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Everything begins and ends with you, whether you like it or not

As a kid, I’ll bet you used peer pressure as an excuse for a bad decision or to get something you wanted. All kids do this. “Well, I threw your keys into the lake because Billy told me to do it.” “I didn’t mean to light the garbage on fire. I was following Kathy who was lighting paper on fire from a candle, so I did it, too but I couldn’t blow it out. I just threw it in the garbage can.”

The adults in my life at that time had a standard answer: “If Billy/Kathy told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do it?” I’m sure your adults had their version. Of course, we’d answer, “No,” sheepishly, and whatever punishment ensued was one we knew we’d deserved. We began to learn the lesson that we are responsible for our own decisions regardless of circumstances or peers.

Fast forward to 2019/2020 and the beginning of the pandemic. Suddenly, a whole lot of my neighbors took to walking and I, who have a walkable neighborhood and who keep a garden in the front of my house along the sidewalk, installed a little sign made of children’s alphabet blocks that I changed daily. I’d put up little messages like Be Kind, or Wash Your Hands, or We’re In This Together. People responded positively. Time went on. I still post messages, and people still walk and, from time to time, comment favorably.

This week I put up this message: Peace Starts With You. A few days later I changed it to Love Starts With You. Eventually, I put up It All Starts With You. But I have to admit something. I did not post Hate Starts With You. I wanted to. But I’ve always determined that I’d keep messages positive. It’s very complicated to post a message that can easily be misinterpreted. So, I didn’t do it.

But the truth is that it all does start with you. Or me. Peace, love, hate, opposition, indignation, compassion, contemplation…I can go on and on. The point is it all starts with you. All of it. You always have a choice. You can’t blame your opinions on your party, your parents, your job, your friends, your significant other or anyone. Sure, you (and I) like to hang around with like-minded people, and the people we hang with usually do influence us. But if they are influencing you in ways that feel uncomfortable you need to think hard about that. As my mother warned me, “Be careful who you choose to be your friends.”

The operative word being “choose.” Remember, everything begins and ends with you, and your choices. The good news? If you don’t like a choice you made, and sometimes you just don’t – could be your friends, your job, a situation you’re in, your life – if you don’t feel right, if you don’t like the way they or it makes you feel, if you sense that something is not serving you well, you can change it. Stop. Start again. When you choose new beginnings you create new endings


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