I turn 30 years old in 30 days. Here are 30 lessons I’ve learned so far.
1. Don’t shower seven days a week when two will do. I could buy a private island with the money I’ve saved in shampoo in the last five years.
2. Knowing how to cook from scratch has become such a rare skill that it makes you worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize if you can roast a chicken and make your own salad dressing. Learn these skills and people will flock to you with adoration and gratitude.
3. Leaving the Earth a better place means that sometimes you have to pick up someone else’s trash.
4. The only thing better than cheese is melted cheese.
5. Making your bed doesn’t make you a good person but it makes going to bed more satisfying—transferring all the stuff I’ve piled on top of the neatly made bed onto the floor, peeling back the covers, slipping inside the nighttime cocoon. Bliss.
6. I behave best when I have Maya Angelou’s wisdom in mind. Two quotes in particular:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
In short, be kind and care about people.
7. The Shawshank Redemption is the best movie ever.
8. Farmers markets are queens. They rule. They accept WIC and food stamps. Buying from them means supporting families in your neighborhood instead of lining CEO pockets. Also, free samples. Also, walk ten feet and get more free samples.
9. I am gay and I am loved.
10. Google knows everything.
11. Put your phone on silent. At the movies. During a lecture. When a loved one is pouring their heart out. When you’re having sex. Nothing ruins a moment and provokes an eye-roll quite like a poorly-timed ringtone.
12. Straight white men don’t see the invisible maze the rest of us are navigating. They need the maze to be described to them and many will struggle to visualize it. But keep trying. Some mazes are far more complicated than others. Still keep trying. And in the meantime, visualize the other mazes you yourself cannot see.
13. Mail hand-written notes to people and blow their minds.
14. Do not underestimate the power of a deep breath. Before doing something emotionally difficult, to decelerate thoughts before sleep, when your head feels cloudy, whenever you feel unsure, before making a big decision. Remember to breathe.
15. Cal Garrison writes great horoscopes. She is on Facebook and writes new ‘scopes every Monday. I’ll wait here while you go read yours....
16. You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. Even if it means standing alone.
17. Go into nature and be brave enough to feel small.
18. Use phrases from your favorite inspirational quotes or motivational mantras for your passwords so you are reminded of them every day......and of course I wouldn’t use those Maya Angelou quotes above for my passwords so don’t even try it......
19. Add reading to your bedtime ritual. Brush your teeth. Pee. Eat cream cheese with your finger, whatever you normally do—then read something other than a social media feed. Some nights all I last is a paragraph, others a chapter, and sometimes I pull an all-nighter (and then text my friends in the middle of the night about the thing I think they need to read immediately).
20. Pause for the sunrise. The moonrise. The change of seasons. Imagine shapes in the clouds. Take a picture the old fashioned way—with your memory. It’s been the inspiration of countless songs, story beats, and inner peace. Take it in.
21. Check your resume and email signature for typos approximately one million times. I had “college” spelled as “colloege” for a year before I noticed. That’s just terrible.
22. Everything is energy. Nothing is created or destroyed. Energy is transferred. Therefore, ghosts.
23. I saw a meme one time that said: “In your 40s you stop caring what other people think. In your 60s you realize no one was thinking about you in the first place.” Not exactly a lesson I’ve learned yet but I think about that a lot and it gives me comfort.
24. Food matters. Too many people count calories instead of chemicals. Don’t be a blind consumer. Open your eyes as wide as the information available will allow.
25. My great-grandmother passed away just before this past Christmas. She was 97 and had out-lived all of her friends, siblings, her husband, one son, one son-in-law. There was no one left with whom she could share memories who wasn’t nearly two decades her junior. She never talked about it, but I always wondered what it would be like to carry that much grief over the course of so many years, and if her wisdom earned with age made the weight any lighter. Her will to laugh and smile despite her numerous losses is a source of strength for me. Most people talk about wanting to grow old—but loss is inevitable, so cherish every second with your loved ones now. Don’t take people in your life for granted. One day they’ll be gone.
26. S’mores done properly require two marshmallows. (Pro-tip: substitute chocolate for a peanut butter cup.)
27. DRINK WATER. A lot of times the best things in life don’t come easy, but drinking water is the best and easiest thing you can do for your health, your skin, and to reduce your chance of hangover after a night of heavy drinking. (Pro-tip: I also suggest two ibuprofen tablets on your nightstand. Don’t take acetaminophen/Tylenol because that is filtered through your liver and at this point your liver has been through enough.)
28. Find a physical activity that you enjoy that can be a lifetime hobby. Try everything until you find something you love. You’ve got one body and it’s strong and capable—so do strong and capable things with it. The hardest step you’ll take is the one outside your front door. Just get started. Hiking is my favorite.
29. It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Again and again I’ve experienced that it is not my knowledge that breeds opportunities, but instead it is the relationships with people I have made which causes doors to open.
30. Share your story. There isn’t a single culture in this world that does not have stories. Storytelling is in our nature as humans to learn, teach, and to heal. Sharing yours is vital to our collective growth in empathy and understanding.