Unsolicited Life Advice For My Brother Graduating College

While I could never choose a favorite sibling I have to confess I have different soft spots for each of the ones I have. One particular soft spot I have for my older younger brother, the brother who is older than everybody else but younger than me as I am the firstborn, is the fact that he is technically the sibling that made me a big sister for the first time.

And for the sake of tradition I thought I would celebrate his graduation from college with an old staple from our childhood: some bossy but well-intentioned, usually unsolicited and often uninvited life advice from a sister who has three years of extra wisdom to impart:

Dear Brother,

Graduating anything always triggers pictures of adulthood, reminding you of what you’re leaving behind and leaving you feeling unprepared no matter how much you prepare. But don’t be afraid.

I think the great mystery of life is that the fundamentals about you don’t really change, you keep a lot of the same personality, feelings, and perceptions that you have always had, but your experiences broaden, your confidence grows, and pretty soon you’re surprised that without ever meaning to you’ve actually grown up.

And as you take this next step forward you’re going to be given a lot of advice on how to lead “successful” life.

This advice is well meaning, but nothing can ruin a life quite like worldly notions of “success.” What I mean by that is all too often success in is measured the wrong way and becomes synonymous with things like an impressive career, prosperity, and having what your friends have in every aspect of life from the material things to personal relationships, as if attaining these things were the only way to create a worthwhile legacy and impact the world for the better.

Yet I would recommend entirely rejecting that outlook because that is the one that leaves people living in fear, stressfully trying to control every detail from their diet to their career path and competitively comparing their progress to their neighbors. And I would wish better for you because, contrary to what I would have had you believe during your formative years, I actually love you a lot and there is some big sister part of me that’s always looking out for you, even though I know you can take care of yourself. Your happiness is important to me because the only misery I want in your life is the misery caused by my own self.   

Therefore, I will admit that from my brief experience with adulthood thus far there is one thing I wish someone had told me as I was graduating: “don’t forget to have an adventure.”

By that, I do not mean to suggest that you should spend all your money on a trip to Europe. I simply mean that as you enter the workforce and begin to think about things like health insurance and a 401K, there is so much focus placed on getting ahead and securing the next step on the road to “success” that it can be very tempting to forget to enjoy the step that you’re on. In other words, you forget that even though you’re not technically a kid anymore, life is still the same giant adventure it always has been. You just have to take the time to look for it, since your to-do list will be longer than ever before.

But the incredible thing about life is that you live. No matter what happens somehow you survive everything that gets thrown your way, even the things that at first seem impossible. So worrying is basically useless and the time you would have spent worrying is better spent developing trust and gratitude, the two fundamental things every adventurer needs.

This is the attitude that truly determines success because not only does it lead to greater happiness, it also gives one the courage required to reject the temptation to measure happiness in terms of self-indulgence and end the lie that life worth is nothing if it does not contain a list of impressive accomplishments. It will give you the wisdom to realize the true paradox that an impact is made not through great achievement, but in those tiny little moments that at first seem insignificant but later turn out to be the moments that make life worthwhile. Mundane moments where you are given an opportunity laugh and be silly as you go about your daily routine. To appreciate everything you have as it comes to you. To share your unique essence with the world as you spread the love of God you’ve experienced in your everyday encounters with your neighbors. The ability to live life not as a competition but as the gift that it is, both to your own self and to the countless others you will meet. Because ultimately I know you will be successful for the same reason I love you, not because of the amazing things you do at present or will do in the future, but simply because of who you are. The wonderfully thoughtful and witty young man I have so enjoyed getting to know.

Congratulations on your graduation from college. This is a big day and we’re really proud of you.

Love,

Ellen

 

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100th post

So today is a very special day because as of right now I have officially written 100 BLOG POSTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is exciting. I feel like a little kid who has had too much sugar. I’m pretty psyched that the blog has continued for this long and that I’ve managed to write this much without (I hope) compromising the integrity of the writing itself. Even though I’ve got a long way to go, I’ve learned a ton about blogging and I’ve really enjoyed it thus far. Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday I didn’t even understand how to properly use a tag?

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To commemorate the day I thought I’d also make a list in no particular order of things I wish I also had a hundred of:

  1. puppies
  2. paid vacation days
  3. thousand dollars
  4. amazing new blog post ideas
  5. Barnes and Noble gift cards
  6. student loan discounts
  7. hours to sleep
  8. cardigans
  9. days at the beach
  10. french fries (I wouldn’t finish but I’d like to see it)
  11. restaurants in walking distance from my office
  12. coffee mugs
  13. straight days to work on a book I’m trying to write
  14. pairs of shoes
  15. bookmarks
  16. bundles of yarn
  17. well-matched outfits
  18. more likes for my blog’s Facebook page and other social media
  19. feet of storage in my closet
  20. flavors of liquid coffee creamer in my office
  21. daisies
  22. extra hours to volunteer
  23. vouchers for Kennywood (the best amusement park EVER that just happens to be located in western PA)
  24. views of this post
  25. offers to write for publications I respect
  26. years on my domain name agreement
  27.  journals
  28. plane tickets to visit friends scattered across the country
  29. scarves (one can never have too many)
  30. phone chargers
  31. computer techs at my disposal to help me with my technology
  32. free months of Netflix
  33. years til my Driver’s license expires
  34. decent chap sticks
  35. bobby pins
  36. stationary cards of different varieties
  37. stamps
  38. days left of my Amazon prime free trial
  39. tickets to Pittsburgh sporting events
  40. cases of Sparkling water (I’m addicted)
  41. more ideas to put on this list because this is my last one

I hope this list gave you a chuckle. Thanks so much for being a fabulous reader and/or subscriber. Here’s to at least 100 more posts!

The Music Man

So today I had a really nice sit-down chat with one of the guys on my company’s maintenance staff and he was sharing with me how he was teaching his son how to play drums. He is quite musical himself and plays drums for his church, but his love of music actually started with the guitar when he was around his son’s age, which is why he is so willing to oblige when his son asks him for lessons.

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So of course this warranted the purchase of a sweet set of drums for the both of them (he showed me a picture) and it was great to see his face light up while he talked about his passion for music. People with secret passions (within the bounds of moral and civil law) make me so happy. Like, here’s a guy who fixes things for a living and he is quite good at it, but now I can picture him playing music all the time. It’s his outlet, one of the things he enjoys most about living, and he practices regularly and with dedication. Even though he leads a very humble life with his family, I know many more affluent people who would pay to feel like that about something, to have something capture their soul like that. And it was sweet because this man admitted that he’s seen others turning to alcohol, drugs, and things like that but that for him, it’s always been music. And his smile was so sincere I could almost see the halo.

But I wanted to pay a special tribute to the music man, for reminding me on an ordinary Thursday afternoon what life is all about.