Here’s the bottom line, I feel younger than I thought I’d feel at 44. I don’t know if this is because I am shocked than I am actually 44 (denial makes you feel younger) or a sign of fundamental immaturity.

Truth be told I don’t begrudge age. I feel lucky lucky lucky to be here, have the family I have, count my friends as friends and have full use of my body. This last point is no joke – you know that “at least you have your health” adage – it’s true. If you’ve ever broken a toe, burned your tongue or worse, you know what I mean. Don’t take your body for granted.

When my mom was 44 I was 14. When my dad was 44 I was 6. God bless my mom for dealing with me as a teenager when she was the age I am now. Pretty sure I was terrible. My dad at age 44 had 6 year-old me. Pretty sure I was an angel. What would he say now if he were alive? He always loved telling people they were middle aged, so he’d likely start there. He would tell me I should start going to church again. He would want to hear about the cake and food today. I don’t know if he would have any words of wisdom…but maybe.

Since he’s not here, I wrote my own list of things I think people should know, or at things I think my kids should know. Here goes…

Living

  • Work on empathy. Be around lots of different types of people. Pause to imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes.
  • Go to places where you don’t speak the language at all. You need to learn what it feels like to have to ask for help.
  • When in doubt, take the kind road. It’s unlikely you will ever regret being kind.
  • Not everyone will be honest about facts. Don’t be naïve about this.
  • Stretch your limbs every day.
  • Lift up heavy things.
  • Enjoy ALL of your firsts.
  • Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes. There’s no reason to let a pair of shoes make you miserable all day.
  • Write things down – memories, thoughts, impressions. You won’t be around one day but people who are in your life will want to know what you were thinking.
  • Learn how to take care of your needs and act accordingly. Over time, you cannot take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Simplify elements of your life so that you are better able to make decisions about other things. The more decisions you have to make, the worse you are at making them.
  • No nail polish is far better than chipped nail polish.
  • Use your fireplace.
  • Watch Friday Night Lights, Steel Magnolias, West Wing, The Wire….

Work/Money

  • Put simply – WORK. Work when you’re young. Earn your own money in college and high school.
  • Be honest with yourself about your financial health. Don’t tell yourself you owe less than you do. You are only making the headache bigger when the chicken comes home to roost.
  • The chicken ALWAYS comes home to roost.
  • Save. Even a dollar a week from your very first paycheck.
  • When you’re about to leave your place of work, identify one more thing you could do that day. Do that one thing.
  • Be early.
  • Read your emails twice before hitting send.
  • Think about being a problem solver not just a problem identifier.
  • Focus on your strengths. You will hear a lot about developing your weaknesses…hogwash. I mean, not total hogwash but often strengths get lost in a sea of “weakness focus.” Life and work are more fun when you play to your strengths.
  • On this, I recently took a test to help name my strengths. I got: Consistency, Relator, Discipline, Learner and Empathy.

Friends

  • Expect that you will get different things from different friends. Don’t expect all of them to be what you think you need them to be.
  • Accept what people can give. Don’t be angry about what they cannot or do not give. It’s just not worth it.
  • This is the “Friend Contact Hierarchy”: Text < Email < Phone call < In person hang out. But all of those are better than NOTHING – so pick one and do it.
  • Skype and Facetime could be on the above list, but I am not sure where (admit when you don’t know something)
  • Also, notice “snapchat” isn’t on the list. I am 44 and I cannot figure out how to use it.
  • Don’t forget good old fashioned cards. People love getting cards.
  • In almost any circumstance, do not lend friends money, unless you are fully prepared to lose that money and that friend.
  • RSVP. Do not be one of those people who doesn’t even RSVP. It’s beyond rude.

Love

  • After a breakup, wash and change all of your entire bedding. There is nothing like a fresh bed. Do this for a friend if they’ve been dumped.
  • Don’t keep score.
  • When you are parents, be a couple FIRST.
  • Romance is not love.
  • On being parents, don’t feel the need to have kids if you don’t want them.
  • If each of you try to give more than you get, you’re on the road to relationship contentment.

Food

  • Guacamole is best when mixed as little as possible.
  • Often, the appetizers are better than the entrée.
  • Make my spaghetti sauce recipe and share it with friends. It’s three generations of goodness.
  • Know what you are eating – read food labels.
  • Don’t hesitate – just buy an extra carton of milk.
  • Develop a taste for hot mustard.
  • Leave room for dessert.

Lastly, take all of the above with a big grain of salt. The only thing I really know is that it’s getting easier to ask questions as I get older. I am less afraid of looking silly…I used to be really afraid of looking silly.

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