There is no instruction manual for this, so buckle up and enjoy it.
When I turned 38 earlier this year, my not-quite-old-enough-to-be-GenX-but-too-old-to-be-millennial self got to pondering and said “self (because third person vibes are what thirty-somethings should give off), what do you think you’ve learned?” Well, frankly, a bunch. So much so, I tried to condense my learnings into a listical. I carry these close to vest as a gentle reminder of who I am, who I want to be, and who I have become.
1. I call this “alternative medicine"—hugs, smiles, laughter, love, voice notes, “just because” letters, texts, postcards, phone calls, and emails. Tell people you’re proud of them, you love them, you see and hear them, and you understand them.
2. Care about folks. Learn new things and old things. Read new and old things. Share information. Be open to constructive criticism and dialogue. Reflect on your values. Reckon with your biases.
3. A good love challenges you to be greater. A toxic love makes you question your greatness.
4. Keep working on finding the version of you that you can fall in love with. Pretty soon, you’ll start finding people who love that version of you, too.
5. Just a reminder: it all doesn’t have to happen right now.
6. We spend a lot of time coming and going, and maybe not enough time being and breathing. Spend more time being, and paying attention to your breath.
7. Please, don’t lower the standards, or frequency, of your dreaming for anybody.
8. If you’re going to choose to do anything, make it loving, make it intentional.
9. Being truly honest about your wants and needs allows room for you to receive what you want and need.
10. We all are at different phases and levels of our own healing. but know that it is okay sit with things, to stay with things; to process the things that hurt, to confront the things that scare and challenge us.
11. Our word choices matter. Please be intentional with the words you offer to others but, most importantly, to yourself.
12. I don’t like “busy.” I like active. I don’t want to be busy; I want to be actively engaged in any and all work that I do.
13. Pay attention to clinging, on either front. Sometimes, we don’t ever want good moments to end, so we try and hold onto them. Or we want the pain to hurry or subside so we try and rush our feelings towards it. Neither is healthy or helpful. All things are temporary, so our practice all comes back to how we let go.
14. Be into your feelings. It’s cool. It’s okay—being in touch and engaged with them makes you way better at being a human. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the other side of what being disengaged looks like..
15. Please, don’t ever be ashamed of growing, for doing better than you, or anybody else thought you ever would.
16. Ask for peace, love, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and understanding. But, above all else, offer those things, too; offer those things, first.
17. It is far too easy to question and judge those who do not exhibit what we consider to be healthy ways of loving. It is far easier for us to pour out love when love is poured into us. Self-love has a base love that generally starts with a loving foundation, created from a village of support and nurture. So, try and be a little more gentle to people who seem a little less “aware” than you.
18. Switching from “I have to” to “I get to” is a game changer and a life saver.
19. I’m pretty much making all this up as I go along, while learning and loving and failing in the process — find the blueprint, learn it, then rip it up and create your own.
Dassit. That’s all I got. Oh, one last thing...be good to yourself and each other. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that this is the only time we have in this vessel—let’s make the most of it.
Joél Leon is a father, dreamer and storyteller. Follow him @joelleon.