36 Things I Learned by the Time I Turned 36 – Part 3

Welcome to the third part of 36 things I learned by the time I turned 36! Be aware, though — these are some truth bombs, and some of them are controversial. But progress never came out of complacency. We need to put out lessons that people can actually use to advance society. 

Without further ado, here are the next six things I learned by the time I turned 36.

Sadness is a necessary emotion.

I feel like American society as a whole is so bent on the pursuit of happiness that we do anything we can to avoid sadness. But it’s not only OK to be sad — it’s crucial to our emotional functioning. After all, you would not feel joy if someone you loved dearly died, would you? No. You’d most likely be sad. 

So honor that sadness. If you avoid being sad, then it will come back later but even stronger. 

You can be spiritual without believing in God or another higher power.

Ever since I was a preteen, I had issues with God. I thought that he must not exist because he allows so many bad things to happen in the world and does not intervene. I also see “higher power” as another term for God. Thinking about a higher power isn’t comforting for me. 

Because of my lack of belief in a higher power, I thought I wasn’t spiritual. But deep down, I had a longing that I could not adequately explain. 

Then, in 2017, I started seriously meditating. Currently, it is a regular practice for me. I may not hold my attention the entire time, but it still has a calming effect for me, and I feel like I am conversing with a part of myself that I cannot otherwise access. 

I also believe that the earth is alive and also “breathes”. I’d say that is a part of spirituality. Science could even explain that it’s true — after all, there are many active volcanoes, even underwater. The volcanoes may not be breathing per se, but they are very much alive in their own way.

Getting in touch with yourself and with Mother Earth are two good ways of connecting with spirituality if you don’t believe in God or another higher power.

Legal doesn’t always mean right, and illegal doesn’t always mean wrong.

This lesson was apparent to me when I was 19 years old — I smoked marijuana for the first time, and nothing bad happened. In fact, marijuana is perhaps the safest drug there is, in that it has a zero kill rate. I could go into the long, sordid history of why it’s illegal, but I will just say it was a U.S. Treasury issue pushed by Harry Anslinger, a man with questionable morals, in the 1930s.

Conversely, some heinous acts have been committed not only because they were legal — they were mandated. One example is the Holocaust. That was completely legal, but almost all of us can agree that it was very, very wrong and immoral. 

Remember: Just because something is legal or illegal doesn’t mean it is just.

A college education does not guarantee you a job that pays well.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 2009. Because the U.S. was in the middle of a recession during that time, and competition for what few jobs there were was fierce, all I could land was an entry level clerical position that did not require a college education. And that was after nine months of searching for a permanent, full-time job. 

Even in good economic times, there are degrees that do not guarantee a high-paying job. These days, you would have to obtain a Master’s degree, and even that is no assurance that a good job is waiting for you.

The United States is not the great country that Americans were taught that it is.

Slavery. Jim Crow. Segregation. Police brutality.

Do those sound like policies a great country would enact? No? Then the U.S. is far, far from great. There are some characteristics that do make the U.S. great, such as the diversity of its people, but as a country, we have a long way to go to achieve success. We need advances in health care, education, housing, and more. 

How do we “make America great again” when it was never that great to begin with?

You are your own best advocate.

No one has your back like you have your own back. You are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. It’s good to have support, but those supportive people can leave your life at any time. So, who’s left? You.

Take care of yourself. Fight for what you want and need. No one else is going to do it for you.

We are halfway through the 36 things I learned by the time I turned 36. Stay tuned for Part 4 soon!

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