I’m addressing you, students, because you have the strength and will that older people mostly do not. Young people start nations; old people bitch about them. It’s the way of the world. If you’re not happy with your world right now, there are steps you can take today that can tangibly impact your world right this very second.
(And old people, if you want to join in, that’s cool, too.)
One of the best things any of us can do is listen to other people. Try to avoid rushing to judgement, try to avoid rushing to a “fix.” Just listen. Ask questions. Make eye contact. Those simple things may make all the difference to someone, including you. You don’t have to change your mind about a topic, but you do have to leave room for it to marinate a bit. Let people’s stories impact you.
2. Don’t talk shit.
And on that note, don’t talk shit to or about other people. I talk so much shit, it’s unreal, but only when I’m alone in the car. And you know what? It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make me feel better, it doesn’t change the assholes from being assholes. (Seriously, who lets their dog crap twelve inches away from a free dog-poop-bag dispenser? The same able-bodied shitbags who park in handicapped spots, I bet.)
So, yes, it may feel good for a moment to rag on someone, but it is not helping the world. Especially petty, gossipy bullshit.
There are two people, two very specific people alive in this world today that I hate with the heat of a thousand burning suns. And you know what? That hate has done nothing for me. Not a thing. This year, I will forgive them. Somehow. Maybe with the help of some Metta meditation, maybe by sheer force of will, but I will do it. It’s not hurting them, it’s hurting me.
Furthermore, back-stabbing and shit-talking online has got to stop. Just don’t participate in that bottom-feeder bullshit. You’re better than that. We all are. Being a petty little shit online is for…petty little shits. We need fewer of those, and a lot more of people saying, “Hey, I’m here.”
Remember Random? Remember that that book was based on a true story? (Or, more likely, hundreds of true stories.) If our “hero” had simply spoken up, spoken kindly when she had the chance, a life might have been saved. Again, this was based on a true story. This happens every day in this country, and I’m sick of it, and you should be, too.
Be kind online or don’t even bother logging on. Post pictures of puppies and kittens if you want, but don’t get caught up in the rumor mill or hater spaces. I promise you have much better things to do than that. For example:
3. Ask him/her out.
Just do it! The worst that happens is nothing. You will have a great story to tell a few years from now, no matter the result. And don’t, like, text it or something. Man- or Woman-up and go face to face and say, “Hey, want to go grab some coffee sometime?” or whatever it is you think will work. Don’t be cutesy or clever, just be sincere. Smile. I swear to you, even if you get laughed at (you probably won’t), it will not be the end of the world if he/she says no. How much trouble might Tyler have saved himself if he’d just goddamned talked to Becky that first day? We’ll never know. But a kind smile and some nice words will go a long, long way toward making a friend or a date. Or both.
4. Reduce/eliminate eating meat.
I am not a climate scientist or medical doctor, nor do I claim to be, and I don’t give a shit whether you “believe in” science or not. That’s your issue. My issue is simply this: Reducing or eliminating your meat intake is good for your body, your neighborhood, your state, your country, and your planet. You do not have to go all-out vegan—my family is what I call “veering vegan” without making some kind of blood-oath of fealty to Mother Gaia. But we don’t have meat more than, say, once a month anymore. If everyone pulled back on meat consumption, there are benefits for everyone.
Just consider it, it’s all I ask. Google it. Here, I did it for you: What happens if we stop eating meat?
5. Do that thing you like doing, no matter what anyone says.
You have a thing you love to do. You know what it is. Maybe it’s writing stories or poetry or lyrics, or painting or drawing or sculpting, or golfing or dog walking or yoga or krav maga, or acting or directing or filming or editing….
You get the idea. There’s something you deeply love to do.
Go do that thing. Once a week, minimum, if possible. Once a month will do. You deserve to do that thing. (If it’s not, say, being a homicidal maniac, that is.) This world needs all of us to relentlessly pursue the things we love, the things that make us happy to be here, the things that define us. When we do that, we’re better able to deal with the crap that comes at us. Our stress level goes down, and our relationships improve. I hate the idea of anyone, anywhere, not being able to do at least a little bit of the thing they love. I may never sell another novel in my life, but I will still write several a year because it’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s one of the things that makes me, me.
So go do your thing.
6. Which reminds me, STAY THE FUCK HERE.
Not kidding. Suicide is fucking bullshit, period, full stop. Ask anyone who’s had to live with someone they love doing it. So, don’t. Ever. Just don’t. Wait. Give it a day or a week or a month or a year, but so help me baby Jesus, things will get better after high school, and even better after college-age. Ask me how I know. But you won’t find out if you don’t STAY HERE. Put the Suicide Prevention Hotline number into your phone right now and you call that thing the very moment it even crosses your mind.
Let’s make 2017 the year we didn’t lose one more kid to suicide.
You being here makes the world a better place. See how easy that is? Just stick around. Someone needs you. I know I do.
National Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255
7. Watch the sunrise or sunset.
When you get a chance, take just a minute, or five, or ten, and watch the sun come up or set. If nothing else it’s a reminder to take a moment and breathe, clear your head, and put all the craziness of the world in its place. It works for me.
Here’s to 2017. We got this.