By Adnan Rehmat
Hooray! I turned 50 years old a few days ago! And what an incredibly beautiful and fulfilling life I have led. I am still standing, in full charge of my passions and compassions. This personal milestone has taught me lessons and in order to share the hacks from my life experiences I have penned down 50 lessons from the 50 years of my life. Read on...
1 Happiness is supreme - don’t ever be guilty about it. I don’t know why happiness isn’t recognized (and legislated!) as a fundamental right. If you won’t work for your happiness, why should anyone else? Make it a priority.
2 Family is important - they are your compass and they will back you when in your dark moments no one else will. Put them before all the abstract notions shoved down our throats on a daily basis.
3 Children are the world’s best thing. Take care of them - even those that aren’t your own - because they are the living, breathing bridge between not just your own past and future but also everyone else’s. Spend time with them. Make them laugh. Teach them the values of a big heart.
4 Optimism is better - hope may not be a strategy but despair is waste
of time. Pessimism is useless. When all else is lost, tomorrow still remains. Chin up!
5 Friends are necessary - they will share your joys and your pains. They will see and point out all that’s wrong with you (when even your family won’t) but they’ll still accept you as they are and enrich your life. Friendship is a two-way street.
6The purpose of life is to understand. Anything, everything. Anywhere, always. The six senses are your tool-kit for this to happen. Fight against the big blur of life. Make an effort to understand what makes the world and people tick. It will help you to understand yourself.
7A big heart is the best part of you - becoming compassionate makes you a better person. Understand that everyone is fighting a battle, often a bigger one than yours. You may not be able to help everyone but you help even by thinking about it.
8 Fighting mediocrity brings out the best in life - life may force compromises on you but you must demand the best and deliver the best. Fight for the best before settling for the second best.
9 Listening solves more mysteries, and problems, than speaking - almost every day this lends itself to proof. You can only learn and understand when you stop talking and listen.
10 Reading books is the best way to live lives that are not your own but which you always wanted. Most books are the price of a burger or two and far more fulfilling. Buy books. Forego burgers. Food for thought is a better bargain.
11 Literature is an adventure. The entire gamut of experience, emotion and feeling there is in life - you’ll find it all in words. Don’t just read trash and pulp. Go for the big, timeless stories now and then. Old is gold - immerse yourself!
12 Poetry helps you understand yourself - it also gives you the grammar of love and life besides the astonishing ability to say the most in the best way possible with the least number of words. Learn to love poetry.
13 Travelling broadens your horizons - you not only discover yourself, you also secretly learn about your biases and prejudices. You can get rid of these on your way back home.
14 It takes 20 years to make your children 20 years old. Not a day less. You will need a long-term plan and manage this project on a daily basis. It’s hard work but extremely rewarding to see them sprout wings. Looking after children (whether your own or others’) is the closest that can come to paying off the debt to what your parents have done for you.
15 You need a partner. Not just to love but also to annoy and to conspire with against the oppressions and depressions of life. There is no life partnership without unadulterated love.
16 Stitching up your past with your future broadens the context of your life. Teach your children about the lives of parents - both yours and your spouse’s. The parents deserve this and the children will appreciate your lives better and better understand the larger context of your collective lives. They will also come to better understand how everyone is connected in the larger human family.
17 Pets light up your life with love and make your home glow. Your children will grow up to lead more emotionally stable lives because of their experience with looking after pets.
18 Magazines give you the best guilty pleasures. Subscribe to music, film, nature and science magazines. They will give you all the best of life that the daily news media fails to provide.
19Your life is your own - caring about what others think of you is stupid. Don’t throw way your prerogatives - pursue your dreams and do what makes you happy.
20 Old book shops are magical places - go find them in your city or in other cities; they won’t be any more left pretty soon. Take your children with you, if possible. Visit book shops in every city you visit.
21 Buying and browsing atlases is a cheap way to go places if you can’t travel often. No visas required either. It’s a good way to learn about the breathtaking geography of our home planet.
22 Stargazing frees you from borders and the tyranny of gravity - cultivate an interest in astronomy. Buy a telescope to look at planets in your own solar system (even a good binocular will help you observe the moon). It won’t cost you more than a second-rate mobile phone.
23 Investing in a Kindle (or any other e-reader) brings you more books to read that you can’t buy in stores. There are more books you can download for free than you can read.
24 Saving your money is good - keep aside at least a quarter of all your earnings every month. It will cushion you from most emergencies.
25 Spending your money is also good - no need to leave all your money to someone else after you die. You’ve earned it, you have the right to spend it first.
26 Hobbies enrich your life - if you don’t have one, you lead a slightly more empty life. Make them special. Like, for example, collecting stamps of countries that no longer exist, or info about space programmes.
27 Critical thinking is crucially important - it can make a difference between leading a life you want and letting others decide how you will live out your life. Don’t be passive - think for yourself! Demand proof and the truth about everything, or search for it - don’t just accept everything as a given - as done by our educational and religious institutions, media and the government. Don’t just be opinionated, be informed!
28 Taking an interest in politics helps you take charge. If you don’t take an interest in politics it doesn’t mean politics will not take an interest in you and take decisions on your behalf that will ruin your life. Politics is too serious a business to be left to the politicians.
29 Testing yourself keeps you sharper - learn to see things from the lens of fundamental rights for everyone. Recognize your biases and prejudices and make a consistent effort to rid them. Fighting for everyone’s rights is the best way to fight for your own rights.
30 Volunteering makes your life and those of others better - choose a cause and quietly contribute in any way you can, preferably with time and advocacy.
31 Writing helps you become clear-headed - write about things you are interested in and understand. Become less opinionated and more analytical. Learn to put text in context.
32 Listening to music tames your inner animal - fill your life with melody. Develop an eclectic taste and explore artists, genres, eras and cultures. Cultivate an ear for melody in your children. In time, like you, they too will learn to chase away life’s blues with music.
33 Becoming gender affirmative is an obligation - ‘her story’ is more important than ‘his story.’ If you put on a gender lens you see the world better and you can enrich everyone’s lives by charting better action courses.
34 Seeking diversity enriches you - you are not the centre of the universe. Pluralism and inclusivity add options, colours and opportunities all round for everyone.
35 An interest in art helps you understand more - it prevents sterility from poisoning your life by keeping you away from the morbid, the macabre and the monstrous. Art is beauty.
36 Worrying wastes you - teach yourself to stop worrying about things you don’t or can’t control. It’s a big waste of your sanity, emotional well-being and time.
37 Carrying a grudge is useless - if you have been wronged, you can deal with it and move on. Carrying a grudge thereafter only hurts you, not the person who wronged you. It’s not worth the trouble. Move on.
38 Emotional well-being is never less than a priority - you don’t need lingering drama in your life. Refuse to be hostage to negativity - walk away from negative people. Beyond a certain reasonable stage don’t involve yourself in fights that others impose on you. Walk away. Be free.
39 Know your information sources - don’t be misled, know who owns the information and media you consume. Make your own opinions based on multiple information sources.
40 You are what you eat - so eat healthy, eat organic as far as is possible. Junk food and pesticide-facilitated food is bad for you.
41 A scented life is good - cultivate an interest in perfumes and scents and indulge yourself.
42 Sharing is caring - develop shared interests with your friends, even with strangers. These can be around causes, ideas, films, books, food, cooking, etc. Arrange get-togethers. Sharing is enriching.
43 Rebooting is good - escape your routine now and then; go away with your spouse, family, friends or even just yourself to another city, another country or another setting now and then.
44 Thinking always helps - learn to introspect. Teach yourself to contextualize your life in a broader framework. This helps you connect your daily life to your larger life. Your goals become clearer. It also helps you de-clutter.
45 Forgiving heals you - forgiving others is a noble thing but we also make mistakes ourselves, not just others. Don’t be harsh to yourself all the time - learn to forgive yourself.
46 Teach yourself to always take a look at the bigger picture to help you make informed opinions and bring clarity to your life and plans.
47 There’s no shame in seeking help - no one’s really a jack of all trades. You can’t solve all of the problems and challenges life will inevitably throw at you. Don’t be shy to seek help. Everyone has partners and friends they can turn to for advice.
48 Wisdom is not inherited - we all learn from somewhere or someone. And we never stop learning. Keep an open mind. Learn how to become aware of your ignorance. That, along with your experiences, will nudge you toward knowledge. With time, if you keep at it, wisdom will slowly emerge.
49 Open-mindedness will make you a better person - reject narrow-mindedness, obscurantism, bigotry, misogyny and hypocrisy. Cultivate a liberal, progressive and pluralistic outlook. This will keep you connected to the larger universe and prevent you cannibalizing yourself leading a life dictated by others.
50 Life will kill you in the end - so it’s useless fretting much; mix a little foolishness with all your serious plans. It’s lovely to be silly at the right moment. Instead of being a micro-manager, stop, now and then, and count your blessings.
- Adnan Rehmat is a writer, analyst & media development specialist.
*Painting courtesy: Oliver Ray