Since It’s September and all the little munchkins are heading back to school, I thought I’d start this month’s column with two jokes. First – why did the music teacher always keep a ladder around? Answer: to reach the high notes. Too corny? OK, how about this one. Why do teachers need to be given credit? Answer: because we don’t pay them enough. Oh, so I’m not Jerry Seinfeld, I just thought I’d break the ice before we get serious.
I don’t care what the calendar says “September” is the start of a new year. I know it doesn’t come in with fireworks and a hangover like New Year’s Eve, but it is the natural time when we reset our lives. As a child, you enter a new class, perhaps a new school and start anew. For parents, it’s also a time to gain back some of your free time and hit the alt-control-delete button on your life. How many diets have been started right after Labor Day? How many grownups have themselves gone back to school this month or started a new job search? You see my point, September is an important month.
If I could be so forward, I thought I might take a moment to share five tips for students (young and old) that have helped me on this journey. Call it knowledge learned the hard way by sometimes making all the wrong choices. I swear to God we humans are our own worse enemies. To steal a line from Alanis Morissette, there could be a drawer with ten thousand spoons, and we’d grab the knife when we’re trying to eat soup.
So here you go, my Top 5 ways to make this year, which we’ve agreed starts right now, better.
1) Smart choices. I read the other day that it isn’t the storm that sinks a boat it’s the decisions you make in the storm that get you sunk. Oh, how true. Life is going to bring storms your way, it’s inevitable, but how you react is really the whole ballgame. Take divorce; that’s a storm nobody wants to weather. You can try to remain the decent person you are and always have been and navigate your way through it with reason and restraint, or you can hire a lawyer who loves to stir the pot and spend half the money the two of you saved and were going to split on legal fees instead. Your choice. You can drag your ex to court every time a child is dropped off ten minutes late, or you can take a deep breath and forgive. Trust me you’ll eat fewer Tums if you learn to forgive.
2) Start strong. A wiser person than me once said, “If you win the first hour of the day you win the day.” This is true for kids and adults. How you come out of the gate after the alarm goes off will dictate success or failure for that whole day. Trying to lose weight? Get up and eat a healthy breakfast. Trying to exercise more? Set the alarm a half-hour earlier and get to the gym or go for a walk. Too tired if you do that? Then go to bed earlier. Did you really need to watch 40 minutes of The Shawshank Redemption for the 26th time last night just because it was on cable? If you get up, get moving, eat healthy and then digest something useful to your brain like a quick glance USA today online you’ll be three steps ahead of everyone else and carry the momentum through the whole day.
3) Be less social. On the computer I mean. Facebook and Instagram are fun, but studies show the more you are on there, the more depressed you’ll be. So, post a funny photo, click “like” on your friends’ picture of spaghetti and meatballs and sign off. There is such a fantastic world happening right outside of that device in your hand. Lift your head up and see.
4) Go jump in a lake. No really. Every year Special Olympics has a fundraiser where people jump in Lake George in the middle of the winter to raise money for the cause. If that 38-degree water doesn’t wake you up from the funk you’re in nothing will. Worried about frostbite? Ok then help another charity of your choosing, trust me there are about 200 that would love your help right now. I don’t know why but giving up some of your free time in a selfless way fills you with something you didn’t realize was missing in you.
And last but not least
5) Don’t give up. I know it sounds cliché, but I’m not convinced the people who win, get rich, succeed are most often the ones who won’t give up. They hear 50 “nos” before they get a yes. Every literary agent and publisher on the planet told me no before I found one that said yes to me and gave me a book deal. It took a full year of asking and at times I wanted to cry or scream but, in the end, persistence paid off.
Look what a little rushing water did to the Grand Canyon. Let that be you. Be the water.
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.