Caribbean grandmothers are well-known for their uncanny ability to make you check yourself. They hold an artillery of wise phrases that are applicable in any situation.
But, just like fine wine and sleep, I didn’t fully appreciate these words of wisdom until recently. Now, I understand some well-known Caribbean proverbs can be useful for anybody out there who is still figuring sh*t out.
1. "Monkey know which tree to climb."
Ever wonder why your boss asks YOU to work late, but never asks your colleague in the next cubicle? Or why that "friend" of yours seems to take her sh*t out on you more than anyone else?
Social life in your 20s is not much different from the animal kingdom. Just like animals instinctively know the best places to find food or safety, some people are naturals at knowing who they can push around or get things from.
Like animals, they can spot easy prey from a mile away. But they can also sense when they shouldn’t mess with someone. When that happens, they usually keep their distance.
It’s up to you to define how you come across to others. If you stand up for yourself and make it known what you expect of the people around you, the social predators in your midst will adjust their behavior accordingly.
2. "What don’t kill does fatten and what don’t fatten does purge."
This does not solely apply to food. It’s also a good way to approach life’s challenges, like that tight deadline or rigorous job interview.
Difficult experiences might be stressful and exhausting. But, if it doesn’t kill you, it will in some way enrich your life (or fatten you up). You might learn new skills or something new about yourself.
On the other hand, if whatever you’re tackling doesn’t add anything positive to your life, it might help you get rid of something negative. A bad breakup, for instance, is a loss. But the loss of an unhealthy relationship or obligation you’re not ready for is a good thing.
In other words, challenges can help you purge your life of stuff you’re better without. Either way, it’s important to face difficulties head-on, and emerge a better person for it.
3. "Don’t hang your hat where your hand can’t reach."
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to have the latest Apple gadget. Some of us may feel pressured to move into the more expensive, but much trendier part of town. Some people are flat out addicted to designer clothes.
And everybody loves to get "turnt up" at the club every now and then with bottle service.
Our culture of consumption has led to entire lifestyles being sponsored by Visa. Many of us are in credit card debt up to our ears. Or, we owe our parents thousands of dollars, yet continue to pay obscene prices every morning for our specialty coffees.
How can we get a handle on our finances? By planning ahead.
If buying that pair of shoes means you won’t be able to pay rent, make the smart decision. Don’t get caught up trying to live a life you think you should be seen living. Make sacrifices and be responsible.
Because if you don’t, you’ll be the one left struggling.
4. "Gopaul luck is not Seepaul luck."
We often see articles about how social media has made it easier for Millennials to compare themselves to others. We feel pressured to travel more, have a nicer brunch and generally be more fabulous than our high school classmates.
But that kind of comparison is useless because everyone is not meant to live the same life.
Even if we want the same things, they won’t happen for everyone the exact same way at the exact same time. Embrace your journey, failures and all. You are unique, and so is your experience.
Don’t be jealous of other people because you want what they have. Focus on your own goals, keep doing you and trust that whatever happens, will happen for a reason.
5. "Drunk or sober, mind your business."
It’s good to spend time with your friends, take an afternoon off just to relax or get completely plastered on a night out. But at the end of the day (or night), check your email.
Remember to pay that bill on time. Make follow-up calls to that client. It’s your life, it’s your responsibility and it’s your business.
Balance is important, but be sure to put your priorities first. Our 20s are a crucial time to build our foundation for the future. So no matter where you are or what you’re doing, keep your hustle on the front burner.
It’s always good to have a voice at the back of our minds to help us remember what’s important and how to make good choices. Keep those motivational quotes, Chinese proverbs or Caribbean grandmothers close by.
We all need a little extra inspiration to help us keep our eyes on the prize.