Monday, January 17, 2011

Eleven for 2011

2011 began with a series of posts by some friends of mine commenting on the lessons they each learned in 2010. If you were like me, you found each post insightful and extremely helpful. For most of them, through ups and downs, 2010 was a great year. I hope it was for you as well.

As we turn our attention to 2011, I’d like to offer up a few suggestions. My friends took the time to discuss what did happen and now I’d like to talk about what could happen. In the spirit of the Ten from 2010 series, I’d like to give you Eleven for 2011. It’s pretty simple. I’ve compiled a checklist of things we should all try to do this year. I’m not saying it is a perfect eleven. But it is a good place to start.

11. Reread a book you read when you were younger

If I remember correctly, the point of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button is that youth, and the freedom and energy that come with it, is wasted on the young. If that’s the case, I think the same can be said for most of the reading I was required to do in high school.

Am I really supposed to understand the racial implications in To Kill a Mockingbird as a 14 year old? I have no idea what Jane Eyre is about because I read it when I was 15! Don’t even get me started on 1984. I don’t remember much. There was something about Big Brother. Was it two minutes or three minutes of hate? Who knows? And c’mon people, when you are 15, Animal Farm is just about animals and The Old Man and the Sea is just boring.

Here’s your assignment. This year, pick up one of the books you read years ago. Reading is all about the presuppositions and life experiences you bring to the words on the page, right? If that is the case, how much richer could one of these old classics be now? And to make it even more fulfilling, this time you won’t have to write an essay.

10. Become a connoisseur

My friend Allen has a love for this one specific brand of chocolate. The problem is that it isn’t available in the States. You can only find it off the coast of Spain during the rainy season or some crap like that. You’d think this would frustrate him. Nah. Its difficulty to find only makes each bite more delectable.

I have friends that will not drink anything from Starbucks. Real coffee, they claim, only comes from a certain type of shade grown, fair-trade bean. According to them, you should only drink coffee within ten days of roasting. Anything else abuses the taste buds as much as it does the bean farmers.

Usually these people are annoying. Coffee is coffee to me. And I’m just as happy with a handful of M&M’s as Allen is with his mystical candy. By the way, he’ll only eat a square inch at a time. I mean really… just eat the whole candy bar before I punch you in the face.

I’m tempted to be violent only 90% of the time. But the other 10%, I really respect these people. I love their devotion to something that seems so unimportant. So, this year I am going to copy their love for the finer things in life. I’m going to become a connoisseur.

I’m not sure of what. Maybe wine. Maybe I’ll find an obscure beer that can only be found on the coast of Oregon during Oktoberfest. 1930’s jazz… French films… Cigars. When you look at it this way, the opportunities to look down on people whose tastes are not as refined as my own are endless.

9. Memorize something weird

My wife knows the list of the United States in alphabetical order. She sings the song when she can’t sleep at night. It starts with, “Alabama, Alaska, Arizona…” and runs all the way to Wyoming. In a ironic twist of fate, this song usually prevents me from sleeping too.

Insomnia aside, it is a great party trick and always impressive. With this in mind, let’s make this the year that we all memorize something weird. I’m going to attempt all the presidents in order. You should memorize an old school rap song. Just think about how interested people will be in your new skill!

8. Call your mom

As I type this, I am texting back and forth with my mom. We do this quite often. In fact, we hardly ever talk on the phone anymore. I appreciate the convenience of texting but know that I am cheating someone when the only attention I give her comes in short textual bursts. This year, we should all talk (and listen) a little more.

7. Grow up

My plan? Become a father. You’re on your own. Good luck with that.

6. Just do it

We all have that one thing to which we say, “Someday I’m going to…” Stop just saying it. This year, complete the sentence. Then do it.

5. Establish Facebook etiquette

A few rules. No more public rants about who pissed you off. It’s tacky. Also, there are conversations that are just between a husband and wife. Keep that stuff in the bedroom and not on your Facebook wall. One last thing, please don’t post pictures of your newborn baby taken the moment he comes out of the birth canal. We’re all very excited for you. But I don’t care how much he looks like his mom if he is still covered in birth juice. Wipe the kid off first.

4. Grow a mustache

Don’t reject this suggestion at first glance. Let me explain. If you notice, facial hair trends rotate on a 25-year cycle. In this order, the trend always evolves from beards to mustaches to sideburns to goatees and then starts over again. Here’s the proof.

Think back 25 years ago. Every picture of my dad had him sporting a finely combed mustache. He wasn’t alone. Your dad had one too. Then the early 90’s came along and shows like 90210 brought about the unfortunate sideburn era. Vanilla Ice took it to the next level and shaved lines into his burns. A few years later, steroid enhanced athletes like Mark McGuire and WWF wrestlers ushered in the goatee fad of the late 90’s.

Beards have been popular amongst the coffee drinking, Chaco wearing, white male crowd and have dominated the turn of the century landscape. This means only one thing. We are nearing the end of the current cycle. The year of the mustache is upon us.

Here’s how it will go down. Around March, you’ll return from your ski trip with a week’s worth of facial scruff. You’ll grow out your Tom Brady beard for a couple of weeks and then, as a joke of course, shave it off into a righteous ‘stache. Your friends will laugh. Your ladyfriend will hate it. To both you’ll say, “Hey, I’m not really serious. It’s a joke! I’ll shave it off Monday.”

But you’ll wake up late Monday and go to work/class and introduce the world to your new lip-tickler. People will mention it those first few days but slowly, over the period of about a week, your ironic fashion statement will evolve into a legit mustache. Then you are stuck with it. And there isn’t anything you can do to stop it.

My point? This year, don’t fight it. Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Embrace the mustache.

3. Floss

Let me preface this suggestion by reminding you that I have never had a cavity. My dental record is clean. However, twice a year I go to get my teeth cleaned and twice a year the spunky hygienist encourages me to floss better.

Spunky Hygienist: You really should floss better.

Me: Rawablahjijagawgawgaw

I agree that this is a good suggestion and leave the office committed to flossing daily. My problem comes with follow through.

It’s a little like church camp if you think about it. You leave with a spiritual high, with every good intention in the world. You’re going to read your Bible every day and stop touching your girlfriend’s boobs. But, one thing leads to another and the pledge fades. You don’t read your bible every day and um… you, eh, you know… as well.

Flash forward to adulthood. You promise your dentist you will floss every day but you can’t follow through with that either.

Not anymore. This is the year we all finally get it right. Put the floss out by the bathroom sink if you have to. Flossing is crucial for healthy teeth and gums. Stick to it.

2. Know what you believe

Are you a Calvinist? Why? Are you a right-winged Republican who thinks that Obama was born in Africa? Explain yourself. Do the Jets have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl? Give me the stats to prove it.

The point is, know your beliefs. Everyone has an opinion. Few can back it up. You don’t have to be right, but you do have to be able to explain yourself. I don’t know who said it but I agree with them. “Sometimes right. Sometimes wrong. Always certain.”

1. Write more

Just take ten minutes a day and write something. Use a moleskin notebook. Use a laptop. Start a blog. Write letters to your wife or to no one at all. It doesn’t matter. Just write for ten minutes non-stop.

It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to be grammatically correct. That are not important. Good writing is just paying attention and then having the guts to tell the truth. So write about politics or religion. Make up stories. Give your opinion about television or high school football. Don’t think too hard about it. Just write.

Then see what happens.

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