Here’s some stuff I’ve learned in my half-century of life. Take what you agree with and ignore the rest (it’s what we all do anyway).
1. “Common Sense” is neither common nor necessarily sensible. “Common Sense” is a euphemism for what you believe to be right and moral. For some people, that means not sneezing on the salad bar. For others, it means a visceral hatred of people who are different. Both groups cannot comprehend why everyone else doesn’t feel the same, because it’s common sense.
2. “God never gives you more than you can handle” is crap. Otherwise, why suicide? While some people who say this are well meaning, most are just poo-pooing your problems, or worse, reminding you that God clearly loves them more.
3. I’m never going to change the world. I’m never going to be in history books, or make the tiniest dent in the world’s problems. I can’t stop war, I can’t cure disease, I can’t deflect asteroids. What I can do is make people a little more comfortable in my own community – supporting local arts, food banks, kids’ groups, etc. And making some people laugh. Laughing is good. So I’ll do that.
4. There will always be regrets. What if I’d gone to a different college, not married that dude, taken that one-time-only chance? No longer an option, of course, but what ifs can easily cause some serious 2am melancholy. I just always imagine my what-if life ends with a car crash or dread disease. Makes me feel better about the path I ended up on.
5. “No one can make you feel bad without your consent” or whatever that quote is is only somewhat true. You are in charge of your reactions to things, yes. But some people will try really, really hard and use totally unfair ammo to pierce your composure. Until you can buy a Kevlar heart, some of that crap is going to get through. So don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Mean people suck.
6. Twisting other peoples’ words is fun. Just realize that you’re doing it, and don’t believe your own bullshit.
7. The “good old days” never were. Those halcyon eras of perfection never existed. Ever. Life was never simpler – you just didn’t know better. In every day of history in every corner of the world there has been horrible unfairness, suffering, conflict and violence. There has also been beauty, empathy, love and joy. Choose which to celebrate, but always know the other side was there, too.
8. We all depend on others to make our lives work. I can’t build my own car or pave my own road. I also can’t make my own Big Mac in under two minutes or manufacture toilet paper that my butt would find satisfactory. I am very appreciative of the unsung heroes who make all these things possible.
9. Some rich people are really lazy and some poor people work really hard. And vice versa. The money a person has is no indication of the content of their character, or for that matter, the correctness of their religion.
10. Never loan money to a wealthy person. They won’t pay you back. Because that $50 that was all you had until payday is a pittance to someone accustomed to much more.
11. Go ahead and loan money to someone who really needs it. But never more than you can afford to lose. There are so many times in my life when not having $20 meant no food that weekend, or $400 meant additional weeks of agony with an abscessed tooth. Being poor is really hard. Deciding between your rent and a new clutch for the limping car that takes you to work is hard. Having someone judge you for spending $3 on a beer because you are desperate to forget for a few minutes that you don’t have the $300 for the clutch is hard. Having a friend who can front you a hundred bucks, maybe forever, can be the difference between utter despair and hanging on until payday.
12. Mediocrity is okay. You don’t have to be the best at everything. Heck, you don’t have to be the best at anything. Just be reasonably decent at what makes you happy, or if you’re not even reasonably decent at it, just enjoy the ride.
13. Time goes faster and faster the older you get. Maybe it’s because each day is a smaller percentage of your whole life. But whatever the reason, days, weeks and months go whizzing by, and you will find yourself thinking in the middle of winter that summer was just yesterday.
14. You will never look any younger than you do today. Even if you get plastic surgery, you won’t look younger – you’ll just look different. And in some cases, not quite human. If your self-esteem is really wrapped up in your appearance to the extent that you’re willing to have someone cut into your flesh, I can only assume that you’re judging the worth of others based solely on their appearance as well. And that’s kinda sad, really.
15. Candy Crush is seriously addictive. If you’re not already playing, don’t start. If you are already playing, please friend me because I need more lives. I’ve already completed all the levels – now going back for three-star scores on every level. Because it is a sickness.
16. I’m never going to finish writing a novel. Truthfully, it hasn’t happened in 35 years of trying, and now I have more distractions than ever. Like Candy Crush. I do have hundreds of snippets, scenes and conversations that make me very happy to read, so maybe someday I’ll cobble together a short story.
17. Reality TV isn’t real. I’m sorry I even have to say this, but some people don’t seem to know. Fakity fake fakeness. Even the “competition” shows that may have some legitimate footage are still highly augmented – imagine condensing your own 12-hour day into 45 minutes of airtime. Now multiply that by how many people are on the show. Editing is everything, and heroes and villains are created by the producers. You see only what a very few people want you to see – and those people are trying to sell you something.
18. Outrage sells. Angry people are spenders. They’ll give more money to their churches to eliminate the scourge of (insert deviance here). They’ll contribute to their elected officials to keep (insert evildoers here) out of power. They’ll buy whatever the advertisers on (insert polemicist program here) are selling, to ensure that those divisive, angry-making views will stay on the air. Indignation is a very comforting emotion. It says “not only am I right, but I’m persecuted; therefore I am smarter and more moral than everyone else and only a lesser, evil person would try to change my mind.”
19. Salmon sushi is delicious. Even if it is in the Midwest. And farm-raised and chock-full of tasty toxins. And I lovelovelove the Happy Roll at Ichi Tokyo and the Asian Kitchen in Rochester, Minn. I have posted more photos of sushi than of my family.
20. There is no such thing as a comfortable bra with an F cup. The best you can hope for is “not actively painful,” and I am exceedingly grateful that I have found some of those.
21. If I had been born a century ago, I would have already died. And not from old age. I’ve had organs removed that had diseases and infections that really wanted to kill me. Without modern medical science, I’d be a corpse.
22. A lot of what I know is old and useless. Who’d have thought that Gilligan’s Island references would ever be passé? But all you’ll get is blank looks from a college student. I’m so old now that even intentionally younger references – like X-Files quotes or Power Rangers cracks – are incomprehensible to anyone under 30.
23. I have been extremely lucky to see the world change. I remember not just MY first PC, but THE first home computers. Ditto with microwave ovens, CD players, supermarket scanners and Kraft Easy Mac. I got to see Neil Armstrong land on the fricking MOON, people! The MOON!
24. I get to choose what to pay attention to. For decades I’ve tried to keep up with everything, and I’m officially giving up. Even the subjects I adore will never be fully explored, because there is too much information out there. Every subject is like a giant Mandelbrot fractal with burgeoning detail wherever you look. I have neither the time nor focus to follow anything to its ultimate conclusion.
25. Facing death can be pretty cool. It’s freeing, really. Especially when you come to the realization that if you had a set time to live, you’d do pretty much what you’re doing: playing stupid games, reading romance novels and laughing at ridiculousness. Even your own.