Month: January 2013

Words of Wisdom from the Birthday Girl

It's MY Day!
It’s MY Day!

Today is my 40th birthday, so to mark the occasion I will share some things, in no particular order, that I have learned over my last 4 decades on this planet. There’s a lot here, but I guess that just shows I was paying attention (maybe).

  1. Being an adult is not standardized. At 16 you can drive a car and get a job. At 18 you can vote, get married and join the military. At 21 you can drink alcohol. You can’t rent a car until you are 25 though. And you can’t run for President until you are 35. When do you become an “adult?” I know a lot of immature people who have kids and jobs so that doesn’t always cut it. My personal definition is “when you make your best effort to be responsible for the choices you have made.” But it’s all a matter of opinion.
  2. Don’t take on more responsibilities than you are comfortable with. Learn to say “no.” There is not enough time to do everything you want to, so if you try to do it all it will be half-assed.
  3. There are no “adults,” we’re all just faking it. The older you get, the better you are at faking it.
  4. People are complicated. I know Democrats who love their guns, Republicans who march in Pride parades and Atheists who are open-minded about spirituality. When they say that stereotypes are there for a reason they are right; it’s because many people are lazy and don’t want to have to think too hard about how complex human beings are.
  5. Gender doesn’t mean much, and it is damaging to everyone to try to force roles on people. Men take care of kids, women bring home the bacon. Some people are both men and women, some identify as neither. We all love who we love. If you don’t like it then it is probably a reflection of the gender role you have been forced into. It’s a tough thing to shake. I have a hard time letting old ideas go too.
  6. Nobody is 100% good or 100% bad. JFK was a great champion of civil rights. He was also a terrible husband. Even Dick Cheney likes puppies. You don’t have to excuse bad behavior, and you don’t deserve a cookie for being a decent human being. This is one of the hardest ideas I have had to accept because it requires some complex emotions and a lot of serenity to be able to digest.
  7. Have you ever made a mistake in your life? Maybe a really, really big, embarrassing mistake? Yeah? So maybe don’t be so hard on other people then. Don’t be too hard on yourself, either.
  8. Don’t be a dick.
  9. The best time to buy a used car is October. It is the end of the fiscal year for the government and that’s when they swap out their fleet vehicles. You can get a well-maintained late-model car for less because it has high mileage.
  10. Buy whole life insurance if you can afford it. People who tell you to eschew whole in favor of term life are just after your money. It’s the difference between buying and renting. You can cash in your whole life when you retire. Term goes away the minute you stop paying into it.
  11. Make a will. Everybody dies and not everyone is lucky enough to be old when it happens. Make things easier on your next of kin by having your affairs in order. Make sure this includes a living will. You can get cheap software to help you and your bank will probably notarize it for free. Make sure your executor has a copy or knows where to find it. Besides, it can be fun to think about who you would bequeath your prized possessions to. It’s like a birthday on opposite day.
  12. There are worse things than dying.
  13. Be involved in your community. By “community” I mean a group of people you share an interest or mission with. I am part of the nerd community, the belly dance community and the burlesque community. It is very rewarding to be able to share these loves with other people.
  14. Share your knowledge. Isn’t it great to be able to look up anything on the internet for free? Think about contributing to that, to being a part of a wonderful resource for others.
  15.  My tech theatre methods instructor in college told our class that if you believe what you do is art, then it is art, and don’t let anyone else tell you different. Word.
  16.  Recycle for the money, not the environment. People roll their eyes when you bring up the moral or ethical reasons for recycling. Here’s the practical reason: Taxes. If we don’t recycle, the landfill gets full faster. Then our municipality has to either buy more land or spend money to send our trash somewhere else. Our tax money. If we all recycle we not only lessen the tax burden, but the city sells our recyc, generating revenue that further reduces what we have to pay for solid waste disposal. So put that in your bin and recycle it.
  17.  There are rarely simple answers to complex problems. Violence, health care, civil rights, social inequality: these are all problems that have been decades, even centuries (millennia?) in the making. If someone presents an answer to these problems that is a paragraph or less, they probably haven’t thought it through that carefully.
  18.  You did not get to where you are today by yourself. We all live in a society, not a vacuum. If you are successful it is because someone gave you a job or bought your product. Somebody else gave birth to you and changed your diapers, educated you and fed you. Be grateful for what you have and remember to help others as you have been helped. If your life is crap right now, help others anyway if you are able. You can never have too many friends.
  19.  Don’t feel guilty about asking for help or being a burden. Someone else will need to lean on you someday.
  20. Try Yoga.

So friends, that is the best I have to offer after 40 years. Maybe the next time a base-ten number rolls around I will have more wisdom to impart. If you have anything to add please do so in the comments. But if you do please remember #8.