To every young person out there, and every AIESECer, this is for you.
Life is a beautifully messed up paradox and you only grow in its everlasting opposites. Life will throw all sorts of things at you and some of them will, sadly, hit you straight up in the face and throw you to the ground, begging and pleading for you not to get back up. It’s neither comfortable nor painful down there, but it can sometimes feel like it’s both at the same time, drowning you in the whirlpool of the choices needed to be made. Will you get out and face life or will you stay here and be happy and miserable at the same time? At least I can get a bit of comfort and happiness here in between the random yet frequent strikes of shame and regret; isn’t that better than the uncertainty of the world out there? Your mind will try to play all sorts of these games to try to protect you. However, it’s only protecting your ego from all the externalities that it cannot predict. Better safe than sorry, it thinks.
For the love of God, get up. This isn’t the first or last time that you’ll be knocked out cold by the world and you should know that the reins to your life are in your hands. Surrendering to complacency is just a way to drown yourself in a deeper pit of shame out of which you will have to escape at some point. Yet the longer you make a home out of it, the harder the ascent.
We often say that life isn’t fair. I know I have said that plenty of times, but that isn’t necessarily true. Life is both fair and unfair to everyone and its consistency and equality negate any self-validated impression of its damnation.
This is a plea to give value to yourself and to never undersell it. I am aware that there can often be a very thin line between knowing one’s self-worth and narcissism, but you’ve got to trust your instincts and believe in what you possess and what you’re owed. Seek people you trust and get their validation (or its opposite). Also, seek those who you might think do not have your best interest in mind and hear them out; there’s probably some truth in their words even if they happen to be stained with unkindness. You can fish something out of that and use it to your favor in your journey of self-growth.
You’re not always going to be loved by everyone and some people aren’t even going to like you. Don’t disregard those. Give them your best effort, equal to what you give others, and maybe, just maybe, they will open up to you and slowly remove that self-lodged stick they had up their butts with your name on it. If they don’t, then just stop. Stop trying to win people over too much that it distracts you from growing the respect of those who already care for you. Stop trying to please everyone. Sometimes, there will be people who, no matter what you do, won’t ever click with you. So save your energy and look elsewhere.
Trust your gut. Although you might at times feel like a decision is too big for you to take alone, rallying in too many minds to the rescue might ultimately backfire. You sometimes need to take a leap and just trust that whatever you feel is what it is. It doesn’t always have to be logical. It doesn’t always have to be scientific. Sometimes, we ought to let our hearts precede our minds in the pecking order and give them the ruling for the day.
At the time of writing this, the world is facing one of its most horrific crises: COVID-19. I wish that by the time you’re reading this, the darkness that’s been called upon us for a few months now will have somewhat lifted. Yet with the looming uncertainty all around, one can never be sure. We can only hope for the best. And with that, I just hope you hold strong despite having a hundred reasons as to why you shouldn’t.
A lot of companies and organizations, AIESEC included, are going through the hardest possible time given that their business models are critically affected leading to a complete halt of operations. However, with driven leaders who care, those organizations will prevail. Whatever your company is going through or whatever your situation, don’t fold your cards and pull out just yet. Stay in there, pivot your scenario, and find a way to make this work for you. As much of a cliché as this will sound, it is still true: frame it as an opportunity and treat it accordingly. And most importantly, don’t fail your people in the process.
Take value in your life and the life of those around you. Remember that it’s not about you, alone. And above all, always look for the grays.
This is the afterword of Grayscale: A Memoir of an Introverted Leader. Get your copy now from amzn.to/3j19KYq