30 Lessons I’ve Learned In 30 Years

This month I turned 30, and according to the internet that means I’m supposed to either be all introspective and deep, or freaking out and getting botox. Since I hate needles and I don’t really care about getting older, I’m going with the first one.

I’ve been trying to come up with an idea for a 30-of-something list post for almost a month, and what I’ve discovered is that a lot of people have bucket lists they want to complete before they turn 30, and many people make lists of lessons they’ve learned when they turn 30. From what I can tell, most of those lists are full of bullshit non-things you’d find cross-stitched on a pillow, like “don’t sweat the small stuff” or “make your own happiness.”

Since it’s been a long time since I did a list post, I figured I’d do one too, but of things I’ve actually learned, not just cliche life lessons.

  1. If you use the box your frozen pizza came in as a plate, you have fewer dishes to wash. This not only saves the hassle of washing a dish, but uses less water and introduces less soap into the water system, so you’re saving the environment.
  2. Stuff sucks. This was a hard one to learn, because I grew up very poor and once I had the capability of having lots of stuff I went a little overboard. But as the years pass I’ve grown to realize that stuff is just heavy shit you have to move. Experiences are better, and I take a ton of photos because I’ve worked with the elderly enough to know that I might not always remember them. Of course the fact that I’ll eventually be blind kinda throws a wrench it that, but I try not to think about that too much.
  3. The quality of fried chicken is directly proportional to the thickness of the counter’s bulletproof glass. There’s something in those ghetto spices.
  4. This one can be summed up in a song.

    The same goes for people who have just had a baby and think that makes them more special than the literally billions of other people who have done the same thing.
  5. Wikipedia is the best tool you could ever hope to have. If you want to kill some time, pick something and click through links on a Wikipedia page, if you do it right you can kill an entire day and learn a bunch of stuff in the process. If you want to know why a town is named the way it is or, how that thing got there, it takes 2 seconds. It’s not the be all end all, especially in academic circles, but it is awesome. And it comes in really handy if you need to drop random trivia on people for any reason.
  6. The road less traveled really is better.
    "A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection." -Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear
    I suppose one might find that cross-stitched on a pillow somewhere, but it’s true. I’ve written about this before. There are fewer people on the back road, and not only do people suck in general, they ruin everything in sufficient numbers. The back roads offer a different view of the world, and who doesn’t need a different perspective from time to time? And while I mean it literally, it doesn’t have to be, I’ve taken the road less traveled by in many different ways in my life, and I don’t think I would be happy if I hadn’t.
  7. Everyone who doesn’t live in NYC or LA thinks they live in a small town. And most of them are wrong. I’ve lived in a lot of places, some of them legitimately small towns (Ardenvoir only had 42 mailboxes in use), but I’ve also lived in a lot of small cities, large towns, and actual cities. Just because you’ve lived in the same place your entire life doesn’t make it a small town. EVERYONE sees someone they know when they go shopping, EVERYONE gossips about their neighbors and local politicians, EVERYONE has a place where everyone knows their name. I’ve had people tell me that Prescott is a small town, and I can kind of see where they might be coming from, it used to be a small town, but there are 40,000 people just in Prescott, and more thank 100,000 people in the metropolitan area, nothing about that is small, even if you do know your neighbors. And then there are the people who tried to tell me Rochester (the third largest city in NY) was a small town. When questioned one of these people backpedaled and said it was a “series of small towns all crunched up together.” Oh, you mean neighborhoods? Like every city in the world has? I’m not really sure the reasoning behind people wanting to claim their town is a small town, but I’ve learned that it happens everywhere.
  8. Girl pockets are useless, never trust them.

    I’m sure there is some kind of conspiracy between the men of the world and the purse makers so that we’ll be dependent on them if we ever want to carry anything. But it’s a fact of life and I’ve come to terms that the largest item I can safely store in my pockets is an earring.
  9. Ranch dressing can eat through plastic. And if it’s hot in your car, ranch dressing packets will explode. And if the plastic around a USB adapter dissolves, it doesn’t work anymore. I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if I used GMO free, all natural, gluten free, free range, chemical free, organic ranch dressing.
  10. If you break your toe enough times in rapid succession, it stops hurting. Also stops fitting into shoes properly and won’t bend like it used to.
  11. Never wait outside a Mormon temple. This one took some trial and error, Les has far too many siblings, and we’ve waited outside the temple while both of his younger brothers got married. Horrible experiences both times. The first time was in Vegas, and if you’re wondering what the least fun you can have in Vegas is, it’s watching two people who have never had a proper kiss attempt to make out in front of their entire extended family. The second one was more traditional, at the monolithic temple in downtown Salt Lake, and in standard Mormon tradition, ran hours behind schedule. After standing outside on the cold concrete for almost 2 hours, getting even colder looks from everyone passing by, Les and I decided to leave. As soon as we started walking away he got a text saying they were on their way out. We then got lectures from 3 different people on what we “missed out on.” Highly unpleasant, and something I will never do again, for anyone. I will show up to a reception, but I’ve learned to respect myself enough not to be shit on like that.
  12. NEVER, EVER, EVER read the comments! Unless you want to end up hating yourself for being a member of the human race. And I’m listing this one because even though I know it intellectually, I still sometimes do it, I just can’t help myself. And every, single time I do I lose the tiny little shred of faith in humanity I had gathered since the last time I read the comments.
  13. Rain on vacation is a good thing.
    _MG_3451
    Heavy rain on our Vermont vacation in 2011 was made even better by the tin roof on the cabin we stayed in (for free because my friend Mary is awesome).

    I’m not sure exactly when it started, but every single time it’s rained when Les and I are on a trip together, it turns out awesome.

  14. Quiet matters. This is one I thought I already knew, but was really driven home about a year ago during an Ingress op of all things. After a long day of driving, killing GPs and taking down blockers, Les and I ended up on the Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park at about midnight. The farther we went from the parking lot the quieter it got. There was a full moon and the wind was blowing, we could hear bugs and birds, but no cars, no people. It was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time all over again (but better because there weren’t thousands of people pushing and yelling like the actual first time I saw it).
  15. Flannel sheets are totally worth it. So is the heated mattress pad. I survived 3 winters in Western New York because of them.
  16. YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER THAT LATER! Something you wanted to look up, the name of the book you saw, that thing you were going to tell him after work, all gone until right before you fall asleep. Write it the fuck down! I have notebooks and legal pads all over the place, and more Google Keep lists than I care to admit.
  17. Hugs are overrated. I hug Les sometimes, I hug my family when I haven’t seen them in a while, I hugged my aunt Kathy the last time I saw her, but other than that … the world needs to just stop with all the damn hugging! Or at least ask or learn to read body language and realize that some people are just not comfortable. I’ve started limiting Les’s parents to one hello OR goodbye hug, not both.
  18. If the weather and speed allow for it, drive with the windows down.
    DSCN0503
    Les learns what it’s like to roll down the window and just let long hair fly.

    And even better if you can turn the music up really loud. There is something so freeing about letting your hair whip around and letting the smells of nature into the car, it’s a big stress reducer for me, and Les is learning.

  19. Bangs are a bad idea. No… Just, no. Some people have that elfin face and can pull it off, but Audrey Hepburn I am not. Short hair is also a bad idea, I end up looking like a dandelion near death. Yet another reason the hippie look works for me, I’ve developed a bit of a headband collection of late.
  20. Stability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When I was a kid we moved around a lot and I wanted more than anything to just live in one place and be “normal.” But then I did it and I realized that what many consider normal, I consider stagnant. The only constant in life is change, embrace it.
  21. The world needs to know about artichokes! Les actually said this once we started cooking with artichokes. And with good reason, they are delicious especially on white pizza or a turkey and swiss sandwich.
  22. Find peace when and where you can. This sounds like hippie-dippie bullshit, but I’m not in it just for the clothes (although they are ridiculously comfortable and work for my body type). Adulting sucks sometimes, life gets hectic, and you have to find those little moments when your brain shuts up. Lately I’ve been taking a lunch out of the office once a week at a picnic area, I eat outside and listen to the birdies and just relax for a few minutes. Those little places, and moments, are important, even vital sometimes. It relates a bit to the quiet thing too.
  23. Amazon Prime is worth it, so is Costco. I did an Amazon Prime trial membership to get free shipping on something and then forgot to cancel it before the trial period ended. But instead of cursing myself and cancelling as soon as I could (which was my first instinct) I started using it for basic items. Not having to go to the store, with all the people publicking all over the place, would make it worth it even if the free shipping, music, and TV things didn’t. Costco for a similar reason, buying things in bulk makes for fewer trips which means less dealing with people.
  24. Jello is only worth it if it gets you wasted. I have been anti-Jello for most of my life. It has a weird texture, it defies the laws of physics, and Mormons are obsessed with adding weird shit to it that makes it even worse. But the other day Les and I were doing more cocktail experiments and we did pudding and Jello shots. Vodka makes Jello tolerable, and lime is the best.
  25. If you limit breakfast to traditional breakfast foods, or only eat breakfast foods at breakfast time, you’re missing out.
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    [email protected] made #Brinner, bitches!

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    I go through phases where I can’t stand anything sweet early in the day and on those days I love having tacos for breakfast. I have also had wonderful days that start with chocolate chip cookies and coffee. On the flip side eggs and hash at midnight is a wonderful thing after a long day.
  26. Family is what you make it, not what everyone else says it should be. Movies and TV and sappy paperback fiction, and every other one of these stupid ass lists will tell you that family is the most important thing in the world, or that you mom is always right and you’ll always need her. That’s because those things are generic and make people feel good. But the reality is not everyone’s family is good for them, not every mother is a good person, not all siblings are close. And that’s okay. You don’t have to have a storybook relationship with the people you grew up with. And if the people you’re related to aren’t who you need, it’s okay to have closer relationships with friends. This is something I’ve been learning my entire life, ever since I had to make a Mother’s Day card in 1st grade even though my mom was gone (I ended up addressing it to my dad). But Les has come to realize it in the last few years as well. You are under no obligation to have a close relationship with people you have nothing in common with just because you share DNA.
  27. Thrift stores are the best way to acquire stuff. Even though stuff sucks (see above), some things are necessary. After working in thrift stores for years, I have a really hard time paying the prices asked for new clothes. And the best stuff is the weird things you find mixed in with all the mismatched dishes and old electronics.
  28. Take advantage of the light.
    Languid Autumn Afternoon
    The sun was in the exact right spot to filter through the trees and give that perfect autumn glow. 10 minutes later and this photo would have just been a mediocre shot of a stream instead of one of my favorites that reminds me why I loved New York.

    I suppose I could make this one of those metaphorical things about life being short, but I mean it literally. Years of amateur photography and I’ve learned a few things: don’t take portraits for friends, turn the focus beep off for events, and take advantage of the light. If you look outside and see incredible light (happens a lot in Arizona right around sunset) use it, it can make an okay photo incredible.

  29. Stupid people are everywhere and always will be. In every place, in every situation, always, there are stupid people who ruin things. They don’t want to be taught any better, they won’t listen, they refuse to learn. And the best way to handle them is to accept their presence and work around it because it will never get any better. Ever.
  30. Ranting is good for the soul. I didn’t intend for this to be full of rants, and they aren’t ALL ranty, but I do tend to get on my soapbox from time to time (though I usually stew for a bit and mine are more thought out than Les’s). Every once in a while, getting a bunch of things off your chest and some good uninterrupted yelling or furious typing is good for you, as long as it isn’t uncontrolled anger.

So there you go. 30 things I’ve actually learned in the last 30 years, your mileage may vary.

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