Listing What We’ve Learned In Life

Katie Young
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Wednesday - July 19, 2006

A long time ago, I made a list. Then I forgot about it, until recently when a friend reminded me of it.

“I don’t remember making this list,” I told him.

So my friend, Steven, made a photocopy of what my list said and mailed it to me. At the top of the page, it read: “My Life Lessons.”

There were 15 hand-written items - most which I had read in magazines or online over the years - all lessons I had at some point learned myself or felt I still needed to learn.

1) The three R’s ... respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions.

2) Love like you’ve never been hurt.

3) Every woman should have a past juicy enough to look forward to retelling it in her old age.

4) When you say “I love you” or “I’m sorry,” mean it!

5) Smile at strangers.

6) Treat people the way you want to be treated.

7) Indulge sometimes.

8) Don’t be reckless with someone else’s heart.

9) Say how you feel (or what you feel).

10) Be open to new opportunities and people, but be smart about the choices you make.

11) Practice what you preach.

12) Fight fair.

13) What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

14) Make a difference in people’s lives and in the world.

15) Learn new things.

I made this list almost five years ago at the suggestion of another friend, who also had made a similar list so she could look back on it from time to time, reminding herself of what was most important to her.

Reading it now was interesting as I had not consciously remembered all my “life lessons,” though I still believe in each and every one of them. I was reminded of a few things I’ve not made the best effort at in the last few years, like learning new things and smiling at strangers. I also thought of a few more items I’d like to add to that list as well:

16) Laugh often.

17) Take time for yourself.

18) Cherish your friendships.

19) Tell people how you feel about them before it’s too late.

20) Don’t dwell on things you cannot change.

I think we should all make lists such as these so as the years pass we can look back at how we felt then and check ourselves when we fall short of living up to what we believe in.

But the biggest surprise for me was how my list had affected my friend, Steven. I can’t really remember why I shared it with him in the first place, but obviously once I did, I forgot all about it.

Steven didn’t. In fact, he used that list to learn something for himself.

“No. 2 and No. 8,” he told me. “Oh, and No. 4, too.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I thought about those things when I first got into my relationship with my girlfriend (who is now his wife),” he said. “Every time I got scared and started to back away, I thought about rule No. 2, and each time I was faced with making a decision in my life that might affect her, I thought about rule No. 8. Rule No. 4 just makes good sense.”

I had to laugh at how sweet Steven sounded, but honestly I was flattered that my “lessons” had shown him a way to be a better boyfriend and husband.

Steven had followed rule 15 in an unexpected way - by making a friend’s life lessons part of his own set of rules.

You’d be surprised how writing things down might help you follow through with your decisions. And don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with those closest to you, because you never know whom you might give a new perspective to.

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