Thursday was my 39th birthday. I wrote a weather story for the paragraph factory. I took a long nap after work. I had a quiet dinner alone after work. The waitress brought me a slice of cake. I thought it was a gift, but she charged me $6 for it. It’s true what they say: You can have your cake and eat it, too, but there’s no such thing as free cake. Here are 39 other lessons I learned in my 39 years:
1. The delete key is my best friend. Many of the worst problems I’ve had in my life can be traced to a failure to judiciously use the delete key.
2. Mrs. Liechty was right: My laziness in learning grammar, spelling and syntax did haunt me for the rest of my life. Conversely, Mr. Hickman, I have not used trigonometry for a 39th consecutive year.
3. Naps are terrific.
4. Keep your feelings close and your mouth shut. They can get you into trouble and, to be frank, most people don’t give a damn what you think.
5. It’s always a little bit about the money.
6. Peace and quiet are highly underrated and increasingly scarce.
7. American football is a brutal, violent game that takes a terrible toll on the boys and men who play it. Yet, I still love it. I am not sure how to reconcile this, but I keep watching and that makes me part of the problem.
8. Most of the world’s problems cannot be solved and the amount of time I spend angry, upset or frustrated by them diminishes with each passing year.
9. The waitress is only flirting with me for a bigger tip. She is in no way interested in me or my life.
10. Everybody is a little bit kinky.
11. The world would be a much better place if everyone would leave everyone else alone.
12. There is no such thing as closure. The things that hurt the most in your life will always hurt. You will just become more accustomed to that pain as a part of your life. “Closure” is a word used by people who are tired of hearing you talk about your sadness.
13. Never work for free.
14. People are given one button to push in this world. They will jealously guard that button with their lives, but often never push it. Yet, if they have the opportunity to push someone else’s button, they will hammer it until they pass out and mock the person who lost control of their button.
15. Love is never enough, but it helps.
16. I like to look at beautiful women. People argue this makes me a sexist creep or a sex-crazed pervert. They might be right, but I still like to look at beautiful women.
17. Nobody is all one thing all the time.
18. Cynicism is a perfectly reasonable response to society.
19. Always appreciate the classics: the Beatles, peanut butter and jelly, iced tea and “M*A*S*H” reruns.
20. The Internet has collected all the knowledge in human history in one place searchable by devices we have in our pockets, yet it has somehow made us dumber, more shrill and overrun with delusions of grandeur.
21. Don’t blog about your job.
22. Mental illness is not something you cure. You treat it. You cope with it. You make peace with it. Some days are better than others. But some days are very bad.
23. Reading is wonderful. It really doesn’t matter what you read or how you read — printed copies or digital devices. Just take time to unplug from the fear machine and its amplified stupidity. Enjoy a single story one-on-one.
24. I am a lot more sensitive than I would like to admit.
25. I am lot meaner than I intend to be.
26. I worry I am going to die broke and alone.
27. Most of the things I worry about everyone else worries about, too, but they seldom talk about it.
28. I don’t really want to talk about it, either.
29. Don’t blog about your job. That’s right. It’s on here twice. Don’t do it.
30. I like to remember things how I remembered them, not necessarily how they were.
31. Reconnecting with people from your past is a mixed bag. Sometimes you revive a dormant friendship and it is terrific. Many times you quickly discover there was a reason why you stopped talking to this person. Approach with caution.
32. I don’t always instantly know how I feel about everything and I am suspicious of people who do.
33. Television news is a massive fear machine designed to make you feel weak, sad, terrified and powerless.
34. You are free. The rest is detail.
35. Discussion of politics and religion is almost never worth the hassle and headache. Avoid it.
36. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions and tremendous effort, it just doesn’t work out.
37. Sometimes it does work out, so go hard on every trip to first base.
38. To quote Kurt Vonnegut: “Goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind.”
39. Forgiveness and redemption are real and they can be had. This isn’t just a religious concept. Everyone screws up. Everyone falls down. What matters is what you do when you get back up again.