As September lurks just beyond the corner, I'll soon be entering my final year of college. I've reached 20 years of age and looking back, I've realized just how much these past few years have changed me. There have always been times in my life that I thought I had everything figured out, but now I'm beginning to believe that the point isn't to figure everything out, but rather to do your best with what you already know.
I'm by no means a philosopher, but something that's always intrigued me is the idea of a "code" to help guide you through life. I think that most people have something- a rule or belief- that they rely on. For some people, happiness is key. For others, family is all that matters. I'm still trying to figure out what I believe in- or don't believe in- but it seems as though from the moment we are born, we're being taught.
Of the few things I remember from my childhood, something that I've always held dear to my heart are the common phrases that I learned. My favorite one, and perhaps the one that's closest to my philosophy, is the phrase, "treat others the way you'd like to be treated." It seems like such a simple saying, and I have a theory that sometimes (because it's said so often) we forget just how important it is.
Right now, the world seems like a scary place. More than ever before, we are able to connect with one another through various forms of media, which should bring us closer together. Instead, it almost feels as though it's had the opposite effect. Nowadays, I can't turn on the news or check Twitter without being bombarded with anger and hate, and it comes from every side. Whether it's coming from politics, religion, race, sex, gender, orientation, etc., there's no shortage of anger.
But if you take a second look at the words I've just listed, you'll realize that those are all words of identity. To say this simply, there is not a single person in this world who has everything figured out. No matter how hard you may believe in something, there is always a chance that you're wrong. History has proven this time and time again. So, with that said, I find it so hard to understand how people can so easily attack each other based on something as simple as identity.
Of course, I'm not naive enough to think that there aren't cases when right and wrong are clear. There are guidelines shared by all cultures- not to murder, not to steal, etc.- that suggest there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. That being said, I'm also not naive enough to think that it's all black and white. The reason that ethics, morals, and philosophies are studied at all is that we don't have all the answers.
This brings me to another memory from childhood, which isn't so much a saying as it was a general lesson: diversity is not only okay, it's important! At the time, this was mainly used to teach about different cultures. I remember being told that what's "strange" to me is normal to somebody else, and vise versa. In the end, it became clear that "strange" is subjective, and that it shouldn't be used as an excuse to exercise hatred. I think that this thought process can be extended to other parts of life, as well.
While the most obvious practice of diversity lies with race, ethnicity, and culture, diversity has many other faces, too. Differences in religion, politics, and even sexual orientation can be included as diversity, too. That's one of the beautiful things of diversity- because it can be counted as merely any difference, in theory, every single person is diverse. And if you are to go based off of that logic, then it becomes incredibly clear why diversity is so important. To say that it's not important is to deny something as simple as identity.
This isn't to say that you can't- or shouldn't- disagree with another person. The reason that there are multiple religions and political parties is that those things don't come in a "one size fits all" package. That being said, there are right and wrong ways to disagree with somebody. For starters, I firmly believe that it's possible to disagree with somebody while still maintaining a level of respect for them if only respect as a fellow human being.
Likewise, it's possible to discuss rather than argue. In my opinion, there are few times when arguing is successful- it's highly more productive to discuss or debate. One of my favorite things to do with close friends and family is to have discussions that may arise from a matter of different opinions. This has to do with why diversity is important- because there is always room to learn. I can't tell you the number of times that my mind has been changed through simple discussion, and it's one of the most incredible things. Not only is it okay to change your mind, but it's a part of being human!
This leads me to a final childhood saying that I feel we've forgotten: "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again!" Much like the others, this can be applied to many different areas of life. In it's most basic form, this saying asks you to practice persistence when it comes to things like goals and challenges. But I've learned to apply it to other areas, as well.
As I said earlier, I've found myself to be in a constant state of change. Not a day goes by when I don't learn something new or find that something I once believed doesn't fit into my beliefs anymore. Something beautiful about children is their ability to live life with open minds and open hearts- they see the world from a fresh perspective, and that's an incredible thing.
I'm not sure if there is a real way to succeed in life, but I do know that there are ways to try. Everyone's path is different, and what may seem like "trying" to me may look different from the way you "try." For some people, practicing religion or becoming closer to whatever god(s) they believe in allows them to reach success. For others, raising a family or pursuing life-long dreams is what success looks like. In truth, I think that there are as many ways to succeed in life as there are people on this planet because every single person is different.
What's even more fascinating is that success for any individual can change. There are people who find religion closer to their day of death than their day of birth. There are people who change religions or have none at all. There are those who believe that there are as many "gods" are there are people because everyone views "god" differently. There are people who travel the world just to find that their happiness was back at home, and there are those who never leave home at all. There are people who hate all their lives just to find love in the most unusual places, and there are those whose mission is to spread love across the world.
I'm not here to say anything is 100% right or 100% wrong. In fact, I'm here to do the opposite. I don't believe any person is capable of knowing everything, and because of that, I believe that it should be a lot harder to hate than it is to love. So if you're finding that you come across hate far too often- within the world, or within yourself- I would suggest going back to your roots and remembering the things we believed as children. You may just find some peace in your past.