Thirteen Things I Learned in 2013 (Part 3)

The year is almost up and with this last day of 2013 now beginning to fade behind us, I offer my last words of wisdom for you today.

Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2?

10. Every relationship can end, so don’t be afraid to build new ones.

Amid all the chaos this year offered me, I felt myself falling in love. It’s a complicated situation we’re in, he and I, and we already decided this romance wasn’t worth pursuing–not until we could figure a few things out. But as time went on, as we continued “being friends,” my heart only yearned more greatly for his.

I didn’t want to fall for him. Not in such an impossibly problematic situation–but I couldn’t help it. I visited a counselor on campus one afternoon and explained to her the situation; she looked at me and said any relationship can end–for any reason–so why deny the heart because of circumstance?

I opened up to him and confessed how I felt about him–and he told me he’d been feeling the same way. It remains an impossibly complicated situation, but we’re doing what we can to manage it, and so far, things have been wonderful–and I hope they stay that way, but even if there’s no guarantee they will, this time I’m sharing with him will be no less meaningful because of it–and that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Maybe it will end. Any relationship can. But even if it does, it’s worth it.

11. Vision is the stuff of dreams: It makes us start every day with a smile.

When we know what matters, when we can taste it on our tongue just to think about it, the world blossoms with opportunities to turn that thought into reality. I spent a lot of time this summer learning about vision–how to discover it and how to shape it. The first step is identifying what matters to you–what makes you happy, what makes you eager to do more, what “work” isn’t work at all? Then it asks “what if?”–if you could change the world, what would it look like? What would change? What would be different or the same?

When we can answer these questions–when we can say it all in a single sentence–“I envision a world free of discrimination where all LGBT people are treated as equals”–we’ve discovered our vision. And every moment we spend devoted to fulfilling that vision is a moment that makes our life shimmer and shine–the excitement, the passion, the purpose overflows from every little thing we do–spreading outwards and touching every area of our lives, enriching every action we take, every relationship we make, every breath we take.

When we can hold tight to our visions, when we can spend every day doing one thing to make our dreams reality, we bring greater meaning to our lives and we create a reason to rise each day wearing our greatest gift: a smile.

12. Vision is the stuff of dreams: It also makes us eager to go to bed each night.

The truth is achieving our visions is no easy task–and if it is, you aren’t aiming high enough. And though it may be a struggle, and though there may be failures along this journey, setbacks and costly mistakes, it’ll all be worth it in the end. Though this venture may tire us, weary us, and send us to bed each night crying out for an eternity of sleep, in the end it will all be worth it.

When we follow our vision, we put our time into what matters and turn away from the things that don’t. We nourish the soul with our actions, our experiences, and what could make us more thankful to be alive than that?

13. If you’re not truly living, you’ve lost what it means to be alive.

If you do everything on this list–if you’re thankful to be alive, you ignore the things that don’t matter, and devote yourself to the things that do–you’ll truly be a live. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that why we’re all here–to be alive? But what makes us human, what distinguishes our liveliness from the same life force that sustains algae and animals, is the fact that our life–human life–isn’t defined solely by being alive.

Because “being alive” doesn’t mean anything if you’re not truly living.

I met a man not that long ago who’d given up on himself. He had whittled away his dreams, devoted himself to relationships that drained him of his ability to love, placed all his power in the hands of others–and he was miserable. Handsome and sincere, but absolutely miserable.

I told him everything I’ve told you here, and not long afterwards we parted ways. I recalled a time not that long ago when I was in his position–broken, rotted, and empty inside. But I made my way out of that dark dungeon of my own mind and I saw the light again–I left the cave and at last I saw the sun.

And the steps I took to get here are the same steps I gave to him–and now to you.

This long year is only moments away from being history, and though I know life will always have deeper lows and greater highs ahead of me, I’m determined more now than ever before to make the most of every moment it–because now I know what matters, I’m closer to the people I love most, and more than anything, I’m thankful to be alive.

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