In our 20s most of us are hypocrites (and even assholes) at some point when it comes to love and relationships. We will tell anyone what not to do, and then turn around and do just that. Why? Because we are young, inexperienced, selfish, and love is unpredictable. Moreover, people are flawed and sometimes make mistakes especially with matters of the heart. At this time most of us don’t even know ourselves let alone what we really want and need from others.

However, even with that being said there are 3 truths about love I have learned that will never change:

1.You must love yourself before you can truly love another.

As cliché as it may sound it’s the truth. It goes  along the same lines as, how can you expect others to respect you, if you don’t respect yourself? I mean, if you want to get technical, you can still love another even if you hate yourself, but that love is shallow and not pure; and when there is no depth to love, it will eventually shrink away. It is an unhealthy kind of love.

2.To get love, you have to give love.

Let’s take a metaphorical approach for this one. The Dead Sea, it takes everything the Jordan River gives yet in turns gives nothing. So it is said for that reason to be “dead.” If that is so, then if, you are only receiving, and not giving love, then you are also dead (in terms of love). The whole point of a real relationship is for there to be mutual and reciprocal love and that can only work when two people are equally benefitting from the relationship.

3.Love is the reason we are all here.

Every value, principle, and belief has at it’s root love.

As I walk into the chapel, white roses, poppies, and sunflowers fill the room. The smell is entrancing and instantly takes me back to my mother’s garden. The vividly colored stained glass windows are open and the warmth of the sun glistens on everyone’s skin. A full orchestra plays music and you can distinguish the various instruments. The lively beats bounce off the walls, the sound echoes throughout the halls and can be heard outside. It’s breathtaking!

In the midst of what would normally be heartache, there is an overwhelming sense of joy. It is a celebration of life rather than a loss of one. There are tears, but they are only bittersweet. I watch as loved ones greet each other with warm embraces and soft words of condolence.

As I find my seat, a man in his mid-thirties begins to walk up where the casket is front and center. Everyone becomes silent as he speaks. The music softens to a faint melody in the background. He talks of a woman – a woman he describes as a beautiful and complete individual.

He speaks of a time after his addiction when he had lost all faith in people. His faith was rekindled in her. “She possessed noble qualities, that of which embodied her bold character,” he says.

Three more speakers follow after him. They all have unique stories with similar traits. Each describe in loving details her kind and compassionate personality. The woman’s brother ends the ceremony recalling “she saw the good in people, even when they could not see it in themselves. Her love was abundant and unconditional. She did not judge for she believed herself to be no better than any other. She did not hate for she knew it would only consume the heart. Instead she forgave so that her heart remained open and welcoming. Her wisdom came with age. Her knowledge earned from her ever-growing curiosity of the world. She lived a life that was her own. To be in her presence, was to feel her love, and it made you feel more alive.”

I watch everyone as they line up to view the open casket to pay their respects. I know I should do the same, so I quickly get in line. Soon it is my turn. I walk up to the casket and look down to see a beautiful stranger, but what I see couldn’t be real – for the stranger lying there is me.

I invite you to attend your own funeral. How would you like to be remembered? This is a popular reflection exercise. While it may seem morbid, it unconsciously allows you to get in touch with your deepest values, as life takes on a different perspective. You are left to examine the life you’re currently living.

Over the last few years my definition of success has changed. Also my past desire to succeed dwindled at times. It wasn’t until I realized that being a person of principle, or having good character, was more important to me that I found my true definition of success.

Throughout history, countless stories have been told of individuals who were touted as successful, but how many of them were truly authentic?

My childhood would not have been the same without the creative mind of Walt Disney. His ideas were reportedly rejected over 300 times, and a newspaper editor fired him for his lack of creativity and “imagination.”

The University of Bern rejected Albert Einstein, described by a former schoolteacher as “mentally slow,” for his Ph.D dissertation, calling it “irrelevant and fanciful.” He of course went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for the photoelectric effect. Not to mention his theory on relativity corrected the deficiencies for Newton’s physics. Even today the word “Einstein” is synonymous for genius.

Charles Darwin, one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century, wrote in his autobiography: “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.” His astute observations on biological changes in nature, outlined in “On the Origin of the Species,” fundamentally changed the world of science by identifying the evolutionary process of natural selection. While Darwin’s views on evolution still cause controversy today among some religious people, it’s hard to deny his contribution to evolutionary biology.

I think Einstein got it right when he said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

In Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains the two different kinds of people: proactive and reactive people.

Reactive people are those whose environment(physical/social), feelings(emotions), conditions, and circumstances empower their actions.

Proactive people are value-based, and they are aware that their behavior is a product of their own choice. Even though outside conditions can still influence them, they make value-based choices. In essence they accept responsibility for their own life.

For example, many times reactive people render love a feeling, and thus their actions are made in response to that feeling. Proactive people make love a verb, rendering it something you do; it becomes a value that is shown through loving actions.

Mahatma Gandhi is probably one of the most well-known proactive people. Through his nonviolent philosophy he has inspired millions of people worldwide. Gandhi said, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do,” meaning you have to change before you can see anything else begin to change.

To become a proactive person you first have to change from the inside out. Effect positive change by simply being more; I can be bettering my attitude, I can be kinder, wiser…etc.

While I am a product of my environment, I also have an independent will. Even though I am constantly bombarded with people and things that may influence me, ultimately I have the power to CHOOSE. The most valuable endowment we have that separates us from other animals is the fact that we have self-awareness. We can make our own choices.

We can choose to be happy in our current state, while focusing our efforts on what we can change.

Texting, Tinder, and Technology

 Living in the digital age has permanently changed the way we communicate with one another. Advances in technology have availed us to a variety of electronic means of communication that do not require face-to-face interaction. From texting to snapchat, these “shortcuts” are intended to make life easier. But they also have a down side that often causes confusion, unhappiness, and stress. Part of the appeal to these alternative forms of communication is that there is less human interaction with one another; making the beginning of a relationship feel less intense. For instance, pressure of rejection is lessened because you are not forced to actually confront the other person.

Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, authors of It’s Just a F***cking Date, explain how the “continual morphing that has come with the advances in communication technology and social networking has turned dating into a blur of booty calls, ambiguous hanging out and ‘window-shopping’…”

Case in point – you need go no further than your friendly and convenient app store to meet people. Tinder, a mobile matchmaking app akin to “window shopping,” matches couples based on their attractiveness to each other. All that is required is a link to your Facebook profile photo (photo only!). It allows you to set your own geographic radius to find a match. Although, take caution in using this app, you never know who is really behind the picture.

Based on my relationship experiences, electronic communication sucks. Two things about it that really bother me. First, people are now making assumptions of who you are based simply on your photos rather than actually getting to know you. The second is simple, yet seems to be overlooked, text messages lack tone, voice inflection, and facial expressions making it easy to take things the wrong way.

While it seems more comfortable and convenient to communicate with friends via electronic messaging, it is actually a less effective way to establish a meaningful relationship. Conversations are shortchanged when you rely on texting, because you miss the emotional complexity that takes place in a face-to-face interaction.

Ultimately, you reap what you sow here. You can’t depend on electronic communication to sow the seeds of your relationship. It’s then doomed from the start.

 I am a little late on the “New Year’s resolution,” le sigh. But it’s never too late to make a change. Inspired by author Laura Lippman, who every New Year’s picks just one word as her resolution for the coming year, I decided to do the same.

I wanted a word that would have impact; one that would compel me to make changes in my life. For changes to occur, however, I would first have to let go of certain fears that have kept me from being the person that I really am. So my word for 2015 became “fearless.” In other words, to live a life “free from fear.” Obviously you can’t completely rid yourself of fear; it is a natural behavior response. Also, for me, being fearless doesn’t mean you are not afraid of anything. It means not letting fear control your life.

In the past years my decisions were made in a confined state of fear. So afraid of being hurt I suppressed my feelings and held back my emotions to protect myself. I made it difficult for someone to like or love me, as they were tested at every corner. As you can imagine this limited my potential relationships and caused me to make bad impressions and push people away, inevitably hurting them. I have begun to realize that vulnerability is not a negative trait, and that I can take my fears and anxieties and turn them into strengths. It’s a liberating feeling to realize you aren’t that voice in your head.

I’m now trying not only to become aware of that fear but also to accept and move forward in spite of it. Loving myself has allowed me to love others. Learning what love is not has helped me to learn more about what love is. Instead of testing people in my life, I now try to grant them access allowing me to trust them.

Last, and most important, I believe that being fearless is the foundation of having courage, which Aristotle believed was “the greatest quality of the mind.” And as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly put it, “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” which means at the point of highest reality.

Now I wish to live a life where my actions are not influenced by my fears. If you aren’t happy with the life you’re living I hope you have the courage to change it.

Growing up as part of the millennial generation (a.k.a Generation Y) has given me an expectation that I could be more, do more, and have more. These unfulfilled desires and unrealistic expectations, always made me unhappy. As products of the age of technology we use social media to broadcast our lives. Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are used as much to distort one’s life as they are to communicate with one another; leaving some “friends” to feel inferior or unfulfilled because their lives seem less exciting. This feeling of inadequacy drove me to many poor decisions in an effort to find “happiness.” I became even more self-centered in my attempt to “keep up with the Kardasians.” I changed jobs, homes, schools, friends, and hobbies; in effect my lifestyle. This provided me a sense of happiness, albeit brief, and offered a feeling of worth.

In a 2013 article entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy,” Tim Urban sums up the reason for this in a perfect equation: “happiness = reality – expectations.” What this means is “when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When the reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.” For me, my irrational standards and delusional self came with a strong sense of entitlement. I created a false self that could now compete with others. However, I eventually learned that this pseudo-me only made me more self-involved and unhappy. I was looking at a future of being insatiable, which would only leave me alone and miserable.

I came to realize that I had wasted so much time trying to be happy when all I needed to do was experience the magnificence of what I already had. Once you can see past all the bullshit in this world, and accept the fact that you don’t need a “special” story, you can begin to detach from it.