My grandpa once gave me the most lasting piece of advice that was exactly what I needed at the time.
It was a piece of very random, simple, and yet profound advice that cut through everything else; all unbeknownst to him.
I was living in the U.S. at the time, studying Biology at a university.
My family was located back in Germany and I had gone to visit to celebrate some birthdays that were all planned around the same time in the summer.
While there, I was of course engaged in a lot of conversations, most of which were not subtle at all in their intent:
“I think you should be with your family, just living alone is going to make you depressed. I know you won’t be happy there. Come back. I do not believe this is right for you. Just trust me.”
Every place I went, everybody there engaged me in the same conversation again and again and again. With my Mom alone, I had that particular conversation about 15 times in those 7 days.
It was exhausting.
Not once did anyone ask me how I felt. Not once did they ask me why I chose to stay. Not once did anyone care for what plan I had. Not once did I feel like anybody truly cared.
They all only wanted me to do what they thought was best. Regardless of how it would make me feel.
Had they asked me, they would have understood.
Of course, I missed my family. Of course, I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. But no one really cared.
I was terrified of my choice, but I was so sure of it in that moment.
Living halfway across the world from most of my family, doing something no one else had ever done and trying to figure out my life all at the same time was of course hard. I was questioning it!
In that week what I needed from my family was to support me and be a boulder I could lean on. Not a mass of frightened chickens that picked me apart when I was at my lowest!
It. Was. Awful.
Seven days of this and I could not wait to fly back and be by myself again. When it came to the end of my stay, I said good-bye to everyone half-heartedly for it was the most I could give.
I could feel their disappointed glances as I left, and I did not care anymore. I just shook their hand, smiled, nodded, and left. I just wanted to leave.
But, one person did not let me.
When I tried to do the same thing, the usual smile, nod and pull away, my grandpa clasped my hand in his, put the second hand on top and waited for me to give him my full attention.
He looked at me patiently, and I just thought “Let’s get this over with”, as I was expecting the usual conversation.
I looked at him and his eyes pierced through me to my core as his words cut through all of the tension that I gathered in the last days like a scolding knife through butter.
“Lukas you… you walk your own path.”
I do not know what came over him. I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the fact that he believed in me when I felt no one else had. Maybe it was the surprise of the moment. Or maybe it was the words given with such knowing intent but imagining that scene today still gives me goosebumps.
I had thought so much about the things my family had said, the fear, the anger, and the not-so-subtle ways to try to convince me of their righteous that this one sentence ended up changing everything.
For months I thought about that moment, and it was still to date one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever heard.
And I guess the reason I am writing this is partially to share this story, but more so to share the realizations this one line in that one moment gave me:
- No one can choose for you. No one knows what it is you should do or what is best for you; and therefore, they cannot tell you what to do at all. It is your life and only you can choose the path you walk, for it’s you that has to pay the price of your actions – always.
- You can choose what you take on. You can take on the worries and fears of those around you or can simply choose to let those fears and worries be their own. You do not have to buy into anything you do not want. And, at the same time, you can take even one line and take it so to heart it changes everything. What you take on from others is on you.
- It only takes one person. You do not have to change the world to change someone’s world. Even if their life is crap, it only takes one person believing in someone to make the difference for that person.
- It’s about the little things. That one person, that one moment, that one, simple line, changed so much in my life. I ask of you, please, for those out there that will take your words to heart, try to be your best. You never know when your words may change someone’s life forever.
- Amazing things happen all the time. Sometimes we are just too busy or occupied to see them. Always be ready for something to surprise you, so you do not miss the moments hidden in the fog.
- In the end, it’s on you. Whether you choose to follow the advice of others or take your own path, at the end, you are the one that has to live with the choices. No one else has to deal with the consequences of the actions you take. Of course, everyone can throw out advice, but you are the one who has to deal with it in the end, so make a choice that you stand behind.
About the author: Lukas Schwekendiek is a life coach, speaker, and writer. His work has been published on TIME, Inc.com, and The Huffington Post. He is based in Germany