On the eve of my 60th birthday, this is a letter I wrote to my 24-year old self, should I be born again one day. If I’m not, anyone who will benefit is welcome to read.
A lifetime of experience, or at least 60 years of it, is worth taking note of. I don’t know if anyone else will pay attention to what I’ve learned, but – note to self – if I had to do it all again, this is what I’d tell myself.
1. Fear. Fear is like an appendix. Has no real use in modern times, yet it can be a real bitch when it acts up. When you feel fear clutching at your intestines, say hello, shake its hand and tell it to get the hell out of your life. This includes letting yourself be intimidated. You don’t have time for it. Anger is a close relative of fear. Let it go…fast…or it can explode, and destroy everything in its path, including you.
2. Fun. Do you spend too much time working and being serious? Don’t fritter your life away believing that fun is for the dysfunctional, while you strive to be competent and responsible. Hey, aren’t you as dysfunctional as anyone? Who are you to think you are better than everyone else? Next act, fun comes first.
3. Uh oh. When you start thinking uh oh, pay serious attention to what’s going on. When you feel a case of the uh ohs bubbling up, don’t put your head down and ignore what led up to it. Let uh oh be your call to action, not a march to inaction. At this point in my life, my uh-ohmeter is worth millions to me, and is probably my greatest possession.
4. Passion. To thine own self be true. Find what thrills you and grab hold of it. Take risks, and take note of what sets your pulse racing. That’s the fountain of youth, the secret to success and the reason for existence. Passion conquers all, no?
5. What’s next? Your laurels get thorny if you rest on them. Get too comfortable and you are close to comatose. Goals, plans, your future are what keep you excited and ready to tackle new challenges. You can sleep when you’re dead. Climb the next mountain, run the next mile, give the next speech. Stay interested in yourself and your life.
6. Being right is overrated. Having wasted way too many hours in the quest to prove myself, being right can feel so wrong. It often masquerades as “climbing the ladder of success” or “paying your dues”. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, its teeth are sharp and the blood and pain usually aren’t worth it. Oh yeah, “no pain, no gain” is also overrated. And, remember, other people aren’t necessarily right, either. Let their opinions of you be just that – opinions.
7. Wine more and whine less. Spend more time enjoying your life. Whining is a symptom that you’re not. And, once you know it, what are you going to do about it? Red or white, it matters not.
8. Smile more and smirk less. It may be free but it’s not easy. Scowling and frowning are bad habits that mar your magnificence. Pay attention to what your face is saying about you. Bonus: you’ll like the world better when it smiles back!
9. Press on. Bruises on your ego and your soul are proof that you are living your life, your way. Live to fight another day.
10. No cages. Jobs, relationships, security can be cages if you let them. When it gets hard to breathe, rattle your own cage, and escape.