40 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years

Rottenecards_5222527_crx694t8mrToday is my 40th birthday. I don’t feel forty. I don’t know what forty is supposed to feel like, but I don’t feel old. Or like I’ve slowed down. I still get carded! I feel like I am the fittest, happiest and healthiest I’ve been in my life. I’ve never really looked my age, but I’ve always feared it would catch up with me by forty. Nope!

I’ve gone from flat broke to having money to being broke again, and then back. I’ve been told you can’t more times than you can. I’ve had good friends who were here one minute and dead the next. I’ve tried on more jobs and careers than I care to remember, and I’ve been fired more than once. I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve found my partner in love and adventure. It’s been a crazy ride. I can’t wait to see what the next forty bring. Taking a page from Leo Babauta, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1. You don’t need other people to like you. Most people on the planet don’t even know you exist. You don’t matter to a majority of people in the world. Now, knowing that, why the fuck would you care about what the lady down the street thinks of you?  Or your shoes? It’s liberating. What happens when somebody doesn’t like you? NOTHING. That’s right, nothing. Big whoop. My happiness is not dependent upon any one persons attention. Period.
  2. Aluminum foil cannot be microwaved. 
  3. Bad decisions might be bad, but they’ll make great stories. I have about seven years worth of proof from living in Prague and Mexico.
  4. Don’t take it personally. When someone talks shit about you, don’t take it personally. When someone is singing your praises, don’t take it personally.
  5. Life isn’t fair. Sorry, but that’s the long and the short of it. Make peace with that fact sooner than later.
  6. Read books. Reading articles online is fine, but nothing takes the place of reading a book. It makes you smarter, increases your vocabulary and reduces stress. It is also good practice for being still, and taking a break from screens.
  7. Don’t eat seafood in Prague.
  8. Abusive relationships are not worth it. Whether it is physical or emotional, it isn’t ok. Any guy (or gal) who beats you, calls you fat, cheats on you then tells you it’s your fault, teases you… isn’t the guy (or gal) for you. Even if you suck, you are better than that.
  9. Change is the key to growth. 90210I often wonder what my life would look like if I had stayed in Pasadena. I can’t imagine my life without Prague, or London, or Mexico, or Oakland, even Austin. Each different place I have lived or visited has taught me something. I’ve learned what people are really like in different parts of the world. I’ve changed and that has led to growth. Standing still is standing still. I might find a place to call home again, but I’ll still try new things and seek out new people and adventures. Staying in one place makes you sedentary.
  10. Travel more. You can’t expand your horizons from your sofa.
  11. It’s not my job to make you happy. This applies to spouses, friends, lovers and pretty much everyone. The second you take responsibility for your own happiness is the second you really start living.
  12. You can’t make someone love you. All you can do is quietly stalk them and hope they give in.
  13. Pity Parties are boring. Have a Taco Party instead.
  14. Some friends aren’t really friends. If someone is spreading rumors about you, they aren’t your friend. If someone is nice to your face, and then talks smack about you when you leave the room, they aren’t your friend. A friend doesn’t blame you for troubles in their life, they ask for help. A friend doesn’t talk behind your back to the rest of your friends, they confront you directly. Life is too short to keep people in your life who are bitter and angry.
  15. EVERYTHING is temporary. All of it. Except that lame “Asian” tattoo you got. That you are stuck with.
  16. Graduating from a US college doesn’t necessarily make you smart. I can’t tell you how many teachers, business owners, and other assorted folks I have met who went to an expensive US school, studied something like History or Sociology and still can’t explain an idea clearly, or find Turkey on a map.
  17. There IS a right way to hang toilet paper: Over the top.
  18. Your career isn’t the same thing as your life. If you don’t know what that means, I feel sorry for you.
  19. Never be friends with someone who is rude to a server. If you snap your fingers, yell, “forget” to tip, or talk down to a server in front of me, you are going to hear about it. Asshole.
  20. Nobody is a good dancer. Just get on the floor and have some fun. You don’t want to be old one day wishing you had danced more.
  21. Don’t ask for an opinion unless you want one. If you want my opinion, you’ll get it. And it will be honest. If you can’t take honesty, then don’t ask. And sugar coating things isn’t the answer anyway. Be direct and tactful.
  22. My college philosophy teacher was right. There will never be enough time for me to read all the books I want.
  23. 253679391481606538_bR1TngEE_cTalking in the movies is rude. If you do this around me I will make sure you never even think about doing it again.
  24. It’s not all about you. 
  25. Live in the NOW. You can’t change the past, and you can’t make the future bend to your will, so just be present in the now. What happened ten days ago, ten years ago, or ten minutes ago doesn’t have to affect your NOW. Holding on to the past is equal to holding yourself back. Worrying about the future is like wearing a straight jacket. Free yourself!
  26. Get rid of people, places and things that drain you. Do you want to spend your time on people that don’t enrich your life? I don’t. Don’t live someplace that drains your energy. Don’t be friends with people who use you.
  27. Being a revolutionary is hard work. Not just anybody has the guts it takes to forge their own way in this world. Dig in and be badass. Nothing good comes to those who don’t take risks.
  28. Slow down. You’re not missing anything. All those parties and nights at the bar kind of start bleeding together after a while. Taking time to relax and enjoy peace and quiet suits me better now, and I don’t suffer from FOMO – the Fear of missing out. I pretty much believe that I’m where I should be all of the time. So, I’m where the action is, no matter where I am.
  29. Kids are honest little buggers until they learn not to be. Help kids be honest by being honest with them.
  30. Multi-Tasking doesn’t work. It just makes you sound more productive. The proof is in the finished projects. Or unfinished, as the case may be.
  31. Live near public transit.
  32. Solitude isn’t the same as failure. I live with my boyfriend of over four years. We travel together, live together and have a lot of fun together. We don’t have kids. We don’t own a home. The amount of hostility I see daily is ridiculous. Some people want a life of freedom instead of roots. And that’s okay. Some of the happiest folks I know are child-free.
  33. Be straight forward. And don’t wait to do it. Sometimes you assume people are on the same page as you. They’re not. They might say they are, but they are not. You can only be sure by telling someone how you feel. Having a one time confrontation is better than dragging it out over the days, or months, or even years. I recently found out a friend of mine thought pretty low of me and waited almost fifteen years to tell me. It sucked.
  34. The road to success is paved with failure. Don’t expect to be great at everything the first time. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be ready and willing to suck for a while before you are awesome.
  35. Have a sense of humor. bridge-memeSeriously. I realized this when I was alone on a bus driving into Mexico in the middle of the night. It might be the worst day ever, but try to find the humor in it. I found out that “Weekend at Bernie’s” is pretty funny dubbed in spanish, and when the big guys in uniform board your bus, show them your passport.
  36. Look for the good in everyone. But remember, some people are just assholes.
  37. Learn to cook. You’ll save money and have a new hobby!
  38. Some universal truths can be found in pop music. Don’t stop believing. The Rhythm IS gonna get ya. I walk the line. I believe I can fly. I am Superman. LET IT BE.
  39. Never make popcorn or fish in the work microwave. It’s just not cool to make the entire break room smell for the rest of the day.
  40. Watching cat videos will cure the blues. I’m poor and I don’t really need therapy, but I do have days that I feel like the world is against me. I have found that cat videos will make me feel better almost instantly.
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8 thoughts on “40 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years

  1. #18 – Even though I know this, I needed to hear it today.
    #19 – YES.
    #38 – Haha!
    And #15 – Sadly, I made this mistake when I was a teenager, but I am currently in the process of burning it off! No longer permanent!

  2. #20! Thank you! I’ll remember that next time I stand on the side. I’m really shy but you make a good point.
    As for cooking… Getting there. I just can’t see it being a hobby anytime soon though 😛

  3. This is a great list of lessons to live by, I certainly consider many of them most days. A lot of it comes down to stop worry about other people and take care of yourself, the rest will follow.

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