Think about the things in your life that caused you pain, stress or anxiety in the past few years or even just last year. Now think about how little they matter to you now, or even better, if those harder times were not a part of your life, how you would not be even close to the situation you are in now. I actually put this into practice probably starting when I was 14 or 15. Every New Year’s I would write down the top 5 worst things that happened to me that year. The next year I flip back a page and look at what I wrote. Every year I find that I have forgotten about a few and the rest honestly do not bother me anymore. One time I actually wrote that I got an 81 on my Geometry state test and that my U14 hockey team lost in the state championship. So when I go to write down the 5 worst things of the most recent year, it makes me smile a little that they won’t matter soon enough.
This is not meant to be a hard-hitting article about how eye-opening trauma is, or how the “highest mountains have the best views”. Instead, it is almost the opposite. I think the single thing that has changed my life the most, and I mean my day to day life, is I just do not take it as seriously as I used to. Not in the slacker "I don’t care about myself" kind of way, but in the way that I take a lot of time to step back and realize how short my life really is in the scheme of everything. It makes dramatic situations with friends seem laughable and bad test grades roll off my back a bit easier. I usually ask myself if something will really matter in 5 years. The answer is almost always no. Life automatically becomes more fun with this mindset, when you realize how ridiculous most of the things you worry about are. We are all going to die one day and our lives will be over and what will we have done with it? This is not some pressure to make something great of yourself, because really we are not destined for greatness. It is not that serious and was never meant to be. I think this is one of the most freeing thoughts you can come to know. One of my favorite anonymous quotes in Briana Wiest’s book 101 Essays that will Change the way You Think is, “We take our lives too seriously… in a few hundred years, most people will be completely forgotten about. That’s not depressing, that is liberating. Give love and do what you most genuinely want to. It won’t matter anyway, so make it matter now”. When you adopt this mindset I think you can truly look for the good and the fun in almost all situations.
Here are a few things that I think about a lot or have done that can help. The first is that no one is thinking about you as much as you like to believe. No one cares what you do really. How often are you really thinking about other people? You aren’t, because you’re thinking about yourself. Think about how many of your decisions are based on what other people will think of you. Would you listen to the music that you listen to or be in the major that you are in or do what you do now on the weekends if no one was watching? Would you have gone to college? What if you started listening to podcasts that genuinely interest you or went somewhere you have always wanted to go, even if its by yourself. Bottom line is, why would you spend your life doing anything besides what you genuinely want to do, what genuinely excites you and makes you happy? We are too caught up in our tasks for the day or how other people feel that we forget that this is our lives and we are living it. It is so easy to let the days and weeks pass by as we are constantly checking off to-do lists and looking towards what needs to be done tomorrow. We forget that our lives are made up of our days and how we spend the minutes of those days. We like to think that it is something bigger than that, but its not.
Who says that we cannot do something fun every day? Why is it that when we sit next to someone on a plane or a train or a bus, we both put our headphones in? Why does no one dance in public when a good song comes on but instead stands emotionless? Why do we wait for special occasions to throw parties? Why don’t 60 year-olds drive around with the windows down singing to their favorite song? We take life so seriously when we forget how little time we have to really live it, so why not make it fun?