Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Notes to Myself on the Occasion of My Birthday...

I just turned 23 (what?) and so, on the occasion of my 23rd birthday (be quiet, I’m warning you), I’ve compiled a list of some of the things I wish I’d learned while growing up. If not in childhood, then at least by the age of 16. Or 31. (Oops, well, you caught me.) Some maxims I have fully embraced and others I am still trying to internalize. Some might take a lifetime. If my adult self could intervene and give advice to my developing self, this is what I would like to have said.

* Avoid people who fake apologize. You know how there are certain people who, when they apologize for something thoughtless they said or did, actually make you feel worse? The ones who usually say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you were offended” or “I’m sorry you took that the wrong way.” You know how it feels kind of insulting? That’s because it is -- they want the credit for apologizing while actually shifting the blame onto you. What they’re doing, indirectly, is a form of pseudo-apologizing, an “apology” with an underpinning of blame. People who fake apologize are some of the worst kind of friends and you should excise them from your life, the sooner, the better.

* Don’t be pressured into apologizing either. With that in mind, never, ever apologize if you haven’t done something wrong and don’t expect anyone else to, either.

* Partners-in-crime are the best friends on earth. The best kind of friend is as game for checking out the tacky haunted mini-golf course as she is crashing the Ann Coulter book signing or just hanging out over tea. She can laugh with you, cry with you, stop whatever she’s doing to check out the sale at LUSH, totally get your sense of humor and know when something’s wrong even if you won’t admit it to yourself. Keep these friends. Fight for them. Treasure them. They are more rare and valuable than you could ever imagine.

* Are you getting how important friends are?
I wish you would have learned when you were ten or so that the pursuit of popularity is a never-ending, exhausting and empty treadmill. Go for quality over quantity every time and you will be so much happier.

* Drink more. (Water. Why, what did you think I meant?)

* People will try like mad to find your hypocrisies if they think you are “too perfect” and if they can’t find any hypocrisies, they will resent you. Either way, it is all arranged so you lose. Opt out by just concentrating on your inner-compass no matter what the people around you do.

* Maintain some harmless vices. The daily chocolate square or three (as long as its dairy-free, organic and Fair Trade -- do you see how pushy I’ve become?) is a good one to keep.

* Don’t say, “It’s okay,” if it’s not.
Start practicing this immediately because, boy, is it ever a hard one.

* Heartbreak makes can either make you more hardened or more empathetic.
Choose empathy. 

* This may not seem so, but there is a world of difference between being nice and being kind.
Learn it. Being nice means that you are concerned more with what others think of you and being kind is a much more engaged, challenging and fulfilling practice.

* Nobody is as hung up about you and your perceived flaws and shortcomings as you are.
Everyone has his or her own struggles and you probably barely register into their awareness. This should be reassuring, not disappointing. Think about the people in your life: are you obsessing over their imperfections? No, and no one is doing it to you, either. Self-absorption is the worst kind of suffering. Try to give it up.

* Don’t be pressured into doing or saying anything that goes against your gut.

* It’s a cliché but it’s true: when people show or tell you who they are, always believe them.
You will only be disappointed if you have expectations.

* Eat as much ripe, cold, perfect watermelon in the summer as you possibly can.
The same applies to peaches, mangoes, blackberries, cherries and everything else that is heavenly and ephemeral.

* You may think you don’t like Brussels sprouts now but, seriously, roast them.
They become savory candy. Life is too short for boiled Brussels sprouts.

* Want instant liberation? Let everyone off the hook for being responsible for your happiness.
Your happiness begins and ends with you. Start this practice immediately.

* Smile as soon as you wake up, before you get out of bed.
Make this a practice and it will change your whole day and all those days eventually add up into a life. I’m just saying...

* Strategies for when you’re feeling stuck:
Skip. Go for a bike ride. Take a walk in the woods. Listen to your favorite music. Work somewhere else if you can. Meet a friend who inspires you. Exercise. Garden. Look through photos. Go to the library. Go to an art museum. Do some jumping jacks. 

* A single golden strategy for when you’re feeling miserly and ungrateful:
Make a list of three positive things that you made happen at the end of each day as well as three reasons you made these things happen. (For example: “I cleaned my office. 1. I value my space. 2. I understand that being orderly helps me be productive and reach my goals. 3. I am committed to making positive changes in my life.”) It’s harder than it seems but it is so worthwhile. I learned this a few years ago and this practice will get you to a place of abundance and gratitude.

* Please, please, please, wear sunblock.
And a wide-brimmed hat. And sunglasses.

* Being a family member does not give anyone license to mistreat you.

* If there is an empty swing at the playground, take it.

* Skip when you can instead of walking.
It’s faster, more fun and it’s an instant happy pill.

* You’re about to spend a lot of money on gin and tonics and cover charges from ages 19 to 26 or so.
Seriously, please consider saving it and traveling instead. Oh, you won’t listen to me.

* Although you will meet your husband at a bar in so at least go to the Green Mill on May 2, 1993.
(In other words, never say never.)

* You know how you think being flaky, disorganized and unpredictable is cute?
It’s mostly just annoying.

* I bet you think I’m going to tell you not to major in fine arts. But I won’t.
Major in fine arts just don’t expect to do anything with it.

* Your son or dog will eventually grow too old to want to play with you and then you will miss those days. Play with your babies whenever possible.

How about you? What would you tell your younger self? What do you wish someone had told you?



  1. Go vegan. Nothing tastes as good as compassion feels.

  2. Thank you for these words. (And I love roasted Brussels sprouts)

  3. I'm glad you've said it's ok to eat chocolate every day! I'm already on it! Thanks!!!

  4. Such wise advice... From a 23 year old! Not waking up dead - What a great reason to smile! :D

  5. Great advice! I stole the one about smiling and shared with friends :))

  6. Thank you, Page! You have excellent taste. ;)


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