I remember receiving chain emails, back when people still did that on a regular basis, about “everything a woman should know/have/do by age ___.” There was a really good one called Turning 30: Everything a Woman Should Have and Should Know, most of which is completely true. Nora Ephron’s What I Wish I’d Known was widely re-circulated after her death, and it breaks my heart and tickles me simultaneously. As I approach 35, and approach the possibility of pregnancy, I was told about A Letter to My Pregnant Childless Self. Ah, the virtues of age and the clarity of hindsight.
Well, you know how I love my lists. And I’ve been thinking: we all have those things that we’ve learned the older we get, the things we wish we could package up and pass on to our daughters (or anyone who will listen)—the wisdom we’ve gleaned by simply subsisting, surviving, and managing to not (quite) become a total basketcase. Adulthood is not an easy road and we’ve all watched even the mighty fall.
I’ve been keeping notes over the past year. I’ll jot something down as it occurs to me, when I’ve done that stupid thing I know not to do yet again, or because I managed to remember not to do it. I’ll jot it down as I’m riding the subway and I overhear someone in conversation, desperately wanting to pinch them before they say the thing they’ll regret. I’ll jot it down after I have a heart to heart with a friend and something that sounds like a motto tumbles out of my mouth and I have that moment when I think: “Wow. I think I’ve believed that for a long time.”
My 35th birthday is in a little over 24 hours. And for my next trick, I’ll update you on the mother of all lists: my 35 Before 35.
But first, this is my list. It is not exhaustive; it’s just the beginning. What would your list look like?
(Some of) The Little Things I’ve Gleaned From My 35 Years on Earth
- It is possible to dress well without ever paying full price.
- Everyone should be required to learn how to read music in grade school.
- You will always get better results with kindness than with ferocity.
- You will also always be a mean drunk if it’s vodka that you drink.
- There is something interesting about everyone.
- Always tread carefully with the soy sauce packets that come with your Chinese food.
- There is a fine line between “Giving up” and “Changing your mind”, but they are, in fact, two different things.
- It’s very difficult to be happy if you don’t like where you live.
- You have to love your wallet.
- All children should have a pet at some point.
- Even for the non-religious, there is something very peaceful about holy places of almost any kind.
- Never buy expensive umbrellas. They will always find a way to disappear.
- Everybody does not have to want to be your friend.
- Acupuncture works.
- It is possible to tire of any food.
- If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably not.
- If you think you’re the hottest person in the room, you probably are, but you’re also probably not the smartest person in the room.
- No matter how quiet you think you’re being on your cell phone in that public place, it’s not quiet enough.
- Never expect a white shirt and a pasta dish to play nice.
- Don’t subscribe to more than two magazines and also expect to ever finish books.
- Only order at restaurants that which you cannot make at home.
- Mo’ money, mo’ problems. No money, way mo’ problems.
- New York City becomes a great place to live when you find ways to leave it as often as possible.