“the best advice i’ve ever received”

23 Jan

In efforts to keep in better touch with the people I love, and to embark on new and sexy jet-setting (I looked fabulous on the way there, but not so much for the 6:15a flight back), I took my first trip out to San Francisco last weekend to visit one of my best and oldest friends.

I’ve taken quite a few plane rides in my time, largely as a result of having nearly all of my extended family in the fantastic city of Beijing, China, and I’ll always read flight publications. Like most magazine-reading experiences, I generally remain unchanged afterwards, but I was pleasantly surprised by Southwest’s Spirit series, particularly by a section featured in this month’s magazine called something like “The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received,” which consisted of memoir excerpts from a wide range of notables: Condoleezza Rice; Regis Philbin; Shaquille O’Neal; Mario Batali; and others.

As a critical theory student, I was taught always to interrogate knowledge in all its forms, including the aphorism – but also to appreciate rhetorical strategy, and to consider the value in various and specific deployments.

As an unsettled 20-something who’s experienced a range of unsettling appointments and occurrences, I’m rather drawn to the aphorism – also, to fortune cookies, horoscopes, and the Myers-Brigg personality test. Urm.

One line from an email a former TA and current friend, hands down one of the finest and most respectable people I’ve had the pleasure to meet during my time in NYC, has lingered in my mind for the past few years: “as always, take what you will, and leave the rest.” Applicable, you see, to a wide range of situations.

And, as an unsettled 20-something who’s experienced a range of unsettling appointments and occurrences, I fight a constant battle to maintain the intellectual and humanistic integrity required to honor the complexity of situations and of people – especially when “good” and “dependable” change to complicated and confusing, and even to antagonistic and deleterious. And while I hope to continue remembering the value of complex personhood to all manner of analysis, when push comes to shove, I believe that we’ve all got to take what’s right for us, and to move on to environments – and people – who align with our values and will contribute positively to our at once difficult and joyous journeys in determining how we are to live.

Sometimes, “leaving the rest” might look something like giving up, and, if so, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves about our manner of complicity in situations’ and relationships’ lack of success. But “leaving the rest,” I hope, also signifies a belief that we are worth our hopes for a work environment and colleagues who both value and challenge us; a romantic partner who understands and helps us to grow; and friends on whom you can depend to variously paint the town with style, and to figure out life’s not-so-glamorous parts over a bottle of wine and/or a tub of some freakin’ fine ice cream –

Whatever it is you’re leaving and looking to work towards and to find next – believe that, against all odds, you will find that thing, and that another journey will begin with it.

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3 Responses to ““the best advice i’ve ever received””

  1. thoroughly modern milli vanilli January 23, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    I hate aphorisms, generally, but being an “unsettled 20-something who’s experienced a range of unsettling appointments and occurrences,” perhaps I should give them further, open-minded study.

    Swell post, Shendlez!
    -Sam

  2. thoroughly modern milli vanilli January 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Great musings, Shendi! I for one love aphorisms, and think that your friend’s is a good one for us “unsettled [/in some cases a little too settled 20-somethings.” I have had trouble, at times, both in the taking and the leaving, and I think it’s a great way to explore why.

    And, you know, I’m always up for painting the town, or eating some ice cream!

    Love,

    Dani

  3. shendi January 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    aw, you gals are the best!!

    @sam: i’ve experienced workshops during which the presenter suggested each participant decide on a mantra for self — mine, at the time, was, “rock it, girl; rock it” — now, it might be “take it all one step at a time” (cue cheesy jordin sparks song). not exactly aphorisms, but still pithy, and sometimes rather useful imperatives.

    @dani: i love musing with you!! ice cream is overdue. (:

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