Native Nerd: I’m over 50 years old. My 10 bits of advice for Native youth and future graduates
On May 6th, I will be 52-years-old. I love that I am this age, I feel great, I am eating better than I have in years and I have a lot of things to consider as my life continues to progress. It has been a wild and wonderful ride.
There have been some tremendous bumps in the road, and yet I have managed to survive. But I tell you this, I wish I had listened or sought some insight from elders, teachers, authority figures and professionals that could have lent some insight into avoiding some of life’s veritable disasters and calamities. No matter how prepared you are, there are going to be missteps, but the more prepared you are, the stronger you will be entering the trials of your life.
All said - here are some bits of advice I wish to give to young people out there who might be wondering what to do, or what not to do, or how to best move forward with a bit of mental ammunition.
Forget the haters: The people who seem important now, will fade away
When I was in high school, I felt such tremendous pain and agony that I literally wanted to curl up into a ball and just sleep until high school was over. My fellow students were MEAN. And I mean BRUTAL. And I cared so much about everyone’s opinion of me. I didn’t want to be the ridiculed one, I didn’t want to be the target, but I was. I was devastated, sad and lonely. I wanted people to like me.
20 years later, I went to my high school reunion, I had become a strong, confident man and admittedly I wanted to prove to everyone how cool I had become. But when I got there, I saw that people were just like me, that had once sought approval desperately and things were a lot different. I realized, they didn’t and neither did I. I couldn’t figure out why I had been so desperate to get approval. I cherished seeing a few friends that actually had been nice to me, yet I had ignored many times, seeking the approval of people who were not important.
I left the reunion realizing I never again had to seek any of these people’s approval. They have faded away, unimportant to the life I have now.
Don’t worry about these people now. Their opinions of you are none of your business. Embrace the wondrous nature of yourself. Forget the haters.
Stop being so serious: Be a goofball
There is something I am proud of in my life, and thanks so much to my Dad who has an awesome sarcastic streak, I have always maintained the ability to be a goofball. I have told ridiculous jokes and laughed at myself even if people didn’t get it.
I love chickens, because they walk funny, baby goats, comic books that are funny and I was always the guy who grabbed the comics when there used to be Sunday newspapers. So let yourself act silly and ignore the eyerolls because life is about enjoying yourself to the fullest while being kind to others.
Never have a backup plan
I have said this before and I will probably get a few emails about this - but “BLEEP” a backup plan. Go for what you want … period. Life is all about chance and opportunity and 99% of the time it is absolutely impossible to predict what is exactly going to happen when. So why try to plan it? Point an arrow at what you want and move in that direction.
A backup plan is a message to yourself, that your dreams aren’t a possibility. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT.
As a journalist that has interviewed literally hundreds and hundreds of extremely successful people over the years, their traveling off of their dream path simply was not an option. They did not have a backup plan, they just worked their tails off. And they achieved success.
Trust your gut instincts
Take a moment and feel what you feel in your stomach? Are you anxious, scared, sad, disappointed, angry or something else? Do you feel great? Your gut instinct is the compass to your life. Never ever ignore it.
The “pit of our stomachs” tell us where we are in life. If you feel good about yourself, good about your actions, your “pit of the stomach” will tell you.
It is your heart, body and soul center that says, “Hey friend, we could make some awesome improvements in our life by doing this.”
Success does not equal money, fame or social media followers
I can’t put it much simpler than that. Success is when you can look in the mirror and have a feeling of gracious accomplishment.
Quite simply, success equates to the level of happiness in your life. Real, soul-fulfilling happiness.
Use your gut instincts to lead the way. Money, fame and more is fine but go for happiness first to maintain a life balance.
Don’t worry so much, everything is going to be ok. I truly promise.
As you get older, perhaps you are nearing graduation, or some other life transition, you might start to get worried. That is normal.
But let me tell you, no matter how hard or horrible or scary things can get, I 100% promise you will be ok. You will come up with the resources to address your problem and you will find the tools to fix the problems. You are resilient, you are strong, you are smart. You are a champion.
I promise you will make it through anything that comes your way. Please take this with you, I am absolutely certain of this fact.
You can ask anyone anything
I realized that once I turned 18 over 30 years ago, that for some weird reason I was supposed to know how to do everything. But I was sincerely clueless.
So I am here to tell you that you can ask anyone anything.
Want to start a softball league? Find a person who is the head of a league and ask what they did. Want to go to college in Japan? Contact a college in Japan and ask them. You can breed cats, start a cactus farm, raise five sets of twins or become a pediatrician.
Ask questions, people literally have jobs to answer questions. If one person doesn’t know the answer, ask if they know someone who might. Be a detective. You can do it.
Recognize all the opportunity before you
At your young age, you have thousands of roads of possibility that lie before you. It is an amazing thing that you might not realize. At 51-years-old, these roads have closed for me as I continually chose my path. It has been amazing.
But you have TONS of opportunity. Feel free to explore anything. Don’t let ANYONE tell you - that you can’t achieve something. Choose a life path that excites you.
Take risks that scare the ever-living bleep out of you
If you ever get into a situation where you are taking on an opportunity that scares you and you say: “I don’t know what I am getting myself into” then you are doing the right thing. Stretch your brain. Tell your school you are going to start that magazine, think about creating a skateboard park for your local skaters, create a massive talent show, or car show for your elders. Create the next massive powwow celebration for your college. Think Big!
Pay your bills first - always
This is TOUGH, but critical. I can’t stress the importance of paying bills first once you start getting financially independent (if you aren’t already).
It is extremely tempting to buy that new watch, pair of skinny jeans or iPhone XS Max before we pay our electricity bill. Paying a bill is boring … BUT I can’t emphasize enough how much stress, anxiety, and turmoil you will avoid by taking care of bills first.
Don’t be hard on yourself, if you have fallen behind, or if you don’t want to do this, but honor yourself and honor your peace of mind and pay your bills.
It isn’t magic - it is math. Figure out what you owe every month, put a bit of cash aside for fun things, but save a little bit too.
Side note: Don’t get a student loan. (I speak from experience.) Get a job and go to community college for the first two years and transfer to a four-year college. That is my opinion.
Well, there are my ten tips. Here are a few more quick tips:
Don’t be afraid to love.
It’s not about whom you attract, it’s about whom you allow to stay.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Don’t quit before the success kicks in.
If you are depressed, work. Unhappy, work. Frustrated, work. The answer to most problems is to get to work.
Don’t criticize others.
Let people be a goofball.
Follow fellow Native Nerd, Vincent Schilling associate editor for Indian Country Today at @VinceSchilling - Make sure to use the Hashtag #NativeNerd
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