23 things i learned in 23 years
for my birthday I want to be preachy
As it has been written in the great texts, “the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.” On Sunday I will turn 23, which is the age at which Isaac Newton invented calculus, so I suppose anything could happen. Someone recently DMed me on LinkedIn asking if I had any advice (“about what?” I asked, to which she replied “anything”), which prompted me to look back on my own meandering experience and compile some trite aphorisms and pieces of guidance. None of this advice is scientific or particularly unique, but hey, perhaps you will glean something.
Get a world map shower curtain and learn where every country is
If you’re not sure if you should buy a clothing item, ask yourself if you would like to wear it that exact day. If you don’t want to immediately put it on, you should hold off.
Everyone in the entire world is an expert on something. The challenge is finding out what it is.
Learning any new skill — guitar, chess, SQL, snowboarding, Adobe Premiere Pro, calculus, whatever — requires you to first be very very bad at it. There’s no way this was tricky for anyone else!!!! I must be an idiot!!!!!, you’ll think every single time
Next time you want to catch up with a pal, ask them if you can join them on their errands. I think it’s a really wholesome way to hang
I talk to strangers in public a lot and I think we went way too hard on the “stranger danger” thing in the 90s. The whole world is full of friends you have yet to meet.
If you feel viscerally upset, you should wait a day until you send a message or start the conversation. You never regret not sending a snarky text!!!
One time I read that you should find the smartest person in the class, sit next to them, study with them, and mimic their best habits. I tried it in a college chemistry class and it totally worked (I got an A and a really close friend)
You can take community college classes for a few hundred dollars per semester, which is a mind-blowingly reasonable price to pay for community, quality teaching, and an organized jaunt through a new subject. I recently took African American literature and I’m thinking about doing night class in animation. Or maybe world history
Before every semester in college, I’d get a pit in my stomach and think that I was going to have too much on my plate but it was always fine. Sometimes when you feel a little stuck, you can add a new commitment to your schedule to make you even more intentional about your leisure time
I like having lists in my notes app for words I didn’t know, good phrases I read, fun facts, inside jokes with certain friends. They always say the sharpest pencil remembers better than the dullest mind
I don’t know about you, but I practically never feel truly ready for new projects, which is why I have to start before I’m ready and learn on my feet. Start it! Start it today!
Dumpster diving is usually legal and sometimes very fruitful. Check behind grocery stores and drug stores (CVS is known to be a jackpot) for packaged items that didn’t survive the store’s regular shelf cleanout. You tap into the hunter-gatherer instinct and cut down on waste, a win-win!
The internet is the most fun when you upload as much as you download, when you post and comment instead of just endlessly scrolling. Sometimes you forget you’re a person when all you do is consume consume consume
If you’re at a crossroads in life and you have the option to move somewhere cool, I think you should try it. Especially if you can move back
I don’t know how to practically apply the oft-prescribed advice to “be myself” or to “follow my dreams” because I am both constantly changing and perpetually unsure of what I want. But I do really like this quote I heard a few years ago on the Casually Explained Youtube channel: “Oftentimes it seems like there are a million things you could be doing but nothing is just right. You have to get started before you know exactly where you’re going. The goals that you set aren’t always destinations, but they are directions. You can never know what you’ll find if you’re only looking from where you are right now. If anything, try something new if only to prove that it’s not the right choice.”
If you have a task you’re absolutely dreading, set time goals instead of achievement goals. “Today I’ll spend 40 minutes on my project” is more palatable than “today I’ll finish the first page.”
Being an unapologetic internet reply guy for people you professionally admire will get you so far
This is rather obvious, but sometimes I forget that stepping outside and taking deep breaths is the most surefire way to calm down. A mile run snaps me out of any bad mood
Your neighbors are some of the most important people to have on your side and usually all you have to do to win them over is bring them a snack and a nice little note
Ten years ago, I read on Tumblr that you can snap yourself out of a funk by creating your own holiday and since then I’ve planned an Annie day once a year or so… whenever I’m feeling weird. Spend a few minutes imagining the perfect day you could possibly have and then pick an upcoming date (ideally 3-7 days in the future). For me, the holiday involves a short-ish morning run to good music, a productive workday, fun beverages like boba and kombucha, dinner or trivia with friends, beer tasting, learning a new board game, maybe working on personal projects). You spend a few days preparing for the day and then you make it happen, milking your sixteen waking hours for all they’re worth. Every time I do this, I realize that I already know what lifestyle tweaks will make my life demonstrably better, and most of them are things I can implement more often
Keep your eyes open for cool Craigslist gigs. Some of the best memories of my entire life are from the year I lived in Chicago doing Americorps with practically no disposable income or social obligations. Every weekend I would scour Craigslist for interesting gigs and I felt like I really got to know the city in an odd, beautiful, John Wilson-y way. I was the witness at a courthouse wedding, I gave away free energy drink samples outside yoga classes, I helped (so many) people move, I walked dogs, and I read poker cards for a blind guy who liked to gamble.
The thing you’ve been putting off for two months always takes like nine minutes. I recently opened a Roth IRA through Charles Schwab because someone hotasked me about my retirement savings and I didn’t want to seem like a complete idiot in front of this financially literate love interest
Oops, I’m already past 23. I might as well remind you to have good dental hygiene
I still live in LA for the winter and I’ve been filling my life with various great things, including (but not limited to) the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, breakfast burritos, homemade kombucha, Wikipedia editing evenings, Bob Dylan’s 2004 Victoria’s Secret ad, morning walks at my new treadmill desk, Chessguessr (it’s like Wordle but for chess moves), an audiobook about the life of Einstein (I’m at the part where he falls in love with his cousin… juicy!), this Calvin and Hobbes search engine that lets you search by keywords, vintage cocktail recipe books, the weird conversation starters on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tumblr, and my cat.
Anyway, thanks for subscribing. I smile whenever I see your comments and likes and replies. I should mention that I still have upcoming Depths of Wikipedia comedy shows in Philly (12/8), Boston (12/9), Washington DC (12/11), NYC (12/13 and 12/14), Pittsburgh (12/16) and Salt Lake City 1/24 and I’d love to see you there <3
Many happy returns!
I love the world map shower curtain idea. I would add this: learn as much of the history of those countries as you can. When I was your age, and younger, I rather eschewed history as "just a bunch of dead white males" with no import upon my life. Much later, in my 50s in fact, I was reading (or trying to read) a history of the Crusades. I was coming at it (rightly I think) from the point of view of an antiimperialist antifascits mindset, but I realized in reading it that I had no foundation about how the world had come to the point it had. I decided that I had been wrong about the importance of history, and set out to learn something about the whole mess.
I started with the Greeks and Romans, read the classical historians, and pushed on for over 20 years grabibing as much non-Eurocentric stuff as I could find along the way. I found that reading Herodotus was far more enlightening than watching "300" and a lot more fun.
One more thing: Nietzche (I think it was he) was wrong about "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger." What doesn't kill you makes you weaker and easier to kill next time. Take care of your body, treat it with respect and remember that it's the only home you'll ever have. I'm not saying you shouldn't take chances, but I am saying that those things that are condsidered vices usually have their reputations deservedly. 50 years from now you'll be glad that you were temperate in your youth. Was I temperate in my youth?
Hell no. Regrets? Nope.
I absolutely love talking to strangers! and my preferred means of telling people I professionally admire that I admire them is sending emails - if there's anything I've learned from 23 years it is that the writing I most enjoy doing is the writing for one person in particular, where the stakes are low and you know they'll get the references. also love world geography facts because trivia is fun :)