Today is my 35th birthday, or... as my dad likes to put it, "half-way to 70." I don't really feel old, but my head and beard full of gray hair say differently. (Thanks again, Dad.)
If there is anything I have learned from getting older it's that at any individual point in the last 35 years I've known far less than I thought I did. Case in point: I once said that Oasis would be bigger than The Beatles. I know. The disappointment you are currently feeling towards me does not outweigh the shame I feel.
What's worse is that even though I feel like I have a somewhat good handle on things now, in another decade or two I will probably look back at 35-year-old me and think, "Wow, I really didn't know anything about anything back then. I can't believe I thought it was a good idea to write a list of things I thought I knew. Stupid 35-year-old John. You really shouldn't have written that list."
Oh well. Sorry future me. Here are 35 things I am fairly sure about as I turn 35. I'm probably wrong about at least a few of them. Feel free to tell me which ones!
- Cynicism and sarcasm make for good jokes, but kindness and sincerity make for better friends.
Don't be the person who tells other people why they shouldn't like what they like. Nobody likes that person. You'll learn far more from considering the possibility that you might be wrong than you ever will from insisting you were right. The majority of internet fights are dumb and unproductive -- even if you are right. Artisan ketchup is always horrible. Always. Never delete a picture of you and your kids because you don't like the way you look in it. In a few years you will like the way you look in it. I promise. Going to bed angry is fine once in a while. Politics don't matter nearly as much as you think they do, and they are never worth losing friends over. My career has never suffered from being very clear that my family is my top priority, but it has suffered from pretending they weren't. The secret to happiness in life is clean socks. No matter what size you are, buy clothes that fit you -- not clothes you wish fit you. If you are comfortable in your clothes, you look happier, and happy people are more attractive. If someone has hurt you, find a way to forgive them. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Sometimes my kids know more than me, if only because they see the world from the ground up. If Doritos sold their various flavors in bottles as seasoning I would probably be dead by now. There's no statute of limitation on apologies, but if you are expecting forgiveness you are apologizing for the wrong reason. Some foods make you happy while you are eating them. Some foods makes you happy when you're done. The best foods do both. Sometimes you should ignore your own advice and eat an entire pizza. No matter how right you think you are right now, 15 years from now you will be surprised by how wrong you were. You should probably avoid writing advice lists. Facetime isn't just an app on your iPhone. Go visit people. There is power in presence. Every conversation I have had while looking at a campfire or a horizon has been infinitely better than ones I've typed into a comment box. The facts are friendly. If a situation seems insurmountable, write down the facts. Everything is more manageable on paper. (Or Excel.) If the question is "Should I put this on the internet" the answer should almost always be "No." Not caring if you are cool is exponentially better than actually being cool. One, you worry less, and two, you get to carry your own personal bottle of hot sauce around in a fanny pack! Being pale and covered with sunscreen is better than getting cancer. You can learn how to do 95 percent of basic home repairs on YouTube. Everyone feels like they faked their way into a new job. Do your best, ask questions, and just keep trying. For the most part, doing anything for eight hours a day, five days a week, will make you good at it. Whenever possible, shut up and listen. Listen more than you talk. The smartest people I know also tend to be the quietest -- and when they do talk, everyone listens. There are few better gifts than music and gratitude. Buying expensive whisky is not a good strategy for getting yourself to drink less whisky. Marshmallow Mateys are much better than Lucky Charms. Don't flip people off while driving. Instead, use the "condescending thumbs up." Nothing tells someone they messed up better than a passive-aggressive thumbs up. Never... ever... make life decisions within five minutes of stubbing your pinky toe on a door frame. In fact, don't even talk to anyone. Just roll around on the floor and cry. If you see someone rolling around on the floor and crying while holding their pinky toe, "Are you OK?" is not the right thing to say. Nothing is the right thing to say. Just walk away and leave them to their world of pain. That is their life now. If you go into every day seeking out reasons to be mad, you will find them. Never be afraid to sing out loud, unless your windows are down.At the end of the day, you are the love you put into the world.
Bonus: This picture of me in first grade.
One last note on perspective. I remember thinking when this picture was taken that I was the coolest kid in the world. For years afterward, I hid the picture away, embarrassed not only by my ridiculous mullet and suit coat, but also in the confidence I had placed in my coolness. It is only now, 30+ years later, that I am able to realize how awesome I actually was. I may be old and fat and bearded and gray now, but I will always have a ridiculous mullet of happiness in my soul. And that makes me happy no matter what age I am.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad. You can also find him pretending to know things on Facebook and Twitter.