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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Tai

15 LESSONS AT 15

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

2020: A Recap.


2020 was a wild ride, and that’ll be an understatement. A number savagely carved onto the epitaphs of man, onto the milestones of mankind, will forever mark the testimonies of good and bad. I am able to stand here today, on the 31st of December, 2020, because I am fortunate enough that the apocalypse has not affected me much. A few changes here and there, but nothing really turned over the only routine I’ve ever known of. Nonetheless, this heck of a year has brought a gift of introspection; it was a year of discovery, an age of learning, and a telescope to preface the future yet to come. I will say that I’ve learned a lot this year. Some lessons were picked up right then and there, others were only taught through the trips and falls. Here are the 15 lessons I’ve learned at 15.


1. Today doesn't Define Tomorrow


Our life now doesn’t define our future. It’s just that the only scale within our vision is the numbers and simple letters the only units within our grip that provide us with some sort of understanding, some sort of material understanding, to tell us where we are in life. But numbers are just a deception. An illusion. It is either a lash of complete destruction or a sense of false superiority over all others yet both are lies. The stones we collect today don’t pave the path of our future. New stones will be found. Old stones will be lost. But the gem lies within authenticity, the only rock worth a fortune.


2. Live the story


The stories we’ve flipped through, the tales we’ve been told, and the dreams we’ve vicariously toured all tell us something. But the feeling of apprehension, the split second when we actually feel the world around us, is unparalleled to listening. It is the unprecedented experience that matters. Life isn’t a seminar. It is an experience and only this will truly hit the heart.


3. There aren’t the Right Words



At some point in our lives, we’ve told someone, close or not, how we’d be there for them, to listen, to hear them out. But how many of us really know how to deal with what we hear? Situations we face in life exist in such chaotic and confusing ways that the answer doesn’t simply lie among some sort of “How to be a Therapist 101” or “Reader’s Digest: Human Emotion” booklet. Instead, regardless of what’s “truly right” to say during a difficult situation, it is the honesty and sincerity behind that heals. There are no right words. There isn’t a perfect thing to do. Clumsily stumbling your way across your qwerty keys to tell someone that you are emotionally paralleled could mean more than an inauthentic yet perfectly executed response.


4. Fairness is Out of the Equation.


Everybody is different. Different in the things they enjoy, the fields they excel at, and the particular way their brain is wired. No labels or categories can be fully inclusive of the entire human race yet society is presented this way. This speaks of the people being forgotten, people being patronized, the people expected to live up to a norm and standard regardless of it going against every nerve of their body. So, looking at the social algorithm, fairness is out of the equation. Nonetheless, being overly incapacitated by the frustration of standing at a disadvantage only takes our focus away on the tangible and controllable factors that we could very well be chasing.


5. Most Things aren’t Black and White, Just Shades of Grey.


The questions of life aren't multiple-choice. They are ambiguous and rhetorical. There just isn’t an answer to most things. And that’s part of the fun.


6. Conversation and Middle Grounds.



We were all once ignorant, and more or less, we still are. But once we grow older and change our ways, there’d still be things we don’t understand. So as oppose to alienating those with conflicting views, why not we listen to each other, because we could all be thinking the same way, thinking that we stand on a different level of hierarchy simply because of our moral, political, or theological stance. Deep in people’s hearts lies good intentions, but the afflicted ideologies people have constantly change over time as we learn to listen, to speak, to sympathize. 2020 has significantly unearthed the underlying separation between people. But we should all be reminded that people’s beliefs don’t define them as a person. There is no better time to converse. There is always a middle ground.


7. Doubt Speaks.


Taking is step back doesn’t mean you are not a fighter. To test the waters and to wait for the right moments might just be what we need for a decision worth the wait.


8. One Man’s trash is another man’s treasure.


The simplest of things to us, the things that don’t even cross our minds a second time when sighted, just might be the one thing somebody else has yearned for their entire life. Though most of these situations go completely unnoticed, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” fits just too perfectly to most situations we collide with. Maybe, just a second thought next time…


9. Trust trumps truth.



Lies dressed as truths. Truth dressed as lies. Either or, who are we to judge?


10. The Inevitability of Opposition.


The Village by Wrable, one of my favorite songs this year, tells the story of individualism, of identity, through one single quote: “in nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat…” Opposition is inevitable. But authenticity is the firmest foundation to stand upon.


11. The Bravery of Weakness


The strength in showing weakness has always been blinded out by insecurity, by toxic masculinity, by ignorance. We have all felt weak at some point in our lives. Regardless, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.


12. The Invisible Spectrum



It is the craziest and most unpredictable moment that uncovers the polar ends of humanity. “君子固窮,小人窮斯濫矣”, a famous Confucius saying from The Analects, writes of the importance of integrity during the most desperate of circumstance. The quote illustrates the ravaging contrast between those who take advantage of harsh conditions as an excuse of misconduct against those truly noble who remain conformed to the central dogma of kindliness, 仁. 2020 has shone a light on both ends: the people giving all they have, and the people taking all they can.


13. Integrity


Shortcut always exists. Even if it means getting in the way of others, the system our society has been set up upon makes it so that most people will choose to take the short-cut. At the end of the day, there isn’t always a drawback or punishment for people who’ve made this decision. This is a testimony of moral integrity. Where do you stand?


14. Walk your Own Path


Conforming to the masses is almost always the safest approach. But the unwritten codes of social order isn’t worth a life. Even if it means taking on the stones and pebbles bombarded in my direction, even if it means standing at war ground, my life is the life I’d want to live.


15. Hidden Figures



A while ago, I decided to write an email to one of the most inspiring and video journalists I know of. One thing stuck to me. She said, “Remember that wonderful people are all around us, and often those who receive the least acclaim or attention are those who need kindness”. Great people are everywhere but disguised among a faceless crowd. One day, we’ll find each other.


Can't Wait to See what 2021 Beholds. The End.

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