50 Years, 50 lessons

Today is the big day — my 50th birthday!

I was born on September 21, 1969. I am the same age as Sesame Street, the moon landing, and Woodstock. It was the summer of the Stonewall riots, the Manson murders, and Hurricane Camille.  Sugar, Sugar by The Archies was the No. 1 pop song, and Johnny Cash was at the top of the country charts with A Boy Name Sue. And in the height of the anti-war movement, nearly half a million people were planning to descend on D.C. in a few weeks to demand that Nixon end the war in Vietnam.

By all accounts I was born during a year of tumult, protest, conflict, peace, love, and rock ‘n roll.

I share my birthday with Fannie Flagg, Stephen King, and Bill Murray, so that ought to tell you something right there. Apparently the 21st is a day for writers and funny people with a dark sense of humor. Yep, that sounds about right.

Now you don’t drag around on this earth for 50 years and not learn a thing or two along the way. So on the golden anniversary of that rainy evening when this Sunday’s child came barreling into the world, I thought I’d share a few pearls I’ve picked up along the way. They are listed loosely in chronological order starting with childhood right up until … oh, I dunno … maybe yesterday.

  1. Few things are better than a brand new box of Crayons.
  2. If you don’t like to drink milk, mix in a little sugar and mace. It will go down a whole lot easier.
  3. Always put your bicycle away.
  4. You can kick people in the shins when they make you mad, but you won’t feel any better and then you’ll be mad and in trouble.
  5. Catawba worms make good bait, but they will pee on you.
  6. Girls are way meaner than boys.
  7. If you learn how to do something, teach someone else.
  8. Keep quiet about the nice things you have. Not everyone is as fortunate.
  9. You can’t get pregnant just by sitting on a boy’s lap in the back of the church bus.
  10. Your parents are right 98% of the time, but every now and then, you have to do things the way you want to.
  11. If you can make white sauce (“bechamel” if you’re fancy) you can cook just about anything.
  12. Scotch and Kool Aid don’t mix.
  13. No matter what church you go to or what religion you are, the lessons you learn are pretty much the same — just be a good person. Baptists have the best hymns though.
  14. Just because someone wants to hug you, doesn’t mean you have to let them.
  15. Black eyeliner will make you look older, which is great when you’re young but not when you actually are older.
  16. Speaking of looking older … use that eye cream every morning and every night. You’ll be glad you did.
  17. Don’t try to be roommates with a friend, but make friends with your roommate.
  18. Everyone should go to at least one drag show in their life.
  19. Make time to do creative things — paint, draw, write, act, dance, sing, sew, weave baskets, whatever floats your boat. It will free your mind.
  20. If you have to change your whole personality just to get a date, you’ll be better off staying at home.
  21. The girls who win mini skirt contests probably aren’t wearing underwear.
  22. Keep a journal. You really won’t remember all the things you swear you’ll never forget.
  23. Just accept the damn compliment. Preferably with a smile and a thank you.
  24. Don’t focus more on the wedding than you do on the marriage.
  25. Never have a joint checking account.
  26. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
  27. There are people who will not only stab you in the back, they will twist the knife and then pour a little salt in the wound. Stay away from those people.
  28. Listening to good rock-and-roll really loud, preferably with all the windows down while you drive really fast, will always make you feel better.
  29. Travel every chance you get whether it’s to the next county or another country.
  30. Bifocals don’t mean you’re old. They just mean you can see.
  31. Some of your friends will die way too young. Remember the happy times and don’t dwell on the sad.
  32. Most things you think are your fault, probably aren’t. But own the ones that really, truly are.
  33. It’s a good thing babies are cute and lovable because they are really, really gross and a whole lot of work.
  34. If it took you nine months to gain the weight, don’t expect to lose it in less than that.
  35. Don’t let anyone tell you how to raise your own kid.
  36. Buy the house that feels like home.
  37. Hire people to do the things you don’t like to do. It not only helps you, it helps them and boosts the local economy.
  38. You’re not defined by the bad things that happen to you. Your life’s narrative is what you make it.
  39. Figure out how you best handle a crisis, and handle every crisis that way.
  40. Treat the janitor the same way you treat the CEO and vice versa.
  41. If it’s not a good time, it will be a good story.
  42. True love exists. And it will sneak up on you when you least expect it.
  43. A little dish soap really won’t hurt your iron skillet. Just don’t put it in the dishwasher.
  44. Women will always be held to a different standard than men.
  45. Do the right thing, not the easy thing.
  46. Beets will always taste like dirt, but sometimes dirt can taste good.
  47. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  48. Let other people live their lives without your judgment a/k/a mind your own beeswax, cornbread, and shoe tacks.
  49. You’re only as old as you think you are.
  50. Sometimes your life doesn’t turn out like you think it will. And that’s ok.

15 thoughts on “50 Years, 50 lessons

  1. DITTO on all 50. I didn’t know that mini-skirt wisdom or that black eyeliner makes one look old. That settles it, I may get majorette boots and blame it all on my roots, but I’m not getting black eyeliner. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, you delightful brainiac! Many more, Ben

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY on this International Day of Peace. Loved your advice, (I’m 70, so, I lived 1969). What a wonderful time to be born and grow up to share your talents! Enjoy this day!

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