Jane Austen is one of my favorite classical authors of all time. I have several of her books as essentials on my bookshelf and make a point of rereading most of her novels at least once a year because I love the way she writes romance.
Her books aren't just romances though; their social satire makes me realize that Jane Austen would have been an amazing best friend because that lady can slay people.
Just because her books are classics doesn't mean you should shy away from them—they're full of depth and humor and should be considered more than potential books for the AP Literature exam prep.
"Pride and Prejudice" is probably tied with just a few other novels as my all-time favorite book and that's not an honor I bestow lightly. Seeing that December 16 marks the birthday of this amazing writer, I want to pay homage to her and also highlight some quotes I believe taught me some valuable life lessons.
1. "It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do." ~Sense and SensibilityGiphy
This one is easy enough to understand, but ironically much harder to apply. People can say all the pretty, well-meaning things in the universe and not actually be willing to lift a finger when it counts.
If people took this to heart, there would be less cruelty, oppression, bullying and general unpleasantness in the world because people might actually do something besides think that a situation is wrong.
2. "Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion." ~Pride and PrejudiceGiphy
I always like rereading this quote to fortify myself when I feel like I'm being stepped over. It's one thing to be combative and contentious to the point where civil discourse is impossible.
On the other hand, our opinions and ideas are what make us unique and if we let the fear of ridicule wash away and transform our opinions, we are losing an essential part of ourselves to the whims of the world. There are always gonna be haters and laughers, but a firm conviction should not be given up without reason.
3. "Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love." ~Northanger AbbeyGiphy
If you've ever had a really bad breakup and spent two hours sobbing on the phone to your best friend, you know the truth of this statement. You need someone to cry with you over a giant pint of ice cream, someone to glare at your ex every time he comes within 10 feet of your area and someone to have your back just as surely as you have theirs.
Friends are a gift so treat them well and treasure them, y'all.
4. "I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other." ~EmmaGiphy
Emma may be one of Austen's most spoiled heroines, but there are parts of her that make me love her all the same. I feel like she would be the sort of person whose signature song might be Rachel Platten's "Fight Song."
The girl has a crazy amazing level of confidence and if we all could emulate some of that self-worth and confidence, we would feel so much better about ourselves. Everyone deserves to be treated in the best possible way and we should make sure that we're getting that treatment.
5. "Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter." ~PersuasionGiphy
All right, let me remind everyone that a letter was the central mode of communication back in Austen's day (although I'm sure I would have loved to see the mischief Lydia Bennet got into with a Snapchat or Facebook account).
The essence of the message is that communication is key. Miscommunication is responsible for so many broken relationships in this world that it's tragic. Before you decide to tear off ties, consider a phone call or a text message or even a quick email. With social media, there's no excuse to not stay in touch with people, but there are also more ways for messages to be 'lost in translation,' so make sure to use the power of communication to heal, not hurt.
6. "Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." ~Mansfield ParkGiphy
It breaks my heart even to write it, but birthdays started feeling lackluster to me after I entered my teens. My last birthday, I was honestly closer to the opinion of just celebrating it as another year closer to dying because I couldn't see the point.
When I look back on all my years, I have memories, but not enough to fill all the time I know I've spent being alive. And day after day, as I waste an hour surfing the web or sleeping in on a Saturday, I can't help but wonder how quickly life flows by.
When I turn around, sometimes I really do see only 'busy nothings.'
7. "What are men to rocks and mountains?" ~Pride and PrejudiceGiphy
No, this is not some attempt at metaphorically comparing the rock-hardness of abs among men; I am literally talking about rocks and mountains, as in actual miracles of nature.
I feel like we're losing our connection to nature and maybe we all need to listen to "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas again because nature is a pretty big deal.
I don't know how many times I've been upset and just the sight of the trees swaying or autumn scenery around our neighborhood lake is enough to draw a smile to my face. Yes, life is full of important things, but never discount the importance of the beauty of nature because it has its own magic for the soul.
8. "Know your own happiness." ~ Sense and SensibilityGiphy
Short, sweet and to-the-point and it's still something I feel like a lot of us (myself included) are constantly tripping over. It isn't possible to be very happy if we can't even tell what would make us happy. That's why soul-searching and reflective thinking and just learning to love yourself are so important for mental health.
No one can make us happy; we are all responsible for our own happiness and what makes me happy is probably not what would make my sister or friend happy.
It's only through understanding ourselves, that we can fulfill our individual needs for happiness because I feel like everyone deserves a chance at happiness and many of us are fortunate enough to be able to grab that chance.
9. "There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves." ~EmmaGiphy
There are people in this world who actually need help. There are men, women and children dying from war, famine, disease, genocides, malnutrition and every other sort of evil in the world.
Our goal should be to do our best to help these people out as much as we can. On the other hand, there are times when we go out to help people and they take advantage of our kindness. It might be someone we considered a friend or someone we believed needed our help and once we started helping, they became overly reliant on the help.
It's important to be kind and helpful, but also important to know when someone might be taking advantage of you and when your help might actually be doing more harm.
10. "We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be." ~Mansfield ParkGiphy
When I learned to trust myself, life became so much less complicated. And let me tell y'all—it never stops. There is still so much more I can do to help myself, so many more times I feel like things could have been better if I had trusted my own heart and conscience.
It's great to seek advice from others, but seeking your heart's advice should always come first because no one knows what's best for us like we do.
11. "You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." ~Pride and PrejudiceGiphy
This is one of those lessons we could all stand to learn something from. There are gonna be days and moments and events in our lives that don't work out the way we expected.
There are going to be cringe-worthy moments and moments that make us want to cry our hearts out, but dwelling on the past won't change anything. It's much more sensible to look forward to all the amazingness that the future might hold.
That's not to say the past should be given up entirely; there are plenty of moments I love remembering when I consult my memories and it's OK to take a trip down memory lane so long as you have your rose-tinted glasses on.