When others find out that more than half the words that come out of you are fake, you’ve established yourself in a place that’s hard to get out of.

8. Get back to people.

Whether it’s a phone call or message, if you don’t have the courtesy to get back to someone, and think that the next time you meet them they’ll forget, you’re pretty darn wrong. If you don’t have two seconds to say you’re busy or it’s not a good time or you are sorry you missed it, you’re no different than the others. If you can’t get back right away, let them know why you couldn’t earlier. You suck otherwise.

9. Read.

Books, the news, articles and whatever else you can read. You don’t know it all and you never will, but that does not mean you don’t try. People who can read, and actually read, are way more interesting people than those who don’t – no, Youtube, Netflix and watching television does not substitute for reading.

10. Be passionate, work hard and be smart.

Whatever you are doing in life, be passionate and proud about it. There’s no perfect job/life/career out there (even if you think there is) and you need to develop the passion or find it. If you thought that I or anyone else for that matter, does not put hard work into studying or work or being a better person, you’re completely mistaken. I guess I’ll state it here that many of my friends are under the impression that my life is sunshine and rainbows all the time and I just ask them to definitely come spend time with me to find out. You need to put in effort. About smartness, it depends on what you define it as but to me it means not being ignorant, learning something and progressing forward, having more common sense and being street smart. If you think smartness is being a nerd or that you’re so cool for skipping class and just partying your life through school, you are definitely not smart enough (yet).

11. Before you go to sleep, reflect on your day.

Are you satisfied with what you did today? What have you learnt and what do you need to improve on? Not sure about you, but at night I realize how much time has gone by and I can’t really sleep peacefully unless I believe that I have accomplished something worthwhile.

12. Observe people and pay attention to the small things.

Every day, I observe people – the residents, the people on the bus, the bus driver, people on the street, people working at the food court and in shops, everywhere. I think about their lives and their problems and what they probably have and don’t have – and try to appreciate who I am, what I have, and what I could do to change lives. I think about whether other people think the same. I hope they do. About the small things, I think about the how amazing it is to be awake again, I think about how the water system works before I get water out of the tap, or how photosynthesis works and how our legs and eyes function. I think about the traffic lights and technology in cars, about the different types of clouds and the times we live in. I think about a lot of things and realize that there’s so much I don’t know about. I also think about whether others ever think about such things and whether they have a clue about photosynthesis or how the engine of a car works or anything else that I might know of. Is it even possible to not have a thought in your head at any one time?

13. Compare but don’t compare.

The grass always looks greener on the other side but looks can be deceiving. If you had the chance to swap your life with one person permanently, would you do it? Probably not, because you have no idea of what the whole package looks like. I wouldn’t for sure. Everyone does compare their own life with others, but make sure that you don’t forget what you have and there’s always someone who would like to have your life.

14. Life happens once.

There are no pause, rewind or replay buttons. The older you get, the more you’ll realize that life goes by quickly and there’s only so much time to do what you want to do and only so many silly things you can do before it’s too late. Before you go about YOLO-ing your way through life, think about what you would like to be known and remembered for. You need to live in the moment but at the same time you want to create a legacy. I don’t know the answers to everything but I know that if you think you can YOLO your way without having long-term aspirations and certain standards and achieve something in life, good luck.TC mark

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