My grandmother passed away recently, which of course led to a lot of thinking. As I write this, I don’t know if it has even fully hit me yet, as this is the first time I’ve had to deal with a death in my immediate family as an adult when you can actually comprehend loss. I tear up when someone offers their condolences and am almost on the verge of crying, but as I function in my normal day activities, I am fine and it is business as usual. I know subconsciously that I’m not since my sleep has not been it’s best the past couple of days and I have a pain in my side which I know is from the stress of the situation and overthinking things. Though I am still going through the mourning process, the experience has given me some insight into how we should live our best lives.
One thing I am clear on right now is the importance on living in the present and enjoying our daily experiences. I know. It sounds so simple. The thing is, it’s not. Go to any restaurant, park, bar, even street and you will see people with friends or loved ones not paying attention to whom they are with and more concerned with what is going on in the “toilet of the internet”. When we choose to pay more attention to what is going on in this virtual world, we are missing key moments actually happening in our own lives. We may miss something important a loved one says, miss your baby’s first steps, miss a glance from cute stranger… you get the picture. Life is about experiencing these moments, not reading about other peoples.
Pro-Tip: Do a Digital Detox
Seems like I am contradicting myself here, but having a memento of moments you want to remember is also important. Capturing a moment is not the same as being on your phone 24/7 documenting the entire event on instagram stories or taking constant selfies of yourself on the beach.
My grandmother lived a very long life and we spent a lot of great times with her. The thing is, as time passes, it’s hard to remember all those moments. The morning after I was trying to remember moments I had with my grandmother and I couldn’t, partly because they were when I was a child and so much time has passed since then. We also didn’t have the luxury of pulling out our camera phone to snap a quick photo. Today, we do have that opportunity. My cousin did post some pictures on social media of our grandmother and even though I was not in them, it made me smile just to see her smiling face. So, when you are having a great time and the mood strikes, commemorate it with a quick photo; not a million, just one. It will be nice for you to look at when you are older and remember those special times and for others to do so as well, whether they be friends or family.
Pro-Tip: Create digital albums on google drive or iCloud and invite friends/family to add/collaborate
There are so many things to be grateful for in this life, but I think most of us don’t acknowledge these things because we were brought up with certain luxuries, that we have mentally registered as “normal”. But think about it–Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have the ability to eat three meals a day? Do you have friends and family who love you? Are you sitting here right now reading this? If you answered yes to even just one of these questions, you are more fortunate that most.
There is a hashtag for #firstworldproblems and when used it is mostly a joke because we rather complain about something so minuscule vs. accepting that this problem is nothing compared to what other people are going through in the grand scheme of things.
The first step to expressing gratitude is awareness. I’m currently doing a 100 day gratitude challenge, which is simple and anyone can do. All you have to do is write down something you are grateful for each day. You can do this in a notebook, on your social media, even post-its on your fridge. Acknowledging what you are grateful for will help you live your best life since you are celebrating life. To take it one step further, if one of the items you are grateful for is something you know another person does not have, pay it forward. For example, when I go into a boulangerie and see a homeless person sitting outside, I will usually buy something for them too because I know that having a normal meal is something that not everyone can do.
Pro-Tip: Instead of complaining about a first world problem next time you have one, change your perspective and do something that helps someone else.
Make True Connections
It took me moving to another country to fully realize this, but forming true connections with people helps you live a fuller and more substantial life. Living as an expat in another country without your normal support system really gives you time to focus on yourself and realize what’s important to you and what you want out of life and relationships. I formed deeper relationships with people in my first year here than I did my entire life in New York. I realized that a lot of my relationships back home were superficial, meaning that I didn’t have “real” conversations. Every time I go back, I see that with certain people, like they have not evolved and it’s the same sh*t every year. I honestly think it is because they get trapped in the NYC cycle and way of living. I still have my close friends who I am in contact with, but there are others who just stay on the surface when we talk, which for me, is not ok anymore.
Pro-Tip: All relationships are not created equal. Marie Kondo your friends list. Decide which relationships you want to prioritize.
There are so many ways to celebrate life–living in the moment, spending time with friends, playing with your dog, expressing your creative side, spending time alone, the list can go on and on. One simple rule: Do what makes you happy. Don’t care about judgment; all that matters is how it makes you feel. Our most valuable currency is time and we need to be wise in how we spend it.
Most decisions can be solved with one simple exercise: On a rating of 1 to 10, what do you want to do? The only caveat is you can’t choose the number 7. Funny thing is once you take 7 out of the equation, your decision becomes clear. If you go with 8, you know you want to do it, but a 6 shows you that it is not for you. And if you cheat, and do vote a 7, don’t do it–that means it is just your guilt or FOMO talking. Believe me, I know this from firsthand experience.
Saying that, there are more complex decisions where this rule does not work. For instance, I am currently struggling with whether or not I should fly back earlier for mass for my grandmother. Part of me wants to because I feel it is what I NEED to do because of societal norms/rules, but the other part of me would rather pay tribute to her in another way. I think that my grandmother would want me to celebrate her life vs sitting in a church for an hour. For me, the time to show and express our love and appreciation is while they are still here, not after they are gone. As I write this, I still have not decided what I’m doing, but know in my heart, she will be fine with the decision I make.
Pro-Tip: Do what makes you smile and don’t overthink it. Anytime you have a moment of indecisiveness, do something else– take a walk, workout, meditate, do something creative. Get out of your own mind.