Everyone talks about ways they want to improve themselves every year. What I’m curious about is how everyone wants everyone else to improve. Do you have a vision for the world that needs to start at an interpersonal level? Share it with me.

Here’s some of my things I want to see people start doing:

  1. Start conversations about ideas, beliefs, concepts with others in lieu of conversations about people and things.

    On the whole, most people I know suck at debating things. They get very emotionally attached to their opinions and so they refrain from having serious discussions with others in fear of destroying friendships. But by denying yourself the freedom to exchange ideas on serious matters, you wind up with a lot of stunted friendships that never evolve… and because you are not absorbing the ideas held by others, you’re not evolving on an intellectual level, yourself.
  2. Form opinions on personal experience.

    I’ll try anything once, assuming it isn’t going to hurt me or someone else unfairly. No one knows what you like better than yourself. But if you come up with some half-baked assumption of what you like without any personal experience with it, you’ll never know. This doesn’t mean you have to board a plane from the Falklands to Rothera in Antarctica and take up martial arts. It just means that if someone presents you with an opportunity to try something new, at least entertain the thought of doing it… or, you know, actually do it.
  3. Say hello to strangers.

    We’re so sheltered and xenophobic. I’m guilty of this one, myself. I think my generation was the first to be exposed to the concept of “stranger danger.” And growing up like that, it’s hard to reach out to others because there’s just so much bubble to break through. As an introvert, I often realize the only thing stopping me from having positive exchanges with others is myself, so I’ve been trying to get over this and just say “HI!” to random people and introduce myself, ignoring any idiotic snap judgments I might make of the person based on their appearance, speaking style, or what I immediately know of them. You can learn a lot from strangers.
  4. Smile

    When I was in Europe, I saw so many Americans who were frowning. Why? They looked miserable and I think making those faces makes you feel miserable. There’s something gross about being fake but sometimes you have to fake it to make it, so if you can “grin and bear it,” why not? I smile more than I don’t. I sometimes make what I call “the icky face,” when I’m really not having it. But I like to think that face is meaningful and plaintively expressive because I’m not constantly making it. If you can’t smile, find reasons to smile. Or, take the advice from my favorite childhood book, Wayside Stories from Wayside School: “You need a reason to be sad, but you don’t need a reason to be happy.”
  5. Write love letters.

    Does that sound hokey? Yeah it probably does. But no one does this anymore. And you should. Because when you’re old and gross and your genitals have withered and fallen off, nothing holds a better memory of how you felt than the written word. I wrote a lot of these letters in the past year! Do I think they do a good job of representing how I feel? Nope! They don’t even come close. But it’s okay, because they were valiant efforts and nothing is more important than letting someone you love know how you feel. If not for your sake, do it for the people you love.
  6. Be child-like.

    We seem to admire how kids are so innocent and free and climb trees and run and skip. And we do this wistfully, ignoring the fact that we are in total control of how we behave. Stop holding back your laughter. Fucking run with your arms flailing. It feels amazing. Get dirty. You can clean up afterwards. One of the cool things about being a kid is that they are constantly surging with adrenaline. You’ll let go of so many fears if you just take it and run with it. Ride a bike down while wearing a cape. Dive off a cliff. Say what’s on your mind without fearing how much people will laugh.
  7. Write.

    Don’t make a bunch of half-assed statements saying, “I should write…” Just write. Sit down. Right now. Write how your day went. Write how you’re feeling. Write about what you dreamt last night. Write about your family. Don’t worry how it reads. Just write it. Do this often! Once you’ve done it for a while, with no concern for style or grammar or whatever, you’ll start to hear your own voice. And that’s important! Not because you need to get published or famous, but because you need to know what you sound like to really truly know yourself.