Birthdays are a time for celebration. Once a year your family and friends come together to celebrate the simple fact that you exist. Gifts are given, food is eaten, candles are lit and blown out, and of course, there is cake. It’s a special day, no matter who you are or how old.
For me, birthdays are also a time of reflection, a time to think about the prior year and speculate on the year to come. This year is no different, but it also marks a milestone for me. This is the year I complete my 40th trip around the sun. As the old saying goes, “40 is just a number”, and it’s true; but society still places a premium on each decade we mark off on this earth, so I feel I should, at least in some small way, do the same.
I am, by no means, a wise man. I’ve made my way through these 40 years the best I could. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I’ve also had my fair share of moments in the sun. Through it all, I’ve learned a lot of things – many, the hard way. To mark today’s passing, I’ve decided to share some of those things with you – the 40 most important lessons in my life. I can only hope they help my children navigate the way through their first 40 trips around the sun, to a place as good as I have.
- Your first love is not the same as your true love. Both will linger with you your entire life, but true love is the only thing capable of filling the hole in your heart.
- Mascara doesn’t come easily out of hair that’s been teased and shellacked with Aquanet hairspray.
- Process is the last refuge of a weak mind. It has its place and purpose, but action with thought is wasteful and lazy.
- Family is forever – no matter where you go; they’re always with you.
- Any man who can’t share his love of “Star Wars” with his children is a poor parent.
- When you decide to pile into the back of a pick-up truck with your friends at 2:00 in the morning and drive down to Key West to see the sunset – make sure you take breakfast money with you. Two egg McMuffins don’t really go that far when you’re sharing them with seven others.
- It IS possible to look into the future. Just watch your 4-year-old daughter dancing around the living room and you’ll be able to see what she will look like dancing on her wedding day.
- Every person has a choice and every choice has a consequence.
- You have to be careful about projecting your feelings onto someone else. Just because you are in love with someone (or think you are), doesn’t mean they are in love with you. Be persistent, but know that life isn’t a movie. You can drive yourself crazy trying to convince someone to love you. You may get some good poetry out of it – but that’s about it.
- Seeing your son chosen from the audience to participate in the Jedi Padawan Show at Disney World can actually bring a grown man close to tears.
- Don’t get angry at your parents when you’re a teenager. They’re struggling just as hard as you are with the balance between protecting you from the world and allowing you to grow up.
- Nowhere are we guaranteed equality of outcomes in this country. We are only guaranteed the equality of opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.
- Children have the uncanny ability to keep you young at heart, while simultaneously aging you prematurely.
- Words are powerful things. They can fill your heart with happiness or bring your dreams crashing back to earth. They can foment revolution or preserve the status quo. Used properly, they can change the world.
- 1Decisions are a lot like a good soufflé – they are hard to make at times, but when done properly, fill you with contentment.
- Feelings rarely burn as brightly or as briefly as they do in your youth.
- A Southern accent will serve you well in life and business. People will assume you are honest, friendly – and stupid. All three can be used to your advantage.
- Love can overcome all things, the least of which are our own mistakes.
- Those unopened cases of “Star Wars” figures that have been sitting untouched in your parents’ attic for years? Don’t assume they will still be there when you get home from college. They won’t.
- Make music a part of your life. You will never, ever, ever, ever regret it.
- 21. Don’t listen to them when they tell you you’re crazy, and don’t listen to them when they tell you you’re a genius. They’re wrong.
- There is a reason for everything, even that painful relationship you had in college. It just might lead to the internship that will, in turn, lead to the start of your career – in an office where your future wife has just taken a job as the new receptionist.
- Few friends will consistently deliver on their promises like a good book.
- Bottle rockets won’t make a paper airplane fly. Even if you use duct tape. Even if you launch them from your second story bedroom window. It just won’t work.
- You will never really understand unconditional love at first sight until your children are born.
- If you find yourself in New Orleans on New Years Eve, walking back to your hotel from Bourbon Street, and have to use the bathroom – don’t stop and relive yourself in garden behind that lovely wrought iron fence. It’s actually a church, the garden is a graveyard, and there’s a cop on horseback standing right behind you.
- Everyone will have their heart broken, sooner or later. In that moment, it will feel like the entire world is going to end. You will be convinced that you will NEVER love again. That’s just not true. You will find love again. Life will go on. Things will get better – they always do.
- Everyone should spend one summer delivering pizza. It’s the last, best, opportunity you will have to experience life with only the illusion of responsibility.
- You can’t really say you’ve been in a band until the neighbors call the police to bust up one of your mid-day rehearsals.
- Listen to what Bon Jovi said – don’t grow old, just grow older.
- The four most important jobs a man can have are those of father, husband, brother, and son.
- The perfect comfort food is a Waffle House waffle. It simply does not get any better than that.
- When people ask you for the secret recipe to your wife’s famous cookies, just smile, nod, and change the subject. You always want them coming back for more.
- Never take tomorrow for granted. Any of us, from the youngest to the oldest, could be taken at a moment’s notice. Plan for tomorrow, but live in the present.
- Not every story has a happy ending. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try; sometimes things just don’t work out. Even the things that are most beautiful in your life can ultimately cause you pain.
- When you’re trying close a deal and the customer says yes – stop selling. Conversely, when things are going poorly and you get to the bottom of the hole – stop digging.
- Every life has a soundtrack. Listen closely to what’s going on around you.
- When you find your one true love, hold on to her like your life depends on it. It does.
- The answer to all of life’s darkest moments can be found in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: Be excellent to each other, and – party on dudes.
- There is an unmitigated joy that comes from seeing the world a second time through your children’s eyes. It’s a far simpler and happier world than I see through my own eyes.
When my grandparents were born, 40 marked two-thirds of the life most could expect to live. As I sit here today, I have hope that it’s no more than the halfway point for me. By the time I reach the end of the road, I pray I can look back and realize it was really only the first third of the journey.
No matter what it represents, I know I have enjoyed these first 40 years immensely. Every high, every low, every wound, every scar, every friendship, every betrayal, every victory, every defeat, every laugh, every tear – every single, solitary day. I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world. Thanks for joining me a long the way.
© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.