33 Things I Learned in a Year
Hey what’s up Umano. Today is a big day for me. Exactly one year ago today I was sprawled on my back, staring bewildered at a September sky, picking dirty, crunchy asphalt out of my skin after wrecking my motorcycle on a Philadelphia interstate. That accident quickly brought my life to a screeching halt and left me with a hefty medical recovery that eventually forced me to leave my job. I’m a typical millennial American over committed and over stimulated. I quickly went from doing everything to doing nothing.
So September 18th, 2013, launched a series of events in my life that has impacted me in many ways, and I thought I would tell you a little about them. We all have our special occasions we mark annually. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. Perhaps most people start and end their year on January 1st and December 31st. But for me, I’ve decided, at least for now, to begin and end my year on this date, and today I’m celebrating one year alive and wanted to tell you a bit about what I’ve learned in the past year.
Here are 33 things that I’ve learned from September 18th, 2013 to September 18th, 2014.
- Bacon is good. I mean really good.
- I should smile more. It makes me feel better. All that research on power posing and smiling is the real deal. Trust me, I’ve spent months in therapy and the days where I spent a few minutes before my sessions smiling and visualizing, were the best days of my therapy.
- Umano isn’t just for busy commuting people. I originally used Umano a similar way most people probably do, listening to it while commuting or doing simple tasks. But it can be used by those of use who are blind or disabled as well. One of the results of my accident was a severe concussion and so I was unable to watch TV or spend much time on the computer. Umano became my primary source of news and it was great.
- It’s good to work with your hands and be humble. After my accident I had to leave my really cool job with a start up tech company. You wanna know what my first job after that was? Being a janitor. That’s right, cleaning toilets, sweeping floors etc. and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I spent those days cleaning, listening to Umano on my headphones and just being grateful I was alive and had the opportunity to work.
- If it’s easy, be suspicious. If it’s easy its probably not worth having or doing. Getting healthy again required hard work and patience, it wasn’t easy, but then again any thing worth having shouldn’t be.
- It’s all a gift. Every single moment… even the hard ones. In fact the hard ones make me more grateful for the easier ones. I have everything to be grateful for and nothing to be proud of.
7. Partying is overrated. You know what happens when suddenly you are unable to go to all those parties and cool happenings you were invited to? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And it’s glorious. The world goes on spinning its dizzying circles and you get to stand still.
8. Standing still means solitude. And I should never be afraid of solitude, as a matter of fact, I should embrace it.
9. I mean that for real. Solitude is beautiful, because there are some things in life that can only be learned in solitude. One of the things I did during my recovery was I went and stayed at a monastery for a few days. It was fantastic to get away and be alone in solitude with no distractions.
10. loneliness is not cool.
11. but being still is.
12. Silence is powerful. After my accident I had to live a very quiet life and you quickly learn to enjoy quietness, to listen to the hum of the refrigerator and the crinkling of your clothes.
13. There is such as thing as divine peace. It happens when you slow down, when you pause your life and realize that, contrary to your mind protesting otherwise, the world does not revolve around you. I am a vapor, just a speck of dust, floating around with seven billion other specks of dust on this planet. There’s a special kind of freedom in being humbled and realizing there’s a certain amount of insignificance to your life.
14. Dogs are awesome. You know what the great thing about dogs is? They always love you. You can lose your job, you spouse, pretty much anything.. and you know what? The dog doesn’t care. He is still your friend.
15. The great thing about life is it can deliver the unexpected. The unexpected good and the unexpected bad. That’s another way to say living is risky. Stonewall Jackson used to say that he had just as much of a chance as dying in bed as he did on the battlefield. Life is risky because we are finite. and we don’t know the future. When we don’t know, it means we necessarily deal with risk.
16. To guard against risk, I protect myself. I’m alive, because I was wearing a helmet. Wear a helmet. Always wear a seatbelt. wear protection. use passwords and lock doors. Am I some sort of paranoid, apocalyptic doomsdayer? No. well only on Friday the 13th. But the older I get the more I realize that it pays to protect yourself. literally, sometimes I’d be dead if I didn’t.
17. You figure out who your friends are when you go through a crisis and see who’s still around you. It’s the people who love you when you’re down and out and have absolutely nothing to offer the world that are your best friends. The ones who take you to the hospital when you can do nothing for them. It’s when the excrement hits the oscillator in your life, and the people that stay around to help you shovel through all of it and clean it up. Those are your friends. There have been many times in the past year where I’ve had nothing, absolutely nothing to offer people, except requests on their time and resources, and they’ve graciously helped me out.
18. Servanthood is awesome. If I wanna live a meaningless life, I’ll spend it all wrapped up in myself. Its a surefire way to high stress and sleepless nights. If I wanna live a meaningful life, I’ll pour myself into others. So many people have been so kind and generous to me when I was hurting and now I’m beginning to have opportunities to help others. And it’s thrilling.
19. Good things take time. Sometimes a long time. Sometimes a long, long time, longer than you think they should take. Good things include physical health and healthy relationships. If you have a good process, you can trust it to deliver a good result, even if it takes longer than you want.
20. It is completely ok to be creative. No need to hide it, or make excuses for it. Anytime you make something you are taking a risk. Like cooking for someone else, making something you’ve never made before. What if it sucks? But what if it doesn’t? What if it’s great food? Creativity = Risk. and Risk = the possibility of reward.
21. The body is a marvelous thing. I mean its beautiful. You don’t realize what you have until you can’t use it anymore. Have you ever been grateful just to walk? I have. I am.
22. I become more grateful for life the closer I get to death. If you think about it, we’re all constantly teetering on the edge of death, but rarely take time to contemplate it. Its amazing how delicious the air tastes and how beautiful the grass becomes when you realize that you could be dead.
23. Thanksgiving is underrated. I think everyday should be Thanksgiving. Its the best holiday we have. Why only take time to be publicly thankful one day of the year?
24. I keep a thank you journal now. I started one shortly after my accident, I had never done it before, but I found myself writing in it a lot. sometimes they are really small thankfuls, other times they are really big.
25. I write a lot of thank you notes now. I realized I spent far too much time writing reports and papers rather than notes and letters to the people I love. Write letters more often.
26. I have found that I often misjudge people and situations. I’ll often stereotype someone and later find out the person is far better and cooler than I thought them to be. We are all human. We all have our own battles and struggles and loves and joys. So why judge? Its not my place to do so.
27. I think true humility comes slowly. I want to be that person who genuinely cares more about what the other people in the room think and say and do. I’ve not been that way in the past, but I’m learning to be, and you know what? It’s be most liberating thing in the world.
28. I go for walks and leave my phone at home. I’ve realized that when god made iPhones he wasn’t trying to reinvent narcotics. So I have learned to take breaks from technology.
29. The Umano community is a real community. Guys, we should throw a party or something. At Dwight’s house though. Not mine.
30. Anger and frustration does nothing to solve problems. As a matter of a fact it impedes progress or halts it altogether. Ever been angry that you’re sick? or injured? or tired? I have. Ever noticed how that anger just magnifies your current ailment? Yeah, me too.
31. Nature is beautiful. I wouldn’t trade a morning walk in a foggy and misty field, or a meteor shower, or a red orange September sunset, or a spectacular praying mantis on my back porch for anything. Not even a brand new iPhone 6.
32. There are a lot of things in life that could be done. less things in life that should be done and even fewer things in life that need to be done.
33. There’s only two things in life that need to be done. Love god and love people. love your neighbor as yourself. I’ve not been very good at it in the past, but I’m getting better. If I do those two things, the world is a better place.
Thanks for listening. The past year has been one of the hardest, but also best and most stretching times of my life. If it hadn’t been for my accident, I wouldn’t have learned many of the above lessons, and I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to be involved with Umano the way I am.
It’s been great to be a part of the Umano community and I’m optimistic for the future. What are some things you’ve learned this year?