I celebrated my 40th birthday last week.
Let’s let that sink in for a second.
(Right now all I can picture is Joey from friends screaming about Chandler getting older – “Why God??? WHYYYYYY?”).
Anyway, I’ve been asked by lots of people how that makes me feel. Honestly? I’m not really sure. The number sounds like quite a bit more than 39. However, it’s really not. And I don’t really feel any different than I did years ago.
There’s always a but, isn’t there? That but is: there are naturally things I look back on and think, “I wish I’d done that differently.”
With that in mind, I’d like to share some things I’d tell myself on my 30th birthday (if the technology existed. Wouldn’t that be some freaky-ass technology!).
1. Stretch that Body
So you might be thinking this is like a metaphor for something (like stretch my imagination or something equally cheesy).
Alas, No. No deeper meaning.
Since I’ve been in my 20s, I’ve been told by numerous doctors, “How are you so inflexible for being so athletic?” They were seriously baffled. I’m like a medical marvel. I mean, this is me trying to touch my toes:
And this is sitting Indian Style:
My flexiblity has been so awful, I’ve been lectured and lectured that it would end up injuring me. Unfortunately, I never did anything about it because, in my 20s, stretching never made me feel any different.
Fast forward to today. One back surgery later, I’m finally realizing how my flexibility has caused a ripple effect through my body. I’d love to go back in time and start stretching at age 30 just to see how different my spine and crap would be now.
Don’t worry too much about me, though. I’m a muscular specimen. It’s just that I’d reach Adonis status if I’d stretched. For real! Why do I hear laughing?
2. Stop Eating Out 80 Times a Day
Soooooooo… Fun fact about me. During the 13 years I lived in Dallas, I ate out Every. Single. Meal.
Yep. Every meal. Every day. My fridge never had more than beer in it.
Why? I don’t know. I guess that, growing up poor, eating out was always a big deal in our family. And I associated having fun with eating out.
Also, doing dishes sucks butt.
Why is that such a problem? Well, I typically ate at nice places. Lots of Thai food, lots of queso at every Mexican place in the metroplex, and more Thai food. At every restaurant, I always had to try appetizers and drinks and desserts.
If you add up the cost of two expensive meals a day (I never ate breakfast) for 13 years…well…here are some fun facts to show the amount:
A. If you stack up all the money after eating out for 13 years, it’s taller than 4 Empire State Buildings.
B. If you line the money up, it’s as long as the Great Wall of China.
C. If you take that money and use it for a Sabbatical, it will get you by for 4 years.
That last fact is probably a bit more relevant. But they’re all true! I have a degree in math to prove it!
I fell into a self-made trap in my late 20s and early 30s. I guess I inherently thought that I knew what I wanted from life and that my self conscious would just take me in the right direction.
Never did I stop and ask myself, “Is this making me happy? And, if not, what can I do to change things?”
Then, I ended up getting promoted and promoted which led me more into that line of thinking (that I was on the right track).
I know I’ve mentioned my walks and self-introspection a bunch of times, but I can’t stress how important it’s been. I’d love to tell myself to take some time each week to really examine where I was feeling a lack of fulfillment (job, emotional, lack of Thai food) and address it.
4. Create and Junk
I’ve actually written a few things in my early 30s. I completed a stage play and a handful of short stories. When Mom died, I wrote a series of stories about her life and sent them to family as Christmas presents. I also did a few plays and things like that.
But it wasn’t near enough. I could have done so much more.
Why didn’t I? Well, this is why:
5. Put Yourself Out There
I think, of all the things on the list, this is perhaps the most important. Or at least it is today. Tomorrow, I’ll be all like “Why didn’t I stretch more!?” But for now, this has been a huge impediment in my life.
See, I’m pretty used to succeeding in life. I did great in school and college. My job really liked me and gave me tons of opportunities. I’m fairly talented at different stuff.
Please know that I’m not saying all this to be bragging. It’s actually led me into a really awful, insecure habit.
I was so used to succeeding and winning that I pulled away from opportunities that might have led me to failure. I didn’t sing in public because of my terror at missing a note or sounding awful. I didn’t let anyone (other than very close friends/family) read any of my stuff because I was so scared they’d hate it. I never auditioned for plays for fear of looking stupid.
In summary, I didn’t put myself out there because I didn’t want people to see me as a failure.
Talk about a terrible, terrible thing. Who knows how many opportunities I’ve missed because I was too scared to try??
I admit I still suffer from this “failure to look bad” thing. But I’ve identified it and am really working on it. Hell, I put out a couple very mediocre singing videos and haven’t pulled them yet, so I’ll consider that progress. Yeah!