mary oliver quote


By Mathew Dueck

There are 25 life lessons that I have learnt over the years while I’ve been growing into an adult.

While I am only 21, these lessons have served me well. They have become my pillars; ones that I will continue to lean on for peace of mind and for clarity. These lessons were not easily learnt and I did not stumble onto them by accident. They stem from enduring trauma and pain such as mental illness, childhood sexual abuse and overcoming poverty. They were hard to learn, but in the end they were so worth it. I am constantly learning to embrace them.

1. I am more than “good enough.” I am human—the Universe embodied in the flesh.

2. I am intelligent, but intelligence doesn’t matter unless you use it.

3. Only I can create my own happiness. Joy is a choice. So is bitterness and hatred.

4. Love, love, love. Never stop loving and being loved.

5. No one is going to save me. I have to save myself. I’m that powerful.

6. Never be afraid to ask for help. A hand that is extended forth is something to be grateful for.

7. This Earth is yours to borrow, for a short time and a short time only. You are a caretaker.

8. You are imperfect. And that is more than okay.

9. Have fun. Have fucking fun. Yes, that does mean its okay to laugh at anything that you find funny.

10. You create the family you want. Your tribe is handpicked by you. These people will be the ones to lean on, and lean with.

11. Never underestimate your worth. Never, ever, ever let someone take this away. You are precious.

12. You are beautiful. And beautiful is equitable to flawed.

13. You are the author of your story. It’s an important one, so tell it. Tell it to whomever will listen.

14. You are never alone. Even when you feel like it, you aren’t.

15. Do not let others depend on you, when you have something that they do not have. Do not let them rob from you.

16. Saying “no,” is okay. It is okay to not pick up that shift, or to not go out with friends on a Friday night. You are human, and therefore you are free to make choices.

17. Eat—simple, but seriously, eat!

18. Be grateful for everything you have, and never forget where you came from. Remember those roots of which came rise a beautiful tree. You are rich. Rich, not in futile things but in strength, character and wisdom.

19. Ride the waves. Take life moment by moment.

20. Overthink. Because overthinking about overthinking will cause you to overthink some more.

21. Be creative and be daring.

22. Be weird and frankly, be whatever you want. Transparency is respectable.

23. This period of depression will end. It just will. You will be okay and you are more than an illness says you are.

24. Be fucking happy.

25. You are worthy of LIFE. Life is worth living, because…it just is.


These 25 lessons have taken their place in the depths of my soul. They are at the core of my very being, and for that reason they are so important. They are part of growing up, messing up, and part of learning to be free—free from fear, from shame and guilt. Though your “life lessons” may look different then mine, may you learn to draw meaning from hardship in your own life, and take that with you into each life stage you enter. Find meaning and create identity.

Trust me, It’ll so be worth it.


Mathew DueckMathew Dueck is a Social Work student, with a health care background. Mathew is very passionate about mental health recovery and advocacy. He is also particularly interested in research surrounding childhood trauma, neurodiversity, as well as the role meditation plays in mental wellness. Mathew’s hobbies include reading, poetry, painting, and spending time outdoors with his husband, Johnathon and dog, Surrey.


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Editor: Dana Gornall