On my drive home last night, I was listening to the podcast series The Wilderness, and in the final episode, host Jon Favreau interviews his former boss, President Barack Obama. I felt a little better listening to someone I admire talk calmly and optimistically about the future. That’s the feeling I want to amplify here this week: optimism. But I don’t know Barack Obama, and I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to interview him for this series.
However, I do know a whole bunch of incredibly perceptive and thoughtful people who have shared their insights with me over the past year and a half. And because I need a little pick-me-up, I thought I’d collect some of their wisdom here as a reminder that it’s hard to see the end of the story when you’re in the middle of it.
“We’re still interested in figuring out parts of ourselves, [and] at 32, people would say that that should be done by then, but there’s always time to do that. You can make mistakes and allow yourself room to breathe and room to experiment.”
“It sounds super simple when I say it now, but it wasn’t simple at the time; it was very difficult. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the type of person to do something for the first time and not be afraid. But I think through all that I’ve learned, I’m not afraid of being afraid anymore.”
“I think a lot of it is just being patient. Putting your head down and putting the work in. Even if you’re the hardest worker, it’s still going to take a ton of time. Maybe your whole life.“
“Other people’s opinions of you really don’t matter. You want to be a good person, but you’re not going to get along with everybody. And wanting everybody’s approval can give you a certain amount of anxiety. One of the things I appreciate about getting older, is really coming to that realization.”
“We lie to ourselves more than anybody else, saying we’re happy in our current situation. I’m able to read my emotions more quickly [now], and that’s something you don’t learn in school. Just listening to myself more has helped me realize that certain things don’t make me happy just because there are dollar signs associated with them.”
“Trust your heart rather than what you ‘should’ be doing or what someone else says you should be doing. The most important contributions to Western society, I think, the things that make life worth living, that help us live the good life, aren't things that corporations produce or that money buys. They're Beethoven. They're Emily Dickinson and James Baldwin and Joan Didion. Be that contribution to the culture of our species.”