Our fifteen-year-old self is our harshest critic. All the things it thought we were capable of when it was in charge. All the things it was sure it would achieve later in life. All the obstacles it knew we’d have the power to overcome. The words “safe” and “average” would never be part of us or our vocabulary. We were too special, too strong. That young self was ready to be as inspired and ruthless as a conquering army over the rest of our days. And although since then we’ve grown to smile at (or scorn) the part of ourselves that thought bell-bottom pants were cool and we were capable of licking the world, something of that young soul lives on and watches, too often like a child ashamed of its parents. Only we are our own parents now and our own child. No one gets left behind; every part of us sits in judgment of the other.
Too many people worry about the number on the scale, how many glasses of water they drank today, whether this milk is non-homogenised, how much artificial sugar there is in this soft drink, how much the wi-fi signal is killing our brains, how they might have offended someone by swearing in front of them, how much money they are making, how successful they are compared to their peers, if they are addicted to coffee, whether this blog will get enough ‘likes’, whether their art means anything, whether there’s too many germs in their kitchen, how inept they are at swing dancing, if their idea is original, if their idea is good enough to not have to be original, whether they will ever get over their ex, whether they will be remembered after they die — too many people, worry too much.
Eat what you want, drink what you like, smoke to your heart’s content, write everyday, sing out loud, have fun — often, learn as much as you can, dance (alone, if you must), work hard, run freely, love as many people as you want (not as many society lets you), paint if you want, don’t give a shit about what other people think of you, don’t be stupid, swear when you want (where you want) — most of all, do it with utmost passion and do something that makes a positive difference in someone else’s life.
And do it today, because tomorrow you might get hit by a driver and when you’re lying there on the coroner’s table — it won’t matter whether you have a six pack or a gut, nor your bank balance or your shiny car, not the number of facebook likes you have — what will matter is whether you lived a passionate life and how many lives you touched.
- I will make time for reading, the way I make time for meals, or brushing my teeth.
- I will make an effort to carry a book with me at all times.
- I will read whatever interests me. I will read novels. I will read poems. I will read essays. I will read short stories. I will read memoirs. I will read magazines. I will read newspapers. I will read comic books. I will read self-help. I will read street signs. I will read ads. I will read instruction manuals. I will read old love letters. Etc.
- I will read whatever the hell I feel like. No guilty pleasures.
- I will try to clear my mind of expectations before I sit down to read. I will give each book a chance..
- I will be a good date, but I will not let an author waste my time.
- I will turn off my phone.
- I will not finish books I don’t like.
- I will let boredom ring like a gigantic gong.
- I will throw a book across the room.
- I will read with a pencil. I will underline. I will dog ear. I will write in the margins.
- I will massacre a book if I need to.
- I will copy down favorite passages in my own hand, to know what writing the words feels like.
- I will re-read favorite books the way I watch favorite movies and play favorite records over and over.
- I will make lists of books I want to read.
- I will take a deep breath and understand that it is IMPOSSIBLE to read everything.
- I will toss “The Canon” out the window.
- I will keep a list of books I’ve read. I will share this list.
- When I find a book I love, I will shout about it from whatever mountaintops I have access to.
- When I find an author I truly adore, an author who makes my gutstrings vibrate, I will read everything they have written. Then I will read everything that they read.
- If I hate a book, I will keep my mouth shut.
- I will make liberal use of the phrase, “It wasn’t for me.”
- I will ask people what they are reading. I will take notes.
- I will keep stacks of unread books at the ready.
- The minute I finish a book, I will start a new one.
- I will go to the library. I will go to the bookstore. I will get lost in the stacks.
- I will read bibliographies. I will let one book lead me to another.
- If I need to read for information, I will browse and skim and Google book reviews.
- As often as I can, I will read out loud to someone I care about.
- I will not lend out a book if I ever want to see it again. If a friend asks to borrow a beloved book, I will buy and mail them a copy.
- I will not harbor the delusion that being a reader makes me a superior person.
- I will not suffer under the delusion that the act of reading alone makes me a better person.
- If I don’t feel like reading, I’ll go do something else. Maybe even — gasp! — watch TV.
I wish wishes made things come true, that I wouldn’t have to work so hard for the things I want and wouldn’t be so disappointed to discover when they came true that they weren’t really worth the cost.
Perhaps my wishes shouldn’t be for me. Maybe there’s no genie granting what we want and all this pain has a purpose. Maybe the hard things and the times when we don’t get what we want actually make us better.