30 Years, 30 Lessons

If you’re reading this, that means I’m 30. Yes, today’s my 30th birthday. Sigh. I’m one of those people who hates their birthday–I don’t like the attention, I don’t like having to choose everything we do, and I don’t like all the reminders that I’m another year older. And 30 is a birthday I’ve been dreading. I may not be old, but I’m definitely not young anymore. Sigh.

But one benefit of being 30 is that I now have three decades of wisdom and observations to impose on the rest of you. So here it is: 30 life lessons for 30 years of life.

  1. Legos are probably the most perfect toy ever invented.
  2. Re-watching the shows from my childhood is jarring. Some of them–like Gargoyles and Batman–hold up pretty well. Power Rangers is ridiculous. How did that happen? My guess is that sometime around 1991, a group of tv executives just started naming things that six year old boys like. Dinosaurs! Robots! Cool Teenagers! Karate! Then they decided to combine it all into one show. Probably on a dare.
  3. Speaking of crazy tv shows, I’m amazed that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still popular. I never thought a show about turtles who are trained by a rat, eat pizza, and fight ninjas beneath the streets of Manhattan would have that much staying power….
  4. When I was a kid, my two favorite comics were Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. Garfield stopped being funny around age 13. But I love Calvin and Hobbes just as much now as I did when I was a kid.
  5. In middle school, I played an N64 game called Diddy Kong Racing. I got good at it. Really good. I would go months without losing a race. There are times I wonder if I’ll ever be as good at anything as I was at Diddy Kong Racing.
  6. Speaking of video games, I regret almost every minute I spent playing them by myself. I do not, however, regret playing video games with friends. The larger the friend group, the better the memories.
  7. I am now about 99.99% sure that Bigfoot doesn’t exist. But I will never stop searching for him.
  8. I know almost nothing about fashion. But I do know this–avoid anything trendy. Someday my children will look at my high school photos–with my frosted tips and puka shell necklace–and laugh.
  9. In almost every social situation, other people aren’t paying nearly as much attention to you as you think.
  10. If I could go back in time and give high school me advice, here’s what I’d try to say:
    1. Do everything you can to attend the University of Michigan. They have great sports, great atmosphere, and great academics. Every Saturday when their football team comes on tv, I wish I was a Michigan man.
    2. It may seem like it because of your shortness of breath and trembling hands, but talking to a girl will not actually kill you.
    3. Try out for the tennis team instead of the basketball team. Also, it’s okay to admit that you don’t really like basketball that much.
    4. Don’t quit guitar after only three months. You’ll thank me when you get to college and you’re around a campfire.
    5. I know you’re self-conscious about your skinny arms, but wearing baggy shirts to hide it isn’t helping anybody….
    6. Did I mention the frosted tips already?
  11. The majority of high school is consumed with trying to convince the popular kids (and anyone else, really), that you’re cool. However, the day you graduate, none of those people matter anymore. I keep in touch with maybe three people from my high school class–and I knew them all before high school. I haven’t talked to any of the cool kids in about a decade, and have no idea what any of them are up to. If they ever had any opinion of me, it wouldn’t matter.
  12. The movies, books, and music from when you’re a teenager are hugely important, because you will love them your entire life. Because my favorite movies in high school were A Knight’s Tale and Pirates of the Caribbean, I can never not love them. I tried figuring out a while back whether A Knight’s Tale is actually a good movie. I have no idea. Because I loved it in high school, my love is so complete that I can’ watch it objectively. Same thing for music–you know how certain songs come on and instantly transport you back to a particular moment with all its worries and emotions? Yeah, they’re the songs from when we were teenagers. Books too. If I’m being honest with myself, there are three books that I love more than any other books–Lord of the Rings, The Once and Future King, and The Great Gatsby. I read all of those for the first time in high school. They’ll be the books that shape my imagination forever.
  13. Dunking a basketball is magical. I dunked for the first time in between my sophomore and junior year of high school. The last time I dunked was around age 25. Sometimes I think I should try really hard to get in good enough shape to dunk again. Then I decide to have a soda….
  14. It is true that many people in the evangelical world grow up in a bubble. But lots of people who grow up rich in big cities and attend fancy colleges have grown up in just as much of a bubble.
  15. Before participating in your college’s No Shave November, make sure you can grow enough facial hair so that, when you go home for Thanksgiving, your family notices you haven’t shaved.
  16. The only fun thing about fantasy football is getting together with your friends for the draft. Other than that, Fantasy football is eighty percent luck, fifteen percent checking the waiver wire each week, and five percent self-loathing.
  17. My dad’s favorite show when he was young was MASH. I’ve watched it and…I don’t get it. I don’t see how it was ever funny or popular. I worry that someday my kids will feel the same way about The Office.
  18. When they start boarding your flight at the airport, there is no reason to wait in that line to get onto the plane.
  19. When I was 24 and about to start law school, I resolved to turn myself into an upbeat extrovert who was great at networking. It flopped. I’ve now accepted I’ll probably be a shy introvert my whole life.
  20. Sometime in your mid-twenties, you pass the point where you can eat whatever you want without gaining weight. Unfortunately, you don’t realize you’ve past that point until you’ve already gained 15 pounds.
  21. Once you enter your late twenties, a wonderful thing happens–you can stop pretending that you like The Daily Show.
  22. If there’s a hot-button issue that you’re so sensitive about that you can’t even stand to hear what the other side has to say, that probably means that, secretly, you’re worried you might be wrong.
  23. You know all those movie tropes designed to manipulate their audience into crying? None of those affect me. Except one–the boy and his dog. If the dog dies at the end, I’m a puddle.
  24. The saddest fashion moment of my life was realizing that I’ll never be able to pull off a fedora.
  25. I’ve been in situations where I was the “liberal” in a group of conservatives, and the “conservative” in a group of liberals. Being the liberal among conservatives is more fun. FIrst, because it makes you feel edgy and dangerous. Second because conservatives seem more accommodating of disagreement.
  26. I assumed by this point in my life I’d be able to wake up early every morning consistently. I was wrong. I’m no better at waking up early now than I was in college–hitting snooze button after snooze button, and always walking up thirty minutes too late. I wonder if it’ll always be this way…
  27. From what I can gather, 75% of success in business stems from leading people to believe that you know what you’re doing. The other 25% comes from implying that you work crazy long hours.
  28. I get terrified when I think about all the things that could have kept me from ever meeting Danielle:
    1. I almost transferred to CSU or CU for my last couple years of college because I couldn’t afford JBU. But I stayed after I was named an RA and got reduced tuition. I have no idea how I became an RA–I sure wouldn’t have picked me.
    2. I almost went to Yale Divinity for an M.A.R., or Princeton for an M. Div. But I decided not to when I realized I was a bad RA. And no, that doesn’t follow.
    3. I almost got an MFA in creative writing, but didn’t bother applying to safety schools (translation: the Iowa Writer’s Workshop rejected me).
    4. I almost went to Korea for a couple years to teach.
    5. I would have moved to Boston if I had done better in a single interview.
    6. If any of those had happened, I’d probably be spending today sprawled in a gutter beside an empty absinthe bottle.
  29. Confession: Babies make me uncomfortable. So when my baby came, I was worried I’d just feel uncomfortable all the time. It turns out, though, that I love spending time with Sam. But I still get nervous around other babies. No offense.
  30. I’ve already been around long enough to see the “conventional wisdom” disproved, and the “expert consensus” discredited, on every type of issue. In the moment, it’s tough to say which of today’s “accepted wisdom” is actually true, and which is just a fad. But I do know this–we have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. So stop fretting about how the world’s falling apart, or how we have to change with the times. Trust in God, keep the faith of the Church, and try to relax.

___________________

Photo by David McSpadden

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