Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest change. Here, people share the one thing that changed everything for them.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
In high school, I was a super over-achiever. I never got anything other than A’s. Unfortunately, I was able to pull this off without putting too much effort in, which sounds like a blessing but ended up being a curse, as it lulled me into a sense of security. I was the valedictorian of my class and was absolutely certain that I was going to stay there.
And then I got my final grade in from one of my classes. It was a B.
I locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried. I was devastated for many days afterward. During my mourning time, I looked up whether I could still stand a chance at Caltech, my dream university, if I got such a grade. The general consensus was “eh, pick somewhere else.”
That was it! Not “no, you suck,” not “no, Caltech wants smart people.” Just pick somewhere else.
It was in that moment that I truly accepted the loss of my valedictorian status, as painful as it may have been. I suddenly realized that all this grade anxiety did nothing but crush my spirit, and that I had truly earned that grade by being lazy.
Now I centrally define myself as a friend, reader, learner, inquirer, and helper, identities that will endure my whole life – not as the tenuously hanging valedictorian.
Up until I was a teenager, I didn’t like my sister much. She didn’t like me either. Then, one day, I read that hugging someone makes your brain release chemicals that make you trust that person more. I didn’t buy it, so I jokingly told my sister that it means we have to start hugging our enemies to give them a false sense of security, and stuff like that. Then we jokingly hugged and we continued to hug every day for a while.
And you know what? It’s weird, but it actually worked! She’s my best friend now.
4. Live your life as best as you can
After my dad died in 2014 of Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disorder, I decided to get tested in late 2015. I am gene positive. Meaning, I will develop the disease at some point later in life, but am not currently showing symptoms. Although I’m only 26, I’ve begun working towards my bucket list and only 2 months ago, crossed off my #1 wish of visiting Germany. It was two weeks of everything I could have asked for. I have a relatively successful career, which I enjoy and am thankful for, which allows me to check off these items from my bucket list.
Knowing that my life expectancy is maybe 40 at best, based on my CAG repeats, it’s given me the chance, or maybe the reminder, to live my only life as well as I can.
I’ve never had any truly religious or deep meaningful experience in my entire life. Sure I’ve had fun. But I’ve never really got a deep life altering, paradigm shattering experience in my entire life. Everything was just humdrum until I started experimenting with psychedelic drugs.
I was a vocal atheist and thought everybody who believed in anything like that was totally stupid. Not saying I am religious now because I’m not, but I was such a closed minded person about stuff like that.
Psychedelics showed me the potential for love. Both for myself and others. It opened me up to seeing how consciousness and existence is so much more than I ever thought it was and it showed me how to see the world a lot differently than I currently was. Also showed me just how fucking insanely beautiful and wonderful everything truly is.
I lose sight of it all the time, but deep down those experiences are still with me.
6. Sweets and vegetables
I had been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for about a month straight. I was in college. These things happen. Anyway, I had a little bit of cash put together, so a buddy and I went to TGIFriday’s. The waiter came, and as I was ordering my food, for some reason, inexplicably, I had to have a salad. My friend looked at me like I had grown a second head. He demanded explanations. There were none.
So I ate the salad. Literal chills started racing up and down my spine. It was like a religious experience.
So, I told my friend to order a salad. He was understandably concerned at this point. Why was this important all of a sudden? What’s the deal with the salad? I said, “Order. A. Salad.”
We still talk about it sometimes. That was 15 years ago.
Uh… so, the moral of the story is don’t eat so many sweets and vegetables are a required part of your diet.
7. Being thankful
I traveled a lot early in my career. I spent a lot of time in quite a few poor countries.
The worst was Haiti. I worked near a poor area. People would beg and beg for the scrap lumber from our shipping crates to build their houses. When they built a house, it was about the size of the walk-in closet in the first home my wife and I bought. They would get their water from a community well. The water that came from the well looked more like someone stomped around in a mud puddle along the side of the road and took a glass of the resulting brown water to drink. My driver explained to us how the poor ate dirt. There was bad dirt to eat and good dirt to eat (I never asked what made dirt bad or good to eat). They explained they would add some fat and make like a small pancake and eat it.
I went to Haiti 6 times in my life to work. The poverty and corruption was like nothing I had ever seen before or really since.
Ever since then, I have never complained. I have a nice house. Nothing extravagant, but it is a nice house. I have money to put food on the table. I have multiple grocery stores within a 10 minute drive from me and I can buy anything I want to eat. I have a job that pays well and I enjoy working at.
I don’t let the inconveniences of life bring me down. If I feel sorry for myself about something, I remember the really poor people I have come across in my travels (as opposed to what I call American poor) and I am instantly thankful for what I have.
8. Changing for the better
A few years ago I lost a long time friend of mine in a car accident. He fell asleep at the wheel on the interstate and crossed over into oncoming traffic, hitting a semi. We had known each other since we were 5 and went through grade school, middle school and high school together. He was 25 when he passed. I knew he had struggled with depression for a long time, but at the time of his passing he was actually in a really good place in his life. He was doing what he loved and had been dating a girl for a few years. He was happy!
So it really made me think if I were to suddenly be gone tomorrow, am I happy with where I’m at? I wasn’t, and I started to make a lot of life changes after that. I had been overweight for a long time and started working on my health and I’ve lost around 85 lbs since then. I got into a career I love and enjoy doing everyday. I stopped stressing about stupid things too. It’s not worth it. I tell my family and friends I love them a lot more frequently than I used to. And I always, always, ALWAYS make sure I get enough sleep before I have a long drive to make.
Getting injured, having multiple surgeries, and having to quit my teaching job and go on long-term disability. Being on disability really sucked, and I have more compassion for people who are permanently disabled. I also understand homelessness better. I’d probably be homeless myself if I didn’t have parents who could help with some of the medical bills.
10. Music festival vibes
Getting high at a music festival. My buddy and I got hungry so we got chicken strips. We sat down on the dirty ground and enjoyed our chicken strips amongst other festival goers. I realized how nothing is more important than being somewhere you love with people you love. No fancy restaurant, no expensive food, no flashy jewelry… just my bud and I having a blast. Will never forget that.
11. Get motivated!
I’m in my early 20s, and got dumped by my first serious girlfriend a few months ago. I really liked her and she was pretty into me, but I was constantly trying to please her and was letting her walk all over me because that’s what I believed women wanted. I never stood up for myself when she would flake/take hours to text and I think she lost respect for me because of that. Her excuse was that “she wasn’t ready” but I know I was at least partially to blame…
Instead of sulking and begging, I took the breakup as motivation to hit the gym, meet new people, read books, further my career, work on social skills, etc so that at least if she doesn’t want to give it a second try, then a better girl will take her place. I’m so much happier now because of it.
To me it was definitely travelling.
And, not to sound like that guy, but by traveling I don’t mean two days in a hotel by the beach in some third world country, I’m talking several years in total immersion. Worked there, slept there, ate, met people, got drunk, got mad, fell in love, got heartbroken, split up, fell in love again, made money, lost at least as much, learned how to greet locals the proper way, and why how I’d do it in my country isn’t okay here, the whole thing.
13. Be kind to your mother
For me it was a small comic,it had a picture of a girl at various ages of her life.
Age 6:”I love mommy”
Age 16:”I hate my mom!”
Age 30:”Mom was always right…”
Age 45:”I wish mom was here”
It really hit home and made me change for the better. I started helping my mom around the house and built an amazing relationship with her till now.
14. Looking at cultures differently
An anthropology course I took in University. The professor told us that when we look at different cultures we have to “make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange”.
So basically you need to look at cultures outside of your own and try to see them with empathy. Really try to look at it as if it was your own culture, that it was normal, or something you grew up with. And to do the opposite with your own culture.
Talk me a lot about looking at my own culture with a critical eye, and looking at other cultures with empathy.
15. Dont take things too serious
Drug/alcohol addiction, followed by recovery.
I just shouldn’t even be alive. I told a psychologist I expected to be dead by 25. But I’m 25, not dead, sober for several years, and somehow getting a Ph.D. I literally had no idea how to stop drinking; I wanted to, but couldn’t. Somehow it happened, though. And now when I get super stressed at school, or when people bug me, I just remember the fact that I shouldn’t even be alive. All of my problems immediately become laughable and absurd when I do that.
So I’d say I learned not to take things so serious, because at the end of the day, I’m still just right here.
16. The old wise lady
A random stranger in passing. When I was about 16, I accidentally stepped into an elderly woman’s way while walking down a narrow walkway. We did the awkward dance trying to pass one another, as we passed each other I turned and said “I’m sorry!” to her.
She turned back to me and with a stern, but oddly charming, tone says “Don’t you ever apologize for your existence. Just say excuse me and be on your way.”
At first I took what she said as her being rude. Then I walked away and let it sink in for a bit and since then it’s stuck. I always say excuse me now if I’m in someone’s way.
17. A bit of luck
Growing up I was absolutely miserable. Being the fat kid in school, no attention from girls, very very few friends, more athletic family members who would single me out and pick on me. This went on through high school unfortunately.
When I was 19 things began falling into place for me through sheer dumb luck. I was (wrongly) diagnosed with ADD and the adderall they put me on caused me to lose 70 lbs in ~2 months, then the family came into some money as a result of a medical malpractice suite that killed my grandmother a few years earlier and my dad paid for me to study Japanese in Japan for 6 months.
Losing the weight and going to Japan were exactly what I needed to shake off my miserable former self. I had finally done something I could be proud of and it just kept catalyzing more and more positive changes in my life. It’s weird to think I spent the first 20 years of my life hating myself, hating the world, hating my family, just as such a miserable guy. I love all those things now.
18. Parents divorce
It showed me that love is not magic. It’s something that has to be worked at together. When one party can’t or won’t do equal work, the relationship fails. It feels amazingly good when it works and feels amazingly bad when it breaks down. The fact that my fairytale image of my parents marriage failure led me to (at least try to) have a more realistic view on life. No amount of want alone can make things happen in relationships. It’s like carrying a really big fish tank: it’s difficult with two people, and it’s pretty amazing to move things along to new places, but one person can’t do it. If someone isn’t invested in moving it along, it will drop and break. And it’s a real big mess to clean up and deal with all alone.
19. No regrets
From spending a few years in an underdeveloped country, to beating drug/ alcohol addiction, 22 people share the one experience that changed their perspective on life.
So after a family member died I inherited almost $78,000,000. My family and friends attitudes changed completely after hearing the news. People I didn’t even know of started contacting me, almost everyone I knew asked me for money, the number of ‘friends’ I had doubled. About a week later, the lawyer that handled the last will contacted me saying there was a closer relative that they had missed. I went back to being normal and found out who were my real friends and family were.
One of my best friends passed away unexpectedly last August. I didn’t keep up with messaging him every once and a while and slowly grew apart. He messaged me a week before he died simply saying “I miss you.” I forgot about replying like some people do and I got a call the following week from another friend saying he died. I was devastated because I had no idea he was ill. Later that day I was looking at my inbox and noticed his message and it floored me. I still beat myself up over it because all I had to say is “I miss you too we should catch up.” But I didn’t and he’s gone. It was a harsh lesson but it changed me, and no matter what I take the time to reply to any message I get from someone I care about.
20. Making a friend
Gaining a friend and talking to said friend. Up to that point in my life I had lived on the internet and became something of a space exploration fanatic dead-set on pushing humanity into the cosmos. My plan in life was to work as hard as I could toward that goal, without any room for anything else.
Until I met my friend. She was much more normal than me (normalcy was something I disdained at the time), but not any less dedicated academically. She wanted to excel in life, but also enjoy it. It was the latter part that I had been missing.
21. Rediscovering yourself
Had my first real breakup last year. For a while, I was devastated and truly depressed. However, after a while I began to discover more things about myself and what I wanted and what I liked. I began to appreciate things and people that I took for granted before. 2016 was one of the worst years of my life, but I can confidently say that so far 2017 is the best year of my life. I’m still single, but I’m truly happy with that and with myself.
22. Take charge of your life
I was dating a girl for 2 years and was so damn certain she was the one. She was passionate, confident, and could light up a room when she entered. At the same time, we were very different in that regard and I struggled to stay balanced in something that I wanted so badly to work.
Anxiety and a lack of motivation were a serious pattern for me. She pushed me, tried to say that it was important to her that I got a grip on things but I just couldn’t come to terms with it. In the end one day while driving back to her place she told me she couldn’t do it anymore and that she felt I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I needed to learn to believe in yourself or I would always leave people staring at a wall of nerves.
The experience hit me like a bombshell and for a long time I felt like I wasn’t going to make it through. I just wanted to do anything to stop feeling defeated. One day while sitting there and thinking I realized that I let my fears rob me of someone I deeply cared about. It had to stop and I needed to get help.
I reached out to my folks, explained to them what I was going through and got help. After spending some time planning what I wanted out of life I began committing everyday to building back to a place where I could be proud of what I was doing. I never forgot what she said to me, and while it hurt a great deal it made me realize that I was defeating myself out of enjoying life.
Last year I saw her for the first time in 5 years. She was engaged, had moved to a new city and was happy as ever. I thanked her for helping me realize what I was doing to myself and wished her the very best.
Every time I struggle, or start to doubt myself I remember what that experience taught me. If you are going to lose something, don’t let it be because you defeated yourself. Take charge, do your best and accept the outcome – but don’t sell yourself short.
23. Didnt even say goodbye
When my first girlfriend cheated con me and then asked me to visit her in her city to see if we could work things out. Made me buy gifts, stay at a crappy hotel, pay for food, pay for her mothers meds. Then kissed me for the first time and then she told me on phone that she felt pity for me.
And the other thing is that my dad died and I realized a week later. He was a police officer and I think he was getting involved in the local mafia. He gave my mom and my family a really bad life though but I still missing him. Last thing he told me was: don’t say goodbye. It’s See you son (last time I saw him cause he lived in other city). I was used to say goodbye. Never did after that day.
I had a terrible back injury about 15 years ago. I was super athletic and outgoing, and then suddenly I struggled to get out of bed in the morning because of so much pain. I was lucky, but it took me 10 years to get to the point where I could manage the pain, and if I throw out my back, how to recover from it quickly.
It’s still on ongoing process of trying to relearn how to love who I am now. I gained a ton of weight, I have other issues from other injuries and I still have instances where I’m basically bedridden for days at a time. I’m terrified of doing anything strenuous because what if I can’t walk later? I can go to the gym okay now, because everything is really controlled so I’m less likely to do something terrible, but lifting a heavy box? Cleaning the fridge? God, doing the dishes could put me out for a day.
However, back when I was “better” I really took things for granted. I let people treat me like crap because I wanted people to like me. I was a punching bag, I was everyones favorite dork to harass or insult and I’d just take it because they were my friends and I liked my friends.
After the accident though? I didn’t have the energy to put up with that. I just started removing toxic people from my life, and found some of the best friends I could ever have, people I’ll probably know for the rest of my life no matter where we live.
I don’t love myself yet, but at least I respect myself now.
25. All this hardship but keep moving!
I was in a large 4-car wreck because some fool was texting and driving. 2 days later my home was destroyed by a hurricane (totaled what was left of my car too). 1.5 months later I had a stillbirth at 18weeks along because my child had Triploidy. And to top it off, subsequently had to be monitored for Cancer…all within three months.
I discovered my husband was a bedrock of stability and support. I’m more in love with him than I could ever imagine.
I was able to get back into crossfit shape in 4 months. My gym was my therapy. Everyone was incredibly supportive and positive.
I became better at my job in that I had experienced the lowest of human emotions and could better support others.
I learned that sometimes you have to cut unhealthy friends (or even friends that aren’t inspiring you to be a better person) out of your life to promote your own healing.
And finally, some days are a success if you just keep moving, even if you do not accomplish anything significant.
26. Try to be the best version of yourself
About 3 months ago I started a new job; my last day at my previous job, a family business, went about as expected but the next day did not. Got a call that the owner of the company had fallen down the stairs and had a brain aneurysm the night before. The man I worked for shook my hand, wished me luck, went home and has been pretty messed up ever since. “Am I being punked?” Was one of the first things to come to mind. Changed my outlook, I try to spend more time with friends and not worry about ‘stuff’ (it’s hard to say now, but he wasn’t always the nicest person, valued possessions over people), so I just try to be a better me.
27. The rare friends
Don’t get close to friends. Grew up with someone for years. Did a lot or things together. One day I wanted to talk to that person about something important and I got some very uncalled for attitude because they wanted me to tell them over the phone instead of in person. I had enough of their attitude and did like I was told, don’t contact them again. Ten years of friendship gone, just like that. That hurt a lot and I’m reluctant to try to hang out with anyone new.
So my new perspective is don’t think there are friends who will be there for you. They’re like an albino bison, rare.
28. Unemployment changes life perspective
Got laid off in 2009 and was unemployed or underemployed for 4 years. I had a degree from a top tier university, mind you, but I just could not land a job.
But in between sending out resumes, I did yoga, drank beers, got laid, grew my beard out, and was just the happiest I’ve ever been. When the work returned, I had a perspective that I’d never had before. I mean, if I could be so happy with just unemployment checks, then a full time salary was more than I needed. The key was enjoying my days.
I actually make decent money now, but I’ve turned down even higher paying jobs so I could, instead, work with people who I like, have a healthy work/life balance, get to travel, etc. I think if I hadn’t had unemployment forced upon me that I might never have taken a step back to evaluate my priorities. Best thing that ever happened to me.
29. A horrible experience
I got divorced and lost my house which just tore me up. It was a new build on 3 acres and I loved it. The breakup was toxic and I ended up moving out in a hurry. I moved 3 times in a year. Then I entered menopause but didn’t realize it and was drinking heavily to cope with the symptoms and the depression. I’m now in a happy relationship and a nice home but that experience tore my heart out.