Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Advice for Life
As I sat down on the plane next to a much older gentleman, I could not help but notice a bit of mischievous smile on his face. He was easily in his 90s, so I was a little surprised he was not more withdrawn and sullen like so many of the others.
We had many hours of a long transatlantic flight ahead of us and with the inflight movie down with technical problems, we started making small talk.
He seemed to have a good sense of humor and air of calm and confidence. Before long, we both really started to hit it off, even cracking jokes and poking fun of each other a little.
Halfway through each of us enjoying our second drink, I jokingly asked him what advice he would give a "young" man like me for living life.
At first, there was quite a long pause as he seemed to be reaching down for the right thing to say.
Then the smile completely left his face. He suddenly became more serious than I'd yet seen him.
I don't think I will ever forget the words he told me:
"Don't say anything. Don't do anything. Keep your head down in this life and do little as possible to attract any attention.
Anything you do or say that stands out just draws others' notice and judgement or worse yet, their criticism.
Your goal should not be to get people to like you, but simply to get as few people as possible to dislike you.
If you are careful to always worry about what people think about you, then you are less likely to say or do anything with which others might not like.
Dress and style your hair exactly as much like everyone else as possible, to blend into the crowd.
If you don't, then you can either spend your life bullying others into feeling self conscious about their appearance or spend it withdrawing deeper into yourself as others bully and pressure you about how you look.
Don't try to leave a mark or be an influence for change. History has proven that nothing good comes to those who do.
Live every day as if you will never run out of them. You may only have one day or a hundred days left on this earth or you may have ten thousand.
But however many or few they may be, live as though you have a million days left, so you do not need to start living life until maybe some other day down the road.
Don't laugh too loud or try to make everyone else laugh or worse yet, make them think. You might say something stupid or unfunny and you will always regret it.
Be reluctant and slow to give out hugs, kisses or compassion and never, ever let others see you cry as these kind of things only show weakness.
Complain often about your problems. This will let others know you are already hurting and unhappy which might make them content to leave you alone.
Don't sing or dance. Don't learn to play an instrument. Don't draw pictures or paint. Don't write any songs, poems or stories, because that is just silly.
People may not like them, plus you have more important and serious things to do, like work.
Don't waste time sitting in the sun, going for walks or traveling to new places. Don't look at nature unless it is on the screen of your computer.
Spend as much time as possible looking down at your phone, because that is where you will find the most happiness.
In fact, don't go outside unless you are getting in your car to go to work.
Just go from the box of your house to the box of your car to the box of your office cubicle and back again. Spend as much time as possible in a chair, on the couch or in your bed.
Watch as much TV as possible. Reality shows are the best as you can watch scripted people pretend to live their lives instead of you ever living your own.
You can watch movies, but do not read any books as they might challenge what you believe. The only reading you should do is on websites that reinforce everything you already think.
Don't believe in or pray to any God, unless He personally shows up in front of you and speaks to you. Then check yourself into a mental ward, because you are obviously insane.
If you do choose to have faith, only congregate with those exactly like you and never open up and truly befriend anyone who believes differently.
You will have a choice to make... either become so earthly minded that you are of no heavenly influence... or become so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly use.
Don't plan for the future, whether it is saving money or eating healthy or exercising.
Live just like today will never end and tomorrow will never come. Eat as much junk food and drink as much alcohol as possible, because all that matters is how you feel right this second.
Never talk about anything of import, like politics or religion, unless it is to attack and argue and tell people how stupid and wrong they are for not believing the things that you do.
Do everything you can to grab, take and keep as much as possible, whether it is solitude or attention, winning arguments, or getting money or respect.
Remember, giving away any of those things to others always means less for you.
Now listen to me carefully...
Be incredibly careful about befriending anyone and even more importantly, ever loving people.
Trust me, anyone you choose to love is just opening up yourself to be hurt. You can never get a broken heart as long as you do not open it up and give it to anyone.
And if you do get hurt, do not ever forget it. You must hold on to that pain. Be quick to anger and slow to forgive, as a reminder to never make that mistake again.
Don't bother settling down with someone, as it probably will not work out and you will just get hurt again.
Be reluctant about telling any of your very few, select friends and loved ones how much you care about them.
If anyone you do care about ever gets sick or suddenly passes away, you can always tell them at the last minute how you feel about them.
Or you can live with the regret of missing that chance, if it is too late.
Remember, on your own deathbed, you will only regret the embarrassing things you did, but never the things you were careful to never do.
Even if you could somehow go back and do those things all over again, if you were smart, then you would still choose to not do anything risky.
If I could sum it up, I would say to never be reckless or vulnerable enough to actually "live life".
Just spend the illusion of your seemingly limitless number of days as if you're about to eventually... some other day... live your life. Maybe. In a future that will seem like it might never come anyway.
Always act like you're only about to finally start living life... in the future.
It's just... it's safer and so much easier that way."
As he trailed off, I just stared at him stunned and speechless. I almost felt betrayed. I couldn't believe within this previously smiling, laughing man actually lived such a bitter cynic.
Then he looked up at me again, this time with what looked like tears in his eyes and he told me:
"But more importantly than anything else, especially if you're already doing any of these things... young man... please... please do the exact opposite of everything I just said."