Tim, 26, Rocky Mountains, USA

Let me start by quoting Brazilian author Paulo Coelho who wrote, "We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path." Think about that while you read this. 

I design outdoor recreation and education programs for youth of low-income families who live in public housing in a small, yet elitist town. Despite being populated by thousands of professional climbers, bikers, runners, triathlets, etc., there are still plenty of low-income families who are predominantly Latino. While with a group of my kids at a local outdoor pool, I overheard a woman say, "WOW, I all of a sudden feel like I am in San Diego!" Clearly a reference to skin that was of darker color than hers, and the fact that San Diego has many residing Mexicans. I was pretty irritated (to be understated) and not sure how to physically react becuase my brain was all of a sudden stumbling over numerous thoughts and questions... "Who is this woman." "How could she say that." "What mader her think she could say that in public in front of 15 Latino kids." "What a whore." So, my immediate reaction was to address her with, "Oh, really, I love San Diego!" She says, "That's NOT what I meant." I say, "Well, what did you mean? She then realizes her political incorrectness (actually rude and malicious), retracts her statements and asks who we are and what type of program it is. I explained it to her and she was all of a sudden very receptive and became "so grateful" for what we do. Unreal. 

I realized that I have no idea who this woman is, her life/previous experiences, ideals, values...whatever. This leads to the purpose of this narrative... Judging others is a very naive, pathetic trait. This woman may have had a negative experience in San Diego with a person of hispanic heritage (or at least dark skin). Mexican, Spanish, Bolivian, Agentinian, who knows, but she judged a whole group of young children based on their skin color. She labeled a collection of innocent children unworthy of sharing the same swimming pool as her own children. Some things to consider: Why do we judge others? How does race, religion, ethnicity, hair color, etc. make us so much different than others? Why do we, as Americans, think we are more important than any other human, flora or fauna? I stared with a quote, so I will end with one... "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." - Maya Angelou
 
 
Anonymous, 33, Stratford, CT USA

Lessons learned from my divorce: 1.) You cannot control the actions of others, but you do have complete control over your own reactions. No one can "make" you do anything. You will be surprised at how empowering this feels once you embrace it. 2.) Fake it 'til you make it. In other words, if you are going through a difficult time, paint on a smile (even if it kills you) and fake the cheerful facade. Eventually you will find that somehow you are no longer faking it and that your joy is genuine. On the flip side, if you focus exclusively on wallowing in your sorrows, it will be that much more difficult to find joy once again. 3.) Living well is the best revenge. While petty revenge may feel good for a moment, in the end you're going to want to be able to live a live with no regrets over actions taken in the heat of the moment. The inner peace and satisfaction that comes from knowing that you've acted with honor, dignity, and self-respect is priceless.
 
 

Rob, 24, Boston, MA, USA

A few years back, my dog was killed. Not in a peaceful "I'm going to sleep-Marley-and-me-way." No, the dog was hit by a car and died in my arms. For months after the event, I would close my eyes, and I could feel her panting, her breaths getting slower and slower. I loved that dog. But it made me wonder, Why did I love that dog? Here's why. A dog doesn't overwork, she is simply satisfied being her. The simplest things, to a dog, are food and love. A dog is poetry in motion. Rarely do we as people find ourselves doing the very thing we were put on Earth to do. But a dog goes about life everyday doing just that--living its life simply and with purpose. 


And that is my secret: Take a lesson from that dog. Eat when you're hungry, rest when you're tired, and try to love just one thing everyday the way your dog loves you. I hope that I am half the man my dog thinks I am. 
 
 

"Spunky Chesterfield," 30, Columbus, OH, USA

You have three choices to succeed in college. Sleep, study, and party. Pick two.
 
 

Whitney, 25, Washington, DC, USA

I was told once by my older sister something that has stuck with me for years. It is very simple, but so very powerful and true. She told me: "Whitney, you can NEVER be in a happy successful relationship until you are totally and completely happy being single." 


I told her to shove it at the time. 

Now, 5-6 years later, I know exactly what she meant. How can you make someone else happy if you aren't happy with yourself? How will you be able to stand on your own two feet if you have depended on someone else your whole life? I hate to admit it sometimes, but big sister knows best!! (Sometimes...) 
 
 

Jaime C, 23, CT USA
I had a panic attack and an anxiety attack and an asthma attack and a sneak attack all rolled into one. I was shaking and my thoughts were racing and I threw up... without even being hungover. I realized that, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I didn't know who I was anymore??!!!@#@#$#%# 

I was filling out an application for a program, on which it asked standard questions like, "What are your hobbies? What are you passionate about? Tell us about yourself!" I love writing (the physical act of it) and especially filling out forms, so I started happily writing the canned responses that I've had internalized for years and and and oh my god suddenly I thought what in the fuckhell that's not even me anymore and those are NOT my hobbies and I am passionate about different things and I can't tell you about myself you dumb FORM because not even I know who the hell I am right now and I can't believe this generic application just made me CRY!  

And in swept the as-panic-xiety attack. 

I realized, just then, that I had changed, but I never really recognized or realized or conceptualized the change. I was so used to being one way and describing myself as such that I hadn't ever thought to re-evaluate it. I was going through life changing, adapting, learning, triumphing, faltering, advancing, relapsing, advancing... without taking the time to understand or appreciate or fix those things. I was being passive with my own identity.

Much like a business, I realized that I should do quality control and quarterly reviews and performance analyses on myself. It is impossible for me to be the same person I was 20, 10, even 5 years ago. That sounds like I'm an unstable wreck, but really, I have met new people, seen new things, experienced new adventures; learned more, loved more, hated more, hated less, traveled more; I've surprised myself, inspired myself, disappointed myself; I've been surprised by others, inspired by others and disappointed by others. Sure, my inner core is still the same, but my outer core, lower mantle, upper mantle and crust (what? is she making earth layer references?!) have been influenced by all of that. And it has taken me time to be okay with the fact that shit is going to happen and I can't help but be affected by some of it.

I still find myself freaking out about feeling unsure of who I am, who I want to be, who I don't want to be, what I want to do, where I want to be, where I don't want to be........... but I've learned to accept the fact that I can't possibly know everything right now. I'm a human--not a math problem. I mean, some math problems probably are more complex than some humans, but my point is, I can't expect to solve the equation of all the tangled intricacies of the human mind, body and spirit in the time it takes to do some calculus homework. 

One tip I have for feeling less anxious about some of the stressors in your life is to write them down. Take the headtrash OUT and put it on paper. It's cathartic. I write down what's bothering me and next to it, I write down ways I can solve it or what it will take to make me feel better about the situation.

So, I've found that the secret to not driving yourself mad with worry about trying to pin down your entire young identity is to re-fuckin-lax. First, don't expect to stay the same--and why should you? There is so much in this world to behold--your only job is to open yourself up to it all. Second, you will encounter a myriad of things in this life that may change you, so be prepared to set time aside every so often to reflect on those changes by doing annual reviews with yourself: What did I experience? What did I learn? How have I changed? Is it good or bad? Third, don't fret if you haven't gotten yourself completely figured out--it will and should take time. Instead of having an as-panic-xiety attack about it, busy yourself by collecting bits and pieces of life.  Try new things, meet new people, figure out what you like and dislike, experiment, read, travel, talk, listen... the more you see, hear, know, taste, experience, understand, enjoy, dislike.... the more you increase your surface area capable of letting life in... and the better you will understand yourself.
 
 
Shannon P., 21, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA

I was asked the question: "How would you liked to be remembered after you die?" I sat for a few minutes and really thought about it. Getting older and wiser, I realized that I don't care if people remember what my name was, what my profession was or where I was from. I do know that I want all those acquaintances I have met along the way-- those people you bump into on the subway, on the bus or walking down the street--to remember the experience we had together if it moved them because I know I will hold on to experiences like that. I want them to remember that time and place where we shared our stories and laughs. I hope for that person they will take what I have shared with them and either become a better person or years down the road, look back and tell their grandchildren or friends how they met a nice Irish girl and then relay a story I shared with them. For me, that is what I value--the thought of meeting new people throughout my life and seeing them smile. I don't think there is a better gift in life than the gift of meeting new people. Remember! Next time you're walking somewhere and see a random person, sit down next to them and strike up a conversation.

I remember once sitting on the Seine River in Paris with my friend I was backpacking with. These two girls were sitting about 20 feet away and I just randomly went up and and started a convo. We started bullshitting and we ended up buying a couple bottles of wine and just sitting there for hours talking about the most random things and about how different our cultures were. By the end of the night, one of the girls invited us into her home where we crashed for 2 days; she then decided on a spontaneous whim to travel with us for 3 days in France showing us around. Now, a year later, she is coming to visit New York for the first time and she's staying with me for 5 days.  So like I said, you really never know who you may meet. You never know what you may find out or how a person may be able to change your thoughts or opinions on things.
 
 

Jaime C., 23, CT, USA


I loved the book and I love Julia Roberts, so, naturally, I am looking forward to seeing the film. Are there, too, many commas, in the, previous, sentence? 

I've never been through a divorce or a deep depression, but
Elizabeth Gilbert's words still managed to resonate deep within me. Eat, Pray, Love is an inspiring memoir, chronicling Gilbert's yearlong journey of recovery and self-discovery and it .  

I also bought her latest work, Committed, but I can't seem to get through it. Not sure if that's my fault (too tired/lazy/busy) or hers yet. 
 
 

Jaime C., 23, CT, USA

I'm sorry, I'm SO over-tired and distracted in this video, but do you get me?

If you don't share my sense of  humor, you may not :-X 
Still, I hope you'll submit your secret!
Without you, The VS are nothing.  
I LOOK LIKE A BANSHEE!

Someone get me a brush.
And a shower.
WAAAAAAH!
 
 
Jaime C., 23, CT, USA
WOW. What an appropos article. Relates to the Victorious Secret posted below. Top Marine Corp officer said the he would want to avoid placing gay and straight Marines in the same room if the ban on gays openly serving in the military is lifted. 

A) Gay people don't have cooties.
B) Just because someone is gay doesn't mean they want you.

Read the article here: http://us.cnn.com/2010/US/03/26/marines.gay.housing/index.html

I think it is noble that people like "THAT GUY" below, will still devote themselves--200% of themselves--to their country's safety and freedom, despite such a ban.