Friday, March 09, 2012

20 Things I Learned in My 20's

While sitting alone in a quiet house on a typical Friday evening, the thought dawns on me. Tomorrow is my last day in my twenties. As I prepare to turn thirty on Sunday, one might think that I’d be planning one final day of youthful revelry. Let’s ride this sinking ship all the way to the bottom of the ocean! Let’s go down in flames by sleeping until noon, getting the Chinese symbol for “anarchy” tattooed to my bicep, and playing beer-pong with an albino midget dressed like a member of the Insane Clown Posse! Crank up the LMFAO!

Alas, I will be doing none of that. I am a family man, after all. Instead of welcoming the impending decade by rocking out to “Party Rock Anthem”, I plan on assembling a new bedroom suite and eating a nice meal with my family at a bistro downtown. If I'm lucky, I'll squeeze in a run.

For those about to age, we salute you.

Consider this my declaration. I’m writing tonight to confess that I’m okay with putting a period on the decade in this fashion. However, the closing of this chapter has caused me to reflect on the last ten years of my life a lot recently. And while several images are fuzzy, it’s uncanny how the mind is able to pull out random memories and shake them off like old polaroids. Weddings. Road trips. Graduations. Births. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that you pack so much life into your twenties that it is hard to imagine any other decade coming close.

Think about it a little more and it becomes an understatement to say that these ten years have made up the most important decade of my life. Perhaps this is true, of course, because there’s not much to compare it with. No one ever says, “Man, 11-19… those were the days.” No one says that because 11-19 sucks. But your twenties on the other hand, are all about discovery, stepping out on your own, and occasionally staying out too late.

I guess in the end, your twenties are about growing up. And while it would be ignorant to think that turning a decade older automatically means that I have arrived, or to somehow not be optimistic about the lessons that lie ahead in my thirties, looking back has caused me to realize that I’m not the same person I was ten years ago.

I'm beyond grateful for this transformation, and at the same time, can take very little credit for it. Don't get me wrong. This isn't self-indulgence disguised as wisdom. It is a salute to everyone who took the time to point out the obvious. I firmly believe that it is through God’s grace and the guidance of countless people that I survived my twenties at all. But through it all, I am confident that I learned a few things during the last decade. In fact, here are twenty of them.

1. No matter when you graduated, good music died your senior year of college.

2. You don’t have to own a house to prove you are a grown up. So, don’t buy one you can’t afford. Also, sign a 15-year mortgage.

3. Runners can eat whatever we want. (We have great legs too.) But if you can’t run, find another way to stay active. Play pick-up basketball. Practice yoga. Ride your bike to work. You’ll always have permission to hate shopping for swimsuits but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of your body.

4. Be an activist. Believe in big ideas. Protest something. Have a cause you care about. Research it. And please do more than just click “Like” on facebook. After all, who says we can’t change the world?

5. Step one. Learn how to have difficult conversations. Step two. Learn how to forgive. Step three. Learn to let it go. Unity is the goal.

6. Take the job five states away. Or stay where you are. Either way, just be present.

7. Being a groomsman in your best friend’s wedding is an honor. But helping each other become better husbands over the years that follow is much more fulfilling.

8. You’ll never be ready to have a baby.

9. At least once, stay out until the sun comes up.

10. I never met someone who regretted NOT getting a tattoo.

11. Invest in your relationship with your parents. They will continue to be the some of the most important people in your life. But, at some point, learn to make decisions without them.

12. If you find yourself halfway around the world, pay the extra cab fare and go see the monument everyone back home will ask you about.

13. Your mom was right. You will become like the people you are closest to. Remember her words when you are deciding on your first job.

14. College – career – marriage - kids. Or… College – marriage – kids – career. Or… Marriage – career – kids – college. Or… you get the idea. There is no right order in life. So what if you’re not married by 25? Or out of school by the time you are 28? Or pregnant by 30? Stop comparing. Write your own story.

15. Don’t get your nipples pierced in South Beach. They’ll never heal right.

16. Teenagers stay up all night playing Xbox. I know… I know… there’s nothing wrong with video games. You can play video games. But there is something wrong with acting like teenagers.

17. At least once, you have to rush the field at the end of a big-time college football game.

18. When tragedy hits, all you have to pull from is what you already have. Invest in good friends, a good church, and good insurance.

19. If you don’t have someone wiser than you actively mentoring you, someone who speaks truth, and asks hard questions, then you are probably not growing.

20. Marry the person you can’t imagine living without.

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