“At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same.”
― Edward Young, The Complaint: Or, Night Thoughts (1742)
Hello Friends! Exactly three weeks ago today, I celebrated another birthday, taking me even more forward into my 30s. Fortunately, I’m still early enough into the decade to still be considered a “novice tricenarian,” with many more years to go before I become a retired tricenarian. My teens and 20s have seemingly vanished in the blink of an eye, and I was 30 before I knew it. I still remember trying to console myself on my 30th birthday with that saying that I kept hearing about how 30 is the new 20. But I quickly realized that what Jay-Z said is true: “It’s the same old 30.”
I then sought solace in the Scriptures, and read about all the notable men of the Bible whose accomplishments didn’t really begin until they hit 30. Joseph was 30 years-old when Pharaoh appointed him with the power to govern Egypt (Genesis 41:46); David was 30 years-old when he began his reign as King of Israel (II Samuel 5:4); Ezekiel began his prophesies at the age of 30 (Ezekiel 1:1); and most importantly, Jesus was 30 years-old when He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). Reading about these biblical men gave me some optimism for the things I could still accomplish in my 30s. After all, I still have a few more years to go before I’m eligible to run for President.
Nonetheless, I still cannot help but to wonder where the time has gone. I still have vivid memories of watching He-Man and Thundercats with my cousins, of dancing along with zombies in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and crying as I saw my mother leave me on the first day of school in the 1st-grade. Ahhhh. Memories.
It seems like these things only happened just yesterday. But they didn’t happen yesterday. They happened more than two decades ago. Yet, in between my earliest memories of playing the toy drums at the Jonestown Day Care Center and my birthday three weeks ago, I have learned so much during those years- about the world, about people, about myself. For this reason, I am taking the time to share some of those life lessons.
The following list is a brief compendium of lessons that I know are true for myself now that I’m in my 30s– and might be useful for others out there who are either approaching, or have already reached, the tricenarian stage:
1. Don’t worry, be happy- These wise words are more than just lyrics to a catchy Bobby McFerrin tune. One thing I’ve learned through life is that worrying solves nothing. The only thing that solves problems is action. So stop moaning, griping, complaining, and staying awake all night worrying about things that you can’t control. And if you can control them, then get up and start doing something to take control. All that energy spent worrying can often be better directed toward finding solutions to whatever the problem is. Take the advice that I once heard an old man say: “If it’s that bad, then there’s no need of God and me both worrying about it.”
2. Take care of your health- You are nothing without your health. There’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate how good it is to be healthy. There’s also nothing like going to visit a hospital ward to make you hope and pray that you always remain healthy enough to never have to end up in one. So whatever you do, always make sure that you take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sexually. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know how the flight attendant always tells you that in case of an emergency, always put on your own oxygen mask first before you help anyone else with theirs. The same goes for good health. If you’re not healthy, how can you help anyone else? And for those of you need more blunt, straightforward advice, here’s a good healthcare plan: Stop eating all that garbage, get off your arse, and do some exercise.
3. Value your family ties- The old saying goes that we can pick our friends, but we can’t pick our relatives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and is quite often a good thing. Everyone has a little bit of craziness in their families, some more than others. Most families consist of atleast one or more interesting characters, whether it’s the bossy mother, or the absent-minded father, or the goofy brother, or the sister who can’t cook, and on and on. And it is exactly this wide array of characters that often makes our families so delightful. Don’t get stuck on thinking of your family members now the same way you did when you were a kid, or focusing only on their faults. Find ways to have fun with them, learn from them, and enjoy spending as much time with them as possible. As Vito Corleone says in the movie The Godfather, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
4. Be open-minded- The world is a big place, and not everyone in it is going to think exactly like you. Be willing to open yourself up to accepting other peoples’ perspectives and viewpoints. Don’t limit yourself to only being around people who are just like you. There’s so much you can learn from people who are different. I cannot count the number of times I have discussed ethnocentrism with bigots, sexism with chauvinists, patriotism with ardent nationalists, religion with faithless zealots, and politics with the informed and uninformed alike. And even though people may not change their ways of thinking, in each case, I feel that I have not only taught something to someone else, but learned something as well.
5. Life is too short for dealing with other peoples’ idiocy- Again, I’ll discuss anything with anybody. But even I want to keep my brain cells intact. You should always try to be open-minded. But your mind should never be so open that any piece of illogical trash can just be thrown into it. It is a surefire fact that at some point in life, you will encounter willful idiots and blissful ignoramuses. I have encountered too many to count, and I have discovered that it’s best to simply avoid them at all costs. If avoiding them is not an option (maybe you have to see them everyday at work, or maybe it’s a member of your family who you have to see on holidays, or maybe it’s just that random annoying person in your life who wants to keep talking to you for no reason, whatever), then at least have fun with it. My preferred method of fun with ignoramuses is the use of sarcasm. It always works. There are just some people on whom all efforts of intelligent discourse are wasted. As the Good Book says, Don’t cast your pearls before swine.
6. You’re too old to be fighting online- Most people in their 30’s already know this. But some people just need to be told. If your age no longer ends in teen, and you’re legally old enough to get drunk off your own alcohol instead of sneaking it from your parents, then your entire life should not be focused around what people are saying about you on the Internet. You’re an adult. Why do you care? I admit that Facebook and Twitter fights do make good entertainment for the rest of us watching. Whenever I see one break out, I like to just pop a bag of popcorn, sit back in front of my computer, and just watch the hilarity ensue. But despite the entertainment factor, you’re now too old to be taking stuff on Facebook and Twitter that seriously. A wise humorist put our modern obsession with social media perfectly when he said, “I used to wonder what it would be like to read other peoples’ minds. Then I got a Facebook account, and now I’m over it.”
7. Don’t settle for less- Whether it’s your career, your prospects, or your romantic life, don’t make it a habit to accept anything less than what makes you content. Your life shouldn’t be so centered on other peoples’ happiness that you forget all about your own. Don’t find satisfaction in being stuck where you are. You’re not a mouse on a trap. Get out of life everything that you feel you deserve from it. Set high goals and ambitions for yourself, and set out to achieve them. Why settle for the mundane when you have the potential for greatness?
8. Admit when you’re wrong- Nothing feels better than being right. But at the same time, nothing sucks more than that moment in an argument when you realize you’re wrong. No one is right all the time. When those moments occur when you find yourself on the wrong side of an argument, don’t keep digging yourself into a hole for the sake of vanity. Just shut up and concede gracefully.
9. Don’t take everything so seriously- Do you overreact to the smallest things? Do you start arguments over the most trivial matters? Do you annoy the living daylights out of people by doing irritating things like correcting their grammar, getting offended at innocent jokes, or carrying on with an argument long after everyone else has already changed the subject? Stop doing that! It’s not that serious. You’ll also have a much more enjoyable personality if you just stop sweating the small stuff.
10. Life is completely unpredictable- This book called Life is like no other book I’ve ever read. There’s no foreshadowing, climaxes can occur at any time, and a happy ending is not guaranteed. This is a book in which we are both author and characters, and we must live through it rather than read through it. As I’ve always hated predictability, this book called Life is the most exciting Book ever. We just have to live through it one page at a time, not knowing what the next page will bring. Even though previous chapters may not have been written as well as you might have liked, don’t worry about it. The good thing is that you still have the whole rest of the book to finish. Just be ready for all the unforeseen surprises that will occur along the way.
11. Tempus Fugit. Quit wasting time- “Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled…” –Edward Young, 1742
The swift passage of time is probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn, and that I’m still learning. Being a world-renowned procrastinator, I have a terrible habit of putting things off and wasting time. By doing so, nothing ever gets done. By not realizing how quickly time flies, you’ll find yourself making the exact same plans at 30 that you were making at 20, and that you still haven’t accomplished yet. The last thing you want to do is to still be making the same plans at 40 or 50. So get started on doing whatever is you want to do. Write that book. Travel to that exotic destination you always wanted to visit. Make that career move you always wanted to make. Whatever is you want to do, do it now while you still can. Time waits for no man.
12. Being an adult is hard work, but also fun- Back when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to become an adult. Being an adult looked like so much fun. I could do whatever I wanted. No one would be able to tell me what to do. Life would be great. But the years of adulthood have taught me that it’s way harder than it looked. There’s work to do, bills to pay, responsibilities to fill, and all that stuff that I didn’t have to worry about when I was a child. Back then, my only worry was whether or not I would make it home from school in time to watch Super Friends. But with all this hard work and responsibility comes many good things too, such as wisdom and life experience. I’ve gotten to do things, go places, and see stuff that wouldn’t have possible if I were still a kid. Adulthood can be just as enjoyable as childhood. You just have to work harder to make it so. This is why a big part of being an adult is all about how well you can hide the fact that you’re still a kid.
13. Never trust an employer- It is here where I offer a bit of Marxist advice. The words of Perchik from Fiddler on the Roof certainly ring true. Just as Laban tricked Jacob, employers today can be tricky connivers. Keep in mind that just like you are trying to protect your job, employers are also trying to protect theirs, even if it means doing so at the expense of their employees. Show up to work everyday, do your job well, and socialize with your boss as little as possible. If you do end up losing your job, you should at least be able to leave with the pride of knowing that you were never a brown-noser.
14. Money doesn’t last. Be responsible with it- As tempting as it may be to go out and spend that tax return on a shopping spree at the mall, it would probably be wiser to put it away and save it for a rainy day. There have been times when I have found myself in a financial bind with no money at all because I decided to spend it on unnecessary things. Plus, your 30’s is the time when you need to become more focused on financial responsibilty, if you weren’t already. This is the decade when you’ll probably want to buy a house, start a family, and build up your assets. This means doing everything you can to stay out of unnecessary debt. That new Rolex might be nice. But if you have other obligations, you might want to hold off on it until you’re absolutely sure you can afford it.
15. Don’t be stingy with yourself- Thrift is indeed a good quality to have. But although you want to be financially responsible, don’t forgo being good to yourself too. While you don’t want to spend your way into the poor house and accumulate debt, it won’t hurt you to splurge on yourself every once in a while. Everything in moderation. Go out and buy that new big-screen TV you’ve always wanted, even if it means you have to wait all the way until Black Friday to get it on sale. After all, you only come this way once. You might as well at least try to have the best of everything while you’re here.
16. Make new friends, but keep the old- One of my favorite quotes on friendship is from Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather. In the book (the line is not in the movie), Vito Corleone tells his godson Johnny Fontane, “Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than government. It is almost the equal of family. Never forget that. If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn’t have to ask me to help.”
As you go through life, you’ll meet countless new people along the way, whether they be classmates, coworkers, neighbors, roommates, booty calls, long-lost family members. You get the picture. Some of those people will remain in your life as lifelong friends. Others will disappear as quickly as they came. And some others will try to remain in your life by pretending to be friends, but are better off being severed from your life for your own well-being. I am proud to say that I still have friends to this day from my days wearing those blue uniforms at Govans Elementary. I have also made newer friends in the most unexpected places, such as on a train ride in Europe. Who knew that I would end up getting a nice free place to stay in Paris just by striking up a conversation with the passenger sitting next to me? So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone every now and then to meet new people. Who knows? You may develop great new relationships out of it. But this also doesn’t mean to just open yourself up to every snake in the grass who comes along. In the wise words of Polonius from Hamlet:
“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.”
In other words, know who your true friends are, and keep them.
17. Don’t be afraid to change your mind about things- The great thing about the human mind is its ability to change. If you’re a Republican, there’s nothing wrong with switching to Democrat, or vice-versa. If you’re a Methodist, there’s nothing wrong with switching to Baptist, or vice-versa. Just because you said at 25 that you never wanted to get married or have children doesn’t mean that you have to still feel the same way in your 30’s. Life changes. And if we’re going to adjust to it, we sometimes have to change the way we think about things that affect our lives. But don’t worry about it. There’s no need to be resistant to change. Change can be a wonderful thing.
18. Opportunity knocks once- Do you remember that episode of Good Times when Thelma passed up the opportunity to go that elite private school because she said that there would be other chances to go to other good schools? No, Thelma, there won’t. When opportunity comes knocking at the door, don’t just answer the door, but invite it inside, offer it food and drink, and never let it leave. Wrestle it to the ground if you have to. There’s no guarantee that it will ever come back to revisit you. So if you can, take hold of good opportunitites at the moment they present themselves. Even if it ends up not working out in the end, you can at least know that you didn’t let the opportunity pass you by.
19. Don’t fear rejection- As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to fear rejection much less than I did when I was younger. Mainly that’s because I’ve learned that the word “No” isn’t going to kill me. Not only have I asked out women who I knew might turn me down, I’ve also auditioned for plays and TV shows that I knew might reject me, applied for jobs for which I knew I was probably underqualified, and asked for favors from people who knew might not give them. But if you don’t ask, how will you know? Case in point, I’m even taking the time to write this blog even though I know it’s possible that no one will ever read it. But like the old saying goes, Nothing beats a failure but a try.
20. Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions- Google doesn’t have the answers for everything. Some things in life you will need to find the answers for on your own. Life comes with many major questions, often about things to which you may have thought you already knew the answers. Before just accepting everything you’ve been told, ask questions, whether it be about your faith, about your prospects, about what other people are telling you, or about your purpose in life. There’s nothing wrong with being an introspective thinker. God gave us all the gift of human cognition and logic for a reason. Use it! As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
21. Pride goes before a fall- It is an exemplary trait to have a sense of dignity and high esteem in yourself. But don’t let a haughty spirit lead to your destruction. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for help when you need it. Even the most successful people in the world didn’t get to where they are completely on their own. Along with diligence and determination, they also had other people helping them along the way. Having to occasionally depend on others for help may be a hard pill to swallow. But once you make it through, the good thing is that you can remember how someone helped you, and pay it forward to the next person who comes along that needs it.
22. Men will never understand women. So stop trying- Although I’m sure that women have some gripes about men, I can only speak for myself as a man here. The female mind is a complex and incomprehensible entity, and trying to figure out what women really want, as opposed to what they say they want, is a most futile effort. Make no attempt to win an argument against a woman. It doesn’t matter how right you are, you will still somehow lose every time. Women have a magical gift to somehow always be right, even when they are wrong. I’m not using this as a complaint to criticize women. This is simply a legitimate observation, which is supported by indisputable scientific data. Women are the most beautiful creatures that God ever created. Life would be terrible without them. But they are also the most complicated and frustrating. As comedian Colin Kane once said, “‘I like guys who are spontaneous!’ really means ‘You better get me expensive gifts for no reason twice a week.’”
23. Accept maturity- Like many people my age, I grew up singing along to the old Toys ‘R Us jingle, “I don’t want to grow up ‘cuz maybe if I did, I wouldn’t be a Toys ‘R Us kid.” But by time you reach your 30’s, you should have long put away all your Toys ‘R Us playthings. I know what some people may be thinking. Why can’t I spend my life in a state of juvenile arrested development? If I can still play video games, barhop, get trashed, sleep around, and just get away with being an immature child-man with no consequences, then why change? Because you’re an adult in your 30’s! That’s why. This is real life, not Neverland. And you are not Peter Pan. As I Corinthians 13: 11 tells us, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” In other words, we all must grow up eventually. If you haven’t already done it by the time you reach 30, then now is as good a time as any to start. But don’t worry. Accepting maturity can be fun too. See Point #12.
24. Take pride in what makes you different or unique- “Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you might not be right for some.” As you may have figured by reading the subtitle of this blog page, I enjoy marching to the beat of my own righteous drummer. So should everyone else. Our differences are what make each human being the unique individual he or she is. So don’t be ashamed of what makes you stand apart from others, whether it’s how you look, how you think, or how you do the things you do. It does indeed take different strokes to rule the world. To repeat the poignant question asked by British poet Edward Young, “Born originals, how comes it to pass that we die copies?”
25. Maintain your integrity, even when others lose theirs- By the time you reach your 30’s, I understand that you’re a little too old to still be getting the talk about avoiding peer pressure. After all, you’re not in high school anymore. But in my experience, some 30-somethings still need to hear it. As my parents told me growing up: Be a leader, not a follower. Let the gossipers at work gossip about everybody else; let the liars around you continue to tell one barefaced lie after another; let the backstabbers in your midst sharpen their daggers, as you walk fully secure in the knowledge that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.” Don’t compromise your own character just so you can feel like you fit in with everyone else. You will feel better about yourself. And whether they admit it or not, people will have heightened respect for you for keeping your integrity even if they don’t keep theirs. In the words of Polonius from Hamlet,
“This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
26. Let things go- There’s no point in holding grudges over past grievances. Let it go and move on. No need to stay up all night thinking of ways to get back at people who have done you wrong. Let karma take care of that. Karma is one bad mutha “shut your mouth” (I’m only talkin’ about karma) that can give your enemies a worse lambasting than you ever could. So you don’t have to do a thing. Just let what goes around come back around, and things will take care of themselves. Besides, holding onto anger only means that you’re holding onto negative energy that is better being released. While you’re letting yourself be weighed down with all that negative energy, the people who you’re harboring it against are going on with their lives completely unaffected by it. As a wise person said, “[Holding onto] Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die from it.”
27. But don’t withhold your anger either- Letting go of negative energy doesn’t only mean letting go of grudges and past grievances. It also means letting your anger and frustration known when people have wronged you. And once you’ve let the offending party know that what they did was wrong or upsetting to you, let it go and move on. After you make others aware of their transgressions against you, it is then their responsibilty to take accountabilty for it by acknowledging it and making amends for it. If they refuse to make amends, then you have done your duty. After all, you can’t make people admit their wrongdoings. If they don’t, at least you can still walk away as the bigger person. For those of us with more irascible tempers, I understand that this bit of advice requires more work. For example, I like to say, “No use crying over spilled milk. Just wipe it up and pour yourself another glass.” But then, I also sometimes find myself saying, “Pick the glass up and break it in the face of whoever spilled it.” I still sometimes debate which is the healthier perspective.
28. If you didn’t have it all together in your 20’s, so what?– Who really does? Maybe this is why they say that life begins at 30. I don’t know if this is true, or just something to make tricenarians feel better. But it’s comforting nonetheless. You still have the next 30 years to get all the stuff done that you didn’t get done in the first 30. True, we’re not getting any younger, but we are getting a lot wiser. If you feel that you wasted the entire past decade so much so that you can barely remember what happened to most of it, be sure to not repeat the same thing again during the present decade. After all, if Johannes Gutenberg could invent the printing press in his 40’s, and Leonardo da Vinci could paint the Mona Lisa in his 50’s, then just imagine what we can be doing in our 30’s.
29. Try new adventures- Doing the same thing all the time is boring. Plus, you’ll have no interesting stories to tell your friends. I’ve hiked across Europe, paddled a canoe up the Delaware River, piloted an airplane from the cockpit, and hitchhiked from one state to another. OK, that last one wasn’t the brightest idea, or the safest thing to do. I still don’t know what I was thinking when I did that. But the point is not that it was stupid. The point is that it was something that I will never forget doing, and did actually make for quite a crazy adventure. Trying new adventures doesn’t necessarily mean having to be extreme. You don’t have to skydive out of an airplane or wrestle live alligators, even though that could be fun too. It could just be something as simple as doing something you’ve always wanted to do, but just never had either the guts, or the opportunity to do it. So try that new cuisine that you’ve never eaten before. If you’ve never flown in an airplane, buy yourself an airline ticket someplace, anywhere. Learn how to play that new sport you’ve never played, even if you suck at it. This year, I travelled to two places where I’ve never been before. In April, I went to Costa Rica. Then, in July, I went to California. Everytime I travel, I like to go to a place where I had never been before. When people ask why, I tell them that I don’t like to keep going to the same places where I’ve already been. Likewise, I don’t like to keep eating at the same restaurants all the time. Filet mignon is nice, but I wouldn’t want it for dinner every night. Life is too short to be afraid to try new things.
30. We are still always learning- I consider myself to be an intelligent and educated man, if I do say so myself. I have a college degree in the school of Liberal Arts. So I feel like I know at least a little bit about everything, and can discuss any subject atleast somewhat intelligently. But no matter how much I think I know, life is still teaching me daily lessons, which is a good thing. Most of the valuable lessons we learn throughout life do not take place in a classroom. So take every opportunity you can to keep on learning. Take gratification in the perpetual quest for knowledge. Even in our 30’s, as mature, and smart, and together as we’re all supposed to be, and think we are by this age, there is still much that we don’t know yet. As Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” When we accept that we don’t know everything, we open ourselves to learning so much more.
*I can’t entirely take credit for the whole idea of this blog post myself. Recognition goes to Emma Gray, whose 25 Things I Know Now That I’m 25article gave me the inspiration for this post. Yeah, I know her article was written for women. So what! Wanna make something of it?