This piece does not have 10 steps, 5 reasons, 6 magic ways, or 4 crucial ingredients to define happiness, success, or how to win a lovers heart. I actually submitted it to Thought Catalog a few months ago but I presume it offended too many of the writers for it to be published. As an avid reader of Thought Catalog, Buzzfeed, Elite Daily, etc., I admit that I enjoy and often share links for these listed advice or reflection articles. This is in no manner intended to insult or diminish the work of the wonderful authors who write pieces like this. I even begrudgingly  snuck in a list on my last blog post (in a different context listing the places I visited on a long trip). But frankly, I actively search for articles that don’t include this extremely popular fad format of writing.

Part of the beauty of literature, reading, writing, and of course thinking is interpreting a text in your own fashion and pace. These listed pieces have given our generation and digital society yet another reason to rush through life and through thinking. Thinking takes time. I may have already lost some of you because you see a computer screen filled with paragraphs and not a neat and tidy list. Stick with me. Although many of these articles are beautifully written and have heartfelt messages, I am immediately turned off when I scroll through this newly cliché presentation.

Life is not that simple! As a society we are trying to simplify life in every single aspect. But along the way, we are losing the ability to process pain, complexities and true struggle. We are loosing the ability to discover the right answers because we immediately search for the definitive answers according to someone else. We are loosing the ability to communicate at all. I am currently teaching EFL in Thailand. In the few months I have been here, I have already started to change and morph as an individual. I have realized how heartbreakingly superficial American society is and how reliant we are on the ease of technology to “guide us through” life.

I love advice. I love giving advice and I love accepting advice from others. I love learning about people’s tribulations, what makes them tick, and struggles that made them come undone. I love talking. I love writing. I love positivity. I believe that we think our way into the life we have. Most of all, I believe in people and the overwhelming power of human connections. Human beings are inspiring, frustrating, delicate, and vulnerable.  Writing is an ancient tool to communicate and connect to others. It is one that we have relied on to learn about human nature, emotions, feelings and everlasting truths. Self- expression is celebrated in today’s society and I applaud us for that. But many people incessantly take on the role of “reader” or “viewer” or “audience”; when will it be your turn to talk, write, sing, dance, cry or think. When will you define your world?

I am not asking you to stop reading popular sites like Thought Catalog, Buzzfeed, or Elite Daily, following blogs and using social media. I will happily continue to read them myself. I am not telling you it isn’t okay to seek comfort in the words or the artistic expressions of others. I use them for comfort all the time. I am asking you to use them as a mode to enhance your mind, life, and relationships instead of a manner to define them.

All the advice in the world cannot replace real life experience. All the motivational lists on the Internet won’t alter your life’s philosophy, because you undoubtedly scroll through the list, read the bolded titles, linger on a few that catch your eye and pretend to have some sort of soul changing epiphany. Then, you go back to creeping on other people’s Facebook or Twitter, online shopping, checking your fantasy football stats, or aimlessly wasting time at work. Thinking is an intricate process that shouldn’t be a part of a routine.

It may be harsh, but it’s true. Why don’t you pick up a piece of literature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shakespeare, Thoreau, or Whitman?  Why don’t you meander through WordPress or Blogspot looking for a lonely post that is incredibly well written, but not shared on 500 of your friends Facebook walls? Why don’t you dive into those texts and cling to your own meaning of life and understanding the world around you? Why don’t you call your best friend, meet your grandma for coffee, write a hand written love letter, or go for a hike (maybe even alone)? Why don’t you create something yourself? Why don’t you live the precious life that is anxiously awaiting you? Not only will you understand those lists better, but you will also learn to live by your own distinctive beating heart, soul, and mind not someone else’s preconceived notions of the keys to your happiness.

I urge you, my friends, fellow bloggers, readers, Buzzfeeders, and Thought Catalogers: don’t just be nuances of our universe. Find your voice. Find your happiness. I guarantee it isn’t presented to you in a neat and tidy list. Embrace your life, enhance your life, but never settle to define your life or your choices based on someone else’s reality. Shamelessly slipping into hypocrisy I have a list for you. Here is the key to happiness. 1.  Define yourself. 


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