March 11, 2015

BYRNE | Lessons for My 22-Year-Old Self

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Be yourself. This is apparently easier said than done. The year is 2015, after all, and aliens could come at any time and take over your body. Avoid this at all costs, and remain who you are. Above all, remain human, because alien possession completely ruins your skin.

Do things you’re afraid of. See how I just ended a sentence with a preposition? Those are the kind of life-changing, crazy risks you should be taking. Open the door while the car is moving. Buy a wolf as a pet. Attend meetings of local cults, like that one with the old guy trying to recruit young female Cornell students. Basically, if you feel trepidation about doing something, that is a sure sign you should be doing it. Go forth and be frightened.

Find meaning in your work. Remember in high school, when kids in math class used to always yell out things like, “when am I ever going to need this in the real world?” Remember how much the teachers loved that? Bring that tactic back, and use it in lectures. Force your professors to constantly do all of your thinking for you; one of their favorite activities is explaining to students why their boring fields matter, so they will love this question. You quite literally cannot ask it too often.

Reach out to those around you. You do not know how many people I have seen slip and fall on the ice throughout this winter, when there are plenty of perfectly upright people walking around all around them! Reach out, and pull other people down with you when you fall. This will ensure that you are not the only person looking like an idiot sliding down the slope on your butt, and also that you make tons of friends.

Don’t settle. Make sure you never, ever feel comfortable with anything you’re doing. How can you be happy right now, when you could be doing something one thousand times better?! Clearly, you need to be re-evaluating your life constantly, because there is no way you’re making the right decisions if you feel content. Push yourself, pull yourself, stomp on yourself, because yourself needs to be jostled all the time, or else you could end up like one of those boring people who hate their boring jobs.

Expect nothing. What feeling is worse than disappointment? Here’s a cure: Start every day with exactly zero expectations, and you will never feel disappointed. Don’t expect to accomplish anything, and then if you don’t, you can at least feel good that your predictions came true. This might seem like it contradicts the above advice about never settling, but that is just because your mind is too simple to understand the nuances of the difference between the two. Don’t worry, you have much to learn.

Breathe. I know it might seem like you do this all the time, but you have been doing it wrong. Not to worry, I will teach you the right way. Not only do you have to inhale and exhale, but you must also breathe in all of the optimism in the world, and exhale all of your problems. This is not a metaphor: Most of your biggest problems are the carbon dioxide in your lungs, which must be exhaled. Please don’t forget to do it.

Do something great. At the same time as you are forging relationships with those around you, trying to achieve academic and personal success, managing expectations about the future and getting rid of all that pesky carbon dioxide, you should be keeping in mind that your life will only be worth living if you achieve something memorable. If you are wondering what classifies as memorable or great, look no further than the thousands of awards and prizes you can strive for, so that everyone around you can point to the day you won the [Pulitzer/MacArthur/Nobel/Tony/Oscar/Grammy/National Book Award] as the exact moment when your life became worthwhile.

Good luck.

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