The year 2020 is a year that will live in infamy, when everything turned awful. The only saving grace was that Donald Trump was denied another four years as president. We all made the best of quarantines, masks, and staying inside like responsible humans and citizens…. lol.
Maybe 2021 will be better toward the end, but the COVID crisis will stay haunting us for at least the first half, even after millions of Americans get vaccinated. Sadly, tens of thousands of Americans will die because Donald Trump doesn’t take responsibility for any aspects of his job that require sustained focus, attention to detail, listening to experts, or the possibility that someone might blame him for something. Stay safe, everyone.
And let’s be productive. Let’s not allow this terrible era to ruin everything nice about our lives and personal development. Why not use this time of restrained extroversion to reflect on some positive introversion, and strive to be a better citizen to our planet, culture, country, city, and social sphere?
Here are a number of ways to be a more mindful, productive and conscientious American, as well as human:
Listen more. Let people talk about themselves. It’s an easy way to make more friends because most people are happy to tell others all about their lives, and the subsequent serotonin rush makes them remember you fondly. New people have a lot they can teach you if you only pay attention. Soak in other people’s passions because passion for life and learning is contagious.
Share positivity and progress on social media. We spend a lot of time curating our lives on social media, why not try to better direct our followers’ attention to good causes, calls to action, inspiring successes, good deeds, big ideas, and local events? The Internet’s global connectivity is a force for mass democracy like never before, so this year try to participate in more meaningful ways, and always share everything your friends do to help them grow their successes. Success is contagious.
Publish yourself. Stand out artistically and aesthetically, and make an imprint on the people around you by making them think, smile, laugh, or just sit quietly considering what you’ve said, made, or done. Settle on a creative idea and commit to it until you’re satisfied with it, and then show people. It’s easy—paint a sunset, write poems about your most profound memories, shoot a short film with your phone, articulate your soul any way you’d like.
Start reading again. Read one book or more a month. Let one of them be a biography, and don’t forget to find a few works of nonfiction. Reading literally develops empathy, caring, and intellectual curiosity, so don’t be one of roughly half of Americans who haven’t finished a book since middle school. They’re stagnating! Read in the bathroom, before you go to bed, while driving, whatever it takes. John Waters once said to never sleep with someone who doesn’t have books and doesn’t read… don’t let that be you who gets spurned!
Don’t talk, do. If you’re talking to people about your goals or dreams, you’re not actually doing them. It’s an existential reality that if you’re not doing it right now, you don’t want it bad enough. Imagine if instead of telling everyone ahead of time that you intend to lose weight, you just post a picture of yourself online that makes people say “Holy shit, you lost a lot of weight.” Do that with all of your goals. Be the person who surprises others with your determination and perseverance, not the person always making promises everyone knows you won’t keep.
Anything worthwhile doing completely is also worthwhile doing a little bit. Brushing your teeth for fifteen seconds is better than not at all. Ten pushups a day is better than none. Straightening up your house makes you feel better even if you’re not deep-cleaning. Only eating fast food when you’re drunk is better than also eating it sober. Writing one paragraph of that book you want to write gets you a bit further along. Donating $5 to a good cause is still a worthy contribution to charity. Little things add up, so start adding.
Eat healthy. Food is not supposed to make you feel bad. Your body should be able to handle digesting and being conscious at the same time. Cut out impulsive sugar, and cook more for yourself. Baking a sheet full of cut up vegetables for 15 minutes is fast, easy, healthy and cheap. Meanwhile, the bacteria in your digestive system don’t take long at all to begin craving the new foods you choose to start eating more. Phase out soda and replace it with water, and pretty soon you won’t have any desire for it at all because a Coke will make you feel gross. Choose chicken over beef or pork occasionally. Use less butter today. Buy foods without months-long shelf-lives. Make 2020 the year you break the bad eating habits that are slowly killing you right now.
Follow news from many sources. Various people and political groups want you to believe wrong and sometimes even terrible things. If something is illuminating your bullshit detector, look it up. Before you post or share, fact-check yourself. Don’t be a dupe and share purposefully malevolent, erroneous information because ignorance of context is blissfully unchallenging. Unlock and escape your political echo chamber.
Fight hate and fascism wherever you come upon it. Are you flirting with xenophobic hatred. Stop that. Stick up for the oppressed wherever sexism, racism, homophobia, islamophobia or any other divisive, unAmerican social phobia bubbles up to the surface in your daily life. If someone is getting racist in line at the grocery store or on the subway, tell them to shut the f*** up. Especially if you’re a cis, able-bodied, straight white male. Use any social privileges you have to the advantage of anyone being discriminated against or bullied while you’re nearby. It is your civic responsibility.
Stop believing every conspiracy theory you see in a Youtube video. If in ten minutes a video titled in caps lock with a trio of exclamation points ties together the JFK assassination, the Rothschilds, 9/11, chemtrails, the gold standard, George Soros, a Holocaust denial, the reptilian elite, the Crusades, Middle Eastern dictators, vaccines, climate change scientists, Bill Gates, and Dr. Fauci into an impossibly powerful and omnipotent global conspiracy of a New World Order super elite perennially threatening to take control despite never quite actually doing it, congratulations: you didn’t receive enough information about any one of the subjects individually to be adequately informed about the proposed gestalt. Look shit up and learn real history and current events. Surrealist governmental paranoia in people tends to come accompanied by democratic apathy and electoral inactivity, which ironically assists the possibility of an actual elite reptilian oligarchy taking over.
Don’t be a herb. Follow a principle or two, and try to be altruistic sometimes. Be the best, self-actualized person you can be. Improve yourself daily. Learn to love yourself so you don’t have to get your kicks making other people feel bad to distract yourself from your own shortcomings. This year, work hard not to be: pedantic, hyperbolic, casually dishonest, segregative, a downer, a moocher, a copycat, a fundamentalist, a rapist, a hater, a bad tipper, a self-destructive drunk, a lazy parent, an irresponsible dog owner, a litterer, or a thief at house parties. Please don’t change lanes right in front of people and then slow down considerably. Give money to street musicians. Stop sending unsolicited dick pics. Don’t pee on people’s cars. Make people feel happy in 2021, not antagonized, discriminated against or insecure.
Start thinking that everything you’re experiencing is the best ever. Manufactured positivity becomes authentic quickly, so go ahead and just start telling yourself that the apple you’re snacking on right now is the best apple you’ve ever had; the coffee you’re sipping is the best ever, the friends you’re having lunch with or going out with tonight are the best. Life is too short, rare and unnecessary not to find momentary appreciation everywhere you can.
Honorable mention: Poop when and where you have to poop. Not sure who needs to hear this, but life is much too short to keep yourself uncomfortable holding in bowel movements for hours because you’re embarrassed that people might think you are doing what naturally happens after you eat food and digest it. Everyone does it, so stop pretending that your body is a magical excretory outlier. If you take a few minutes in the bathroom no one will care. If you gotta go, go.
Have a great 2021, everyone!
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