Faith, Politics, and Transitions in Brussels

30 Years; 30 Lessons

On Sunday 25 November, I turned 30. My youthfulness is officially behind me. And now, I am settling into the long, slow rhythms of middle-age. Or at least, I am told that. Except 40 is the new 30. And 30 is the new not-30. It is a milestone and it is not one anymore. There are more responsibilities in my life now than I had at 20. A few years ago I did a similar list; this is an updated version. These are in no particular order. 

  1. Take care of your teeth; I have never have had a cavity, and I never want one because they are painful and awful. Good dental hygiene is crucial.
  2. Keep well-hydrated; there are times that I have not been, and seriously, those are the worst kinds of headaches.
  3. Don’t keep secrets. I have tried and failed to keep secrets about myself, and the energy isn’t worth it. That doesn’t mean my life is an open book, but share confidence with someone, and they can help you see your blindspots.
  4. Be kind. Seriously, just be kind. I am working on this, and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
  5. Remember good friends and try to forget a$$holes. And in the words of Baz Luhrmann, “If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.”
  6. Avoid debt. I have spent my 20s digging out of student debt, and my wife and I are almost there. And we are never, ever going back.
  7. Laugh (and at yourself the most). In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously. I try not too, but too often do fall into this self-defeating trap. No one knows my absurdity more than me, except, perhaps, my wife.
  8. Sleep enough. For more on this, see (17).
  9. Read. Any book. All books. Non-fiction. Fiction. Science-fiction. There are worlds to be discovered here.
  10. Set goals (even if you don’t make them; especially if you don’t make them). It is not wrong to aspire, not wrong to try, not wrong to be ‘extra.’ I am 30 now; I am allowed to co-opt the kids’ lingo.
  11. Forgive (yourself included). This doesn’t mean to forget, but sometimes the only thing holding us back in the past is ourselves.
  12. Be someone’s hero at least once. Every time I throw my daughter into the air, I am her hero for just a moment, and it is best. She loves to fly, and I love to be there for her. Being there for someone helps us become who we are meant to be.
  13. Find games to play. This, I guess, goes back to (7). These could be video games, board games, dumb-little games you invent to break up the ennui of the everyday. Doesn’t matter; just do it and enjoy the little worlds that seep into this one.
  14. Don’t be cynical. Being cynical lets the wrong people win, lets the brokenness continue. It is hard to not be cynical. I passed some time as a cynical, and I got nowhere for it, so I am trying not to be.
  15. But prepare for trouble. Sometimes, make it double. This does not contradict (14); trouble can happen even when pursuing hopeful outcomes.
  16. Appreciate beauty. I am learning to do this more and more, and as I do the world becomes more and more beautiful. I think these are related — if we go out looking for beauty, we tend to find it.
  17. Invest in that which comes between you and the ground: good shoes, good mattresses, and good tires.
  18. Be creative. Whether it is writing, photography, sculpting, whatever, do something that creates and doesn’t just consume. It makes you feel good.
  19. Cook for yourself. I am still learning how to do this, but I can now make a mean stir-fry and a decent katsu curry.
  20. Don’t be afraid of home-improvement projects. Just. Do. Them. It took us six-months to put up bookshelves, but in the end, they are beautiful and completed our living room.
  21. Clean up after yourself. I try to, and this helps my daughter, my wife, my friends, and my family. If we all cleaned up after ourselves, then the world would be a whole lot nicer and cleaner.
  22. Expect interruptions and plan for diversions. I am person who takes daily to-do lists. I focus on tasks, and sometimes I have been impatient with people who interrupt these tasks. I am learning not to be, but to stop and to listen to these “interruptions.” Sometimes, these are banal, but others have had transcendental moments of seeing another’s soul.
  23. Focus when you can. Given (22), I have also learned and am still learning to focus deeply in between the times of interruption. It feels good to be absorbed by something.
  24. Reflect. I try to give myself time and space to reflect, to remember, to review. The examined life is worth living.
  25. Cry. Just before writing this, I watched Moana with my daughter, and I definitely teared up several times. I don’t know exactly why, except that I have been trying to feel things more deeply. Impassability doesn’t exactly make for a good life.
  26. Pretend. This definitely goes with (13). When we pretend, we delve into worlds of possibility, and that can let
  27. Live as simply as possible. We are trying to, and we are finding that this allows space for gratitude and for joy about the smallest things. Now, the “as possible” bit is important, because sometimes life is complicated, and you need to give yourself space for that to be the case.
  28. Be generous. I have been trying to be, and failing more often that not, but my need to hold on to things have slowly been lessening. And that is a good feeling.
  29. Be brave. The world is tough, and after 30 years in it, I have a few scars — not as many as some people, but every one is real. And they are real for others as well. It is a beautiful, hard, crazy world. So, be brave and explore it.
  30. Hope. Despite the news, despite trouble, despite loss: hope. Along with “wait,” perhaps hope is only wise word we humans have.
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