It might be ironic that one of my favorite albums of all time — Continuum by John Mayer — is all about recognizing that we can’t stay young forever and have to appreciate the journey instead of trying to hold on to the past.
I think about this album as I free-fall toward my 30th birthday. With only a few months left to be young and stupid, I can’t help but reflect on some of the things I’ve taken away from this last decade and some things I think might be helpful to someone else out there who might be at a similar point in life.
1. We have to stop reading blogs about “Things you should know by 30” or “Skills to have by 30” or “Things to do before you turn 30.” It’s OK if you don’t know what you are doing with your life (I don’t) and it’s OK if you don’t know how to change a tire (provided you know how to call AAA). I would say there are some things that are helpful to know, but there is no rule book that says we have to live up to somebody else’s standard of what it means to be 30.
2. I don’t understand fashion, which cracks me up because I enjoy seeing what new things are happening with men’s clothes and I like asking my wife if I could pull off things like bow ties, or those pants guys wear that are baggy up top but have elastic by the ankles. I’ve found it’s best not to try to keep up with what is hip or current, and just keep a solid stock of plain colors and classic cuts that don’t ever go out of style.
3. I can enjoy writing (aka – the thing I am good at beyond athletics and other general talents). I used to think this would be my vehicle for making a living, and I put off a lot of writing in my 20’s because I thought I had to have this perfect story or brilliant idea about something that everyone would want to rush out and read. I realize that if I am ever going to get paid to write, I have to genuinely enjoy it first — and I do! And the funny thing is, I see more opportunities presenting themselves as I enjoy the pieces I put out. I don’t love everything I write, but I’m getting better and seeing that there is promise at the end of the tunnel.
4. I am more secure with myself now more than I’ve ever been. I am also healthier now than I’ve ever been, which helps with body issues and self-consciousness. But, more so than how I look, I feel very comfortable with who I am to others, as a husband, and how comfortable I am with myself when no one else is around. I see my 15-year-old sister obsess about her weight and her look, and I see a lot of the same tendencies in who I was even a couple years ago. Once I learned to let my guard down, it allowed me to relax and have enjoyable conversations with new people and look forward to the unknown ahead.
5. Money is a funny thing. I think about the things I used to spend money on, the things I currently spend money on, and the idea that more money will make me happier. I used to spend money on beer (cheap/ quantity), food (cheap/ quantity), online poker, and “fashionable” clothes from Express and Buckle. I now spend money on food (groceries), experiences, lawn care items, and vet checks on my dog. I remember buying a case of Natty Light and cringing at the $15 I would spend. Now, I feel better about spending more than $15 on a bottle of wine than I do about spending less than $15 because I feel like I am moving up in the wine world.
::Note – I’m sure I’ll look back at what I’m spending money on now in 10 years and laugh, but at least it shows I’m evolving::
And regarding the idea that more money will make me happier… I won’t say I wouldn’t be able to put it to good use, but the things I value in life aren’t necessarily obtained by money. When I was 21 I wanted to be a millionaire and didn’t care if that came by dumb luck or hard work. Now, if I earn a million dollars, I want to have done so because I worked hard for it and I earned it. The payoff would only be worth it if the value of my effort matched the money I get on the back end.
6. The last thing I learned in my first 29 3/4 years on this planet is that, above all, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. Whatever it takes to make you happy, don’t stop at anything until you can stare at yourself in the bathroom mirror when no one else is around or can hear you, and say to yourself that you’re happy, or at least taking the necessary actions to become happy.
So I was going to end this with a John Mayer quote, but I think I’ll end on one of my own. (Wasn’t it Almost Famous or American History X where the lead character says it’s best to end a paper with a quote from someone else because they probably said it better?)
Here it goes…
Don’t get hung up on things that are beyond your control. Decide who you want to be and figure out the best way for you to get there. And along the way, try to have a little fun and learn something new.