On Figuring Out How to Be a Person

It’s my 30th birthday, and I’m not sure that I’m any closer to figuring how to be a person in this world.

That said, there are a few things I believe I’ve learned from three decades of life. I guess this isn’t a real blog post. It’s just a collection of learnings I’ve picked up along the way, which I’d like to share. Here goes.


1. Love is more than emotion. It’s an action. It’s a choice. It’s raw vulnerability.

2. Don’t let your world, culture, or society define who you are.

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of our ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity – the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.”
~Parker Palmer

3. Discipline is more important than motivation.

4. Having a purpose for your life is more important than having goals for your life.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
~Mary Oliver

5. Be present in the moment.

6. You are never alone.

7. Family is more than blood. And the miles between you mean as much as you let them mean.

“What is friendship if not learning the song of another’s heart and singing it back to them?”
~Maria Popova

8. Knowing (truly knowing) that you are doing (and have done) the best you can at any given moment is one cure for anxiety.

9. Another cure for anxiety is the radical acceptance of the fact that the only thing you can control in life is your attitude.

“The secret to a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow.”
~Anais Nin

10. You never know how much hurt and suffering another person is going through. Recognizing this truth in every encounter is the key to compassion.

11. Finding the truth requires asking hard questions. Don’t get lazy.

“People who blithely go about through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”
~Tim Keller

12. Standing up for what you believe in requires consistency in your beliefs. Work hard to get the whole truth.

“The truth is always an abyss. One must — as in a swimming pool — dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order later to rise again — laughing and fighting for breath — to the now doubly illuminated surface of things.”
~Franz Kafka

13. The truth cannot be boiled down to generic labels, bullet points or binary definitions.

“There are faint stars in the night sky that you can see, but only if you look to the side of where they shine. They burn too weakly or are too far away to be seen directly, even if you stare. But you can see them out of the corner of your eye because the cells on the periphery of your retina are more sensitive to light. Maybe truth is just like that. You can see it, but only out of the corner of your eye.”
~Janna Levin

14. Don’t get too comfortable. Work hard, chase the truth, don’t be passive.

15. I will never know the answers to all my questions about life. It takes courage, vulnerability, and grace to have faith and live your life anyway.

“Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand… the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.”
~Alan Lightman

16. Health – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – is the foundation of a good life.

17. I don’t know how long it takes to learn to be patient. Keep trying anyway.

18. There will be a day (a week, a month, a year) when you don’t feel yourself, and depression and lethargy and anxiety reign. Don’t believe the things they tell you about who you are. The light will come.

“Look how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness,”
~Anne Frank

19. Ask for help.

20. Gratitude is the path to joy. What tiny and huge and odd and hidden and incredible things are you thankful for each and every day?

21. Be generous. With your time, your praise, your money.

“Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
~Annie Dillard

22. If you’re truly open to it, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near you.”
~James 4:8

23. Is healing the world a better alternative to changing the world?

24. Doing small things with great love is better than doing nothing at all.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
~Maya Angelou

25. Too much time is wasted in waiting for things to happen. Why don’t you make them happen instead?

26. Life is short, but there’s a fine line between “living like you’ll die tomorrow” and trudging along as if you’ll live forever. Find the right balance.

Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?
~John Updike

27. When your life turns upside down, the only thing you can do is keep going. You’ll get through it.

28. Do what makes you come alive. Find that thing that lights you up and find every way to keep doing it.

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
~Charles Bukowski – “so you want to be a writer”

29. Doing something great starts with baby steps. No matter how frustratingly small, keep doing it.

30. You are loved.

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