24 Lessons I’ve Learnt So Far

A friend suggested that I make this list for the last day of my Year 24.

I wonder how much different these lessons may be 10 years from now.

Soundtrack: Adele – 21

1. Life Goes On regardless of how you feel about it. People move on, trends change, children grow up, and you somehow end up living one day after the next.

2. People Will Also Come and Go. They’ll make you smile on a street corner or share a single summer of laughs and secrets out on a cigarette littered porch. They will break your heart and cut you open so deep that the scars never go away. They will take you in when you have nowhere else to turn and be a burden, a confidant, a trauma, and above all else… a memory.

3. Freedom is In Letting Go and letting go means not caring. Not caring what people think, not caring what your peers are doing, not caring about having too much or too little, and not caring that there are an unknown number of breaths, days, and slices of pizza.

4. My Parents are Human Too and therefore fallible, fragile, needing nurture and people with their own lives. People who should have their own lives apart from mine.

5. Good Friends are Family. Not like family. They are family. And usually better.

6. Relationships Require Boundaries. This applies to family, friends, and lovers.

7. There is Always Someone Worse Off but Your Feelings Are Still Valid. 

8. When in Doubt, Apply to Everything and something is bound to stick.

9. Self-Care is More Than A Mani-Pedi. It is also therapy, going to the dentist, exercising, and eating all your vegetables.

10. Being Uncomfortable is Okay. There is a lot to be learned in feeling uncomfortable. “Why do I feel this way?” “Maybe this is something that will always feel like this and that is okay.”

11. People from Your Past Are Exactly That. So it may be fun to creep once in a while, but don’t let it go beyond that. You’ve changed. They’ve probably changed. Leave it.

12. Figure Out Your Finances. Educate yourself. Podcasts, books, random nerdy financial websites… it’ll be worth it in the end. The earlier, the better (and higher returns).

13. Read. Read books, read poems, read… everything. Words are the collection of our combined memories, feelings, thoughts… even if no one understands you, some 11th century poet or a dead rockstar will.

14. Travelling is Always a Good Investment. I’ve never regretted any single trip I’ve ever been on and I’ve always gained perspectives that have been priceless.

15. But Travel Responsibly. Don’t be a douchebag tourist. Don’t be a stereotypical [insert country here] tourist. Everything seems inconsequential when you are on vacation but actually your actions have consequences for the people who live there full time.

16. There are Cities in the Developing World. Like, really big cities with skyscrapers, mass consumerism, and uber. It will change your perspective about the world and about your world. Educate yourself. Hence the travel.

17.   You are More Resilient than You Think You are. The years will harden you in ways that you cannot yet foresee. What you endured and overcame at 22 would’ve seemed overwhelming at 14 but after being 19, you saw that it was possible.

18. Home is Where the Food is. No matter what country, city, or street corner, the smells and tastes of the food from your childhood can be a comfort to most emotional ailments.

19. If it’s Important to You, It isn’t a Waste of Money. Going to an amusement park? Travelling the world for a month? A new pair of shoes? Dinner out on the town? Other people may not understand but they don’t need to for it to be the right decision for you.

20. Actually, Most People Give Shitty Advice so it’s better to not care what other people think… which is easier said than done but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

21. Every Once in a While, People Do Give Great Advice. And those people are usually the ones who ask more questions than give lectures.

22. Some Things Do Become Clearer with Age. If only because we tend to accumulate a greater variety of experiences over time.

23. Your Feelings Will Show Through Your Actions. If you do it out of love, people will feel that warmth. If you do it out of spite, they’ll also feel that too.

24. Adele is a Better Soundtrack to Life and Love than Taylor Swift. This is just a fact.

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Useless Talents are, Nevertheless, Talents

There have been countless times in Malawi that I’ve been grateful to my lucky stars for the bag of useless talents I’ve managed to acquire during my 22 years. Case in point: I cooked impromptu pasta yesterday. Translation: I boiled some linguine and made sauce using cans of whole tomato and whatever vegetables I could find seasoned with curry powder. It was delicious. My host family now thinks I’m a cooking guru. I owe my thanks to the cooking lifestyle belonging to University student poverty.

The following is a list of my other skills, similarly useless but rather useful in Malawi:

– Awkward turtling like nobody’s business
– Having grown up with a love, and thereby immunity, of questionable street food
– The ability to hold my hands in an awkward, vertical stretch, behind my back
– Knowing the partial choreography of a handful of Kpop songs
– A short stature
– Being able to have a superior sense of balance
– And having a superior ability to stretch in every which way
– Knowing how to pretend I’m Japanese
– I can do the cup song
– Having hands that move like an eel despite a body that fails to imitate
– Spinning like a ballerina
– Remembering the ONE set of Irish footwork Ariana taught me in grade 9
– The ability to spin any long, straight object like a kungfu master
– Likewise, I can spin my pen like a true Asian
– Watching too many Korean dramas
– Asking obnoxious questions
– Knowing how to braid my hair
– Ability to eat corn cleanly off the cob in rows
– Remembering how to do laundry using the stomping method
– Keeper of the magical 9 times table finger secret
– Speaking (a bit) of French

***Disclaimer***
Upon my return to Canada, I will NOT be able to demonstrate any of these useless abilities by request

Today’s Culture Shock: Many people wash their hands all the time… Without soap. It isn’t necessarily a matter of being able to afford soap. Everybody I know bathe every single day and you need soap for that. And people know that you should wash with soap. Restaurants generally have tons of soap by the sink. But especially in the villages, washing hands with only water is a cultural thing. And it’s difficult to break people’s habits.

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A List of Things I Miss in Canada

We’ve reached the halfway mark and as much as I love Malawi, “There’s no place like home” really does resonate more and more. So here’s a list of all the beautiful things I miss about Canada (mostly food).

– A real Canadian breakfast. Eggs, beans, back bacon/breakfast sausages, hash – all doused in glorious maple syrup.

– Sidewalks. Paved roads. The lack of sand in my shoes.

– Washing machines. Dryers. Even if I have to walk outside of my building to use one.

– Drinking on the patio with friends on a warm summer evening. Or just drinking in public and not being misunderstood for it.

– Spicy food. Specifically Korean food.

– SUSHI.

– Pasta. Creamy pasta. Creamy pasta that I make with seafood and white wine.

– Cooking. Knowing how to use the stove and where to buy groceries so that I can cook for myself.

– A fridge. And cold water.

– Large windows. And my open concept house filled with light.

…. I’ll think of more later. But those are the ones that occupy most of the space in my mind. 🙂

Today’s Culture Shock: Most everyone I’ve met generally don’t believe poverty exists in Canada. To which I explain and show pictures of homeless people (who only really exist in the big cities in Malawi) and everyone is always appalled.

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Bricks used to build houses in Malawi