Walking a mile might save a friendship

There’s an old saying: Don’t judge till you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes.

It’s true. And we often forget it.

Today I spent a little bit of time with a friend who is in a rough place. Her work, home, and love life aren’t quite going to plan, and she’s struggling to stay positive.

And because of her general lack of cheer and smiley-facedness, she’s being judged harshly.

Rather than people saying “Oh, you’re having a hard time right now, I’ll show you a bit of grace,” they’re calling her out on it, adding to the pressure she’s feeling to stay in control, and suppress the bad feelings.

I can relate.

I felt I started the race ten paces behind everyone else, due to my more unusual upbringing. The anxiety I felt to cover up my “deficiencies” – as well as perform to an above-average standard – would build up and cause some terrible hurt.

It is really easy to sit on the peripherals of someone else’s life and call them out on all the mistakes we think they make. They’re not as nice as they should be. Not as patient. Not as tight-lipped or rational as we say they should be.

But little do we know what they’ve overcome – or are currently dealing with – just to be where they are right now.

Think of it this way: Identical twins are wearing backpacks. From the outside, the packs – and the muscles holding them up – look the same. But it’s not till you lift the packs yourself that you realise one weighs 20kgs more than the other. You’re not going to begrudge the twin wearing the heavier backpack the occasional complaint, are you?

How about this situation: A car accident happens, and one person is able to shrug it off, whereas another isn’t. Should they judge each other for their reactions? No. Perhaps the person who is able to shrug it off has had several accidents before, and this is minor in their scheme of reference… But for the other person, it’s a Big Deal. Neither is right – or wrong – just different.

It’s so easy for us to judge another on their reaction to something, but our ability to cope with things is dependent on many factors.

Communication. It is the glue that holds relationships together. If you’re struggling to cope, one of the best and bravest things you can do is reach out and tell someone what’s going on. Explain to your family, friends and workmates that you’ve got a lot on your plate, and ask for grace. Confide in someone you trust, and seek professional help if you need it.

There is no shame in admitting you don’t have it all sorted. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

And if you’re on the other side of the fence, try to not judge someone because they react differently than you would. You never know how many miles they’ve walked just getting to where you already are.

10 things teenagers need to know

After watching a few “It Gets Better” clips, and seeing “Dear 16-year-old Me” I’ve been inspired to share my own list of things I think teenagers should know.

  1. You are young, so enjoy it: Make mistakes. Work hard. Party hard. Have fun. Study. You’re probably full of energy; You won’t always be, so take advantage now.
  2. Be proud of who you are, and don’t let other people put you down. If they do, it’s probably because they’re not feeling so good about themselves. Don’t be mean back. You’re better than that.
  3. Sunscreen is your friend. Use it liberally all over your body, every day. Wrinkle-and-melanoma-free 30-year-old you will thank you for it.
  4. Only have sex when you’re ready to have sex, not before. And when you are ready: Use a condom. Every. Single. Time.
  5. Life is not always good times and happy-clappy. You may have to battle depression, you may have financial struggles, you may have trouble finding a good flat, you may lay awake at night because you can’t shut your brain down. All these things are normal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in whatever way you may need it.
  6. Don’t accept the bank overdraft or credit card till you’re earning twice the minimum wage.
  7. The world is a big place full of amazing people, exotic places, insider knowledge, and lifetimes of stories. You don’t know it all. Neither do I. No one does. Keep that in mind.
  8. Life after high school is nothing like life during high school.
  9. On that note: Soap operas are nothing like real life. Don’t try to mimic what you see on them, just enjoy them for what they are… Entertainment purposes only. See point four. And point two. And reality.
  10. You are beautiful and precious, even if no one’s told you that – even if no one treats you that way. You have something valuable to contribute to the world, and you owe it to yourself to be; to do; to share.

So that’s my list: Some things I wish I’d known and some things I think the teenagers in my life need to know. 

I’ll leave you to wonder which point is which!

When the going gets tough

“You need a lot of passion for what you’re doing because it’s so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple CEO

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about passion. It’s probably an overused word, much like ‘hero’, and ‘expert’. What does it really mean?

Wiki defines passion as to suffer and endure, and I think it’s a much more interesting definition than the stereotypical ones of ‘strong emotion’ or ‘sexual desire’.

Are you prepared to suffer and endure to see your dreams come true?

If we’re in it for the long haul, we’ve got to be prepared to put ourselves on the line, to push ourselves beyond what we thought we could and to be ready for longsuffering, complete with unglamorous and thankless tasks.

Hard work. Endurance. Dedication. Love. If you want to be successful and see your dreams realized, you need to get passionate – to suffer and endure.

You Never Know The Impact You Have

Today a friend and I went to Mission Bay for a swim – we were in the water at 10am and had enough by about 10.30.

She was content to lay on the beach but I wanted an ice cream, so I left her to search one out.

Ice cream store: Closed.

What? It’s summer, and the shop was closed? I wandered along the road till I reached Starbucks – not exactly an ice cream store but the couple sitting outside slurping up iced coffee sold me.

I order. I wait. And just as I pick up my frosty beverage, an accented voice behind me said a nickname I haven’t heard in about 10 years.

I turn, and there’s a tiny, tanned woman standing there with a gigantic grin on her face. She looks vaguely familiar but I have NO idea who she is.

So I’m there, in a coffeehouse I never go to, at a beach I rarely visit, and there’s this woman…

I guess she worked out that I couldn’t place her and she said, “do you remember, about nine years ago, you were at this music festival, and there was a crying girl who you talked to all night?”

It was her.

I remembered. She was alone, visiting from Canada, come to New Zealand to escape a boyfriend she didn’t know what to do with, unsure about her studies, and life in general. She had felt totally hopeless. I remember her confusion, and sadness. I remember talking to her for a good portion of the night, going over her thoughts, her hopes, her fears. Talking about the future, and just being there as she cried. I never knew what happened to her.

As she dragged me back to the table where she was waiting for a friend who was running late, she explained that she was back in New Zealand for a week, leaving tomorrow. She said that that night was a turning point in her life, and kicked off some changes. The boyfriend got the heave-ho, she finished her studies and got stuck in to the plans we had discussed.

As an 19-year-old, I had no idea what I was doing with the teary stranger who needed a friend. I just listened, and hoped my very basic “don’t give up; follow your heart” advice helped. It’s rare that you ever find those people and get the follow up story, but I was lucky enough to – and it had a happy ending.

Sometimes you never realise the impact your words carry, so choose them wisely.

And you’ll never know how a closed ice cream store might make all the difference.