Yes, I have had mashed potatoes instead of a cake for my birthday.
Doing what makes sense for you is the general message of this post.
Once you tick off all the formally important birthdays – those end at 18 or 21 – it is all open for you to give meaning to them… For the last few year I just troll around, ask for birthday candles in potato purée and make list posts. I started this blog shortly after turning 29 and kept it focused on fashion – and without a birthday post – for my 30th birthday.
For my 32nd I wrote about my childhood dream: I wanted to be a fashion designer…
For my 33st I’m ready to preach again! So here we go, this is what I’ve learnt so far:
1. What now feels important and cool will most likely be an embarrassing memory in 10 years time, maybe sooner.
2. Meanwhile, you will observe other people going through exactly the same growing pains and cycles. You cannot do anything to save them from themselves. It is their time to be that naive and idealistic – or that much of a narcissistic asshole – let them enjoy it And, yes, the temptation to scorn their idiocy is very real. If you can resist that, give yourself a golden star, you are a good person… and tell me how.
3. Guard your information inputs ferociously and consciously. As you should know by now, I try to apply the Conan Doyle logic: “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. […] It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
4. At the same time there has to be a free space to fill with something supposedly unrelated but exciting. Those intuitive and seemingly random paths of learning are the best ones.
5. Unfollow everybody and then actively chose to follow back only the people whose content delights you. It is not easy, I know. But that has been an extremely successful strategy for me, especially for Facebook. You simultaneously make your feed so short there is no place to get lost and you filter out so much unwanted input. And you get a reality check to realize how little attention your posts most probably get and why. I still struggle to do it properly for Instagram, though… Go back to Odell and the fact that your attention is extremely valuable, guard it like an angry dragon.
6. When you chose to reflect your ethics in your consumption, own the fact that most probably the more ethical alternatives you are opting for are functionally inferior to the ‘originals’. Own it and embrace it because a vegan who claims that eggs, cow’s milk, wool or leather do not have some properties that take them beyond the alternatives is just delusional.
7. Never settle for the wrong size bra – or shoes – just because you had decided to buy some today. If you have discovered your brand, your model, your size, invest in tracking it down and buying several.
8. Wheat lasagna noodles will be fine without pre-boiling as long as you have enough sauce. That is not the case with the gluten-free lasagna noodles… I would recommend not to engage with those anyway unless you really really have to.
9. Fill your freezer! Frozen bread, veggies, fruit, or whatever counts as your basics but in a frozen form can really get you out of a tight spot, be it a lazy evening, a snowstorm or end-of-a-month.
10. “Dry clean only” is mostly a lie. A tepid sink wash and a mild detergent can fix it for you. Often these actually turn out to be machine washable but proceed with caution.
11. While we are on washing, you are most likely washing too often and too hot. Assume cold or 30º as your baseline and make your garments and linen first beg for a wash, and then make an even stronger case if they want to have hotter water. It is one of my pet causes on this blog too: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough + Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed.
12. Much of our cultural heritage is based on so faulty premises that they are laughable. Decent communication would preclude most romantic comedies and tragedies, starting with the fucking Romeo and Juliet. Assuming that healthcare is a right precludes Breaking Bad and so many others. And don’t get me started about religion and religious imagery…
13. Identify your basics for wellbeing and plan accordingly. Some of these are universal and some are very particular, of course. I need my freshly washed hair, my rooibos, dental floss, notebooks, fountain pen + ink, and fresh fruit.
14. In the same vein, being an adult means admitting that you are just not into some activities. These might be permanent or fleeting, new discoveries or finally admitting to something you knew all along. Just to begin my list, I’m not into hikes, endurance sports, mass gatherings, big parties, clubbing, being surrounded by small children or teenagers, boat trips, getaway trips with a random set of acquaintances, sleeping in tents and any sleeping experiences where I cannot freely pee at least couple of times per night without bothering anybody else.
15. Savings are very good. Obviously and circularly, there are, of course, structural barriers to achieve having those for exactly the people who need financial stability the most. But if you can, stash away some money. Few things provide such calm and comfort as knowing you just have enough for a while. In the first months of 2020 I seriously cried about money for the first time in my life. It is not fun. Starting to get restless about all your savings just lying around and looking for investment opportunities is the next step, and I don’t have any sound advice on that yet.
16. All role models will disappoint you if you take them as whole and in earnest. And, the more you idealize somebody, the bigger the disappointment will be. Pick and choose aspects, accomplishments, details, never the whole person.
17. Spiral notebooks are crap and have no place in my life. And never-ever-what-so-ever a spiral-bound agenda. That shit does not last.
18. Only bibliographical rarities are worth acquiring (and keeping) in paper. Audiobooks and e-books all the way, baby.
19. And most of what they call books these days is such supreme crap anyhow… It is astonishing what gets edited and put out there as if worthy of being called a book. See point 3 about information inputs.
20. Don’t believe any of the ‘100 best’, ‘must see’, ‘read before you die’ lists. Discover your own. That stuff is a mix of statistical artifacts, i.e. the average most loved novel or movie, and a reflection of the taste of the people who have been dominating the cultural canon for the last couple of centuries: white upper middle class Anglo-Saxon men. If you start a ‘classic’ and it doesn’t speak to you – or you find yourself actively loathing it – abandon it and move on with confidence. Yes, even if by all sociodemographic indicators or friendly/algorithmic suggestions you are expected to love it.
21. Enjoy entertainment. Culture can be consumed just for the fun of it. It also can be your little secret without telling it all your followers.
22. Be kind to your body. It is doing amazing things for you. Move it. Give it sleep and good fuel. Take your supplements. You probably need so much more vitamin D than you are getting. And fiber. You are probably already getting too much protein, though, so leave that discourse behind, please. And try to be kind to it despite all the toxic crap regarding the ideal bodies that you are bombarded with.
23. If you are vegan or anyplace else on the Ⓥ spectrum, take your fucking B12. Your brain will thank you.
24. For those who feel the weight of all the current crises on our own shoulders, Stop Trying To Save The World All By Yourself.
25. Shots are never a good idea unless that is the whole setup from the get-go, such as ‘we will do vodka + blini’ or ‘tacos + tequila dinner today’. And don’t be the idiot who orders a bunch of shots at a bar and insists that other people who never asked for any shots in their life drink them.
26. While we are on toxic substances, the whole mixology revival just horrifies me. If I would want a whole load of sugar, a mysterious mix of various alcohols and egg-white foam on top of it… Yep, I have never wanted that… Wait, no, I did, but then I turned 21.
27. So, know your favorite drugs and stick to them. Also, with all the food fads and lifestyles going around, keep in mind that giving something up for the lent or to test mild gluten or lactose intolerance, or just giving up sugar or processed foods or caffeine or alcohol for a significant time will often mean that you will either have to train your body back to using that substance (which will probably be unpleasant) or kiss it bye-bye forever and suffer any time you forgot or fell for the temptation. It’s one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ things…
28. Yes, hangovers will keep getting more horrible. But ‘no, I’m not into this’ and ‘no, thanks, I’m good’ also get more acceptable with age. If the people around you press for a reason or shove those above-mentioned shots in your direction, you can always just say that you are on antibiotics (for an ear infection, for example) and then stop hanging out with those assholes.
29. A fun thing to observe: I sometimes catch myself thinking all the child-typical fantasies about things I could do – ice-cream for lunch, staying up all night and sleeping all day, not cleaning anything ever, just traveling all the time without a permanent home – and how they are not appealing at all now that I could do that.
30. Accept that much of your aesthetic tastes have been already formed and solidified long time ago. That’s why in my case ‘look at all the horrible things people wore in 2000s’ clickbait will always look better than the newer stuff. Even if you have stopped wearing / listening / watching those things, they made you who you are. Yes, Avril Lavigne and Blink-182 included. Yes, also Spice Girls, Britney Spears and Limp Bizkit.
31. Your first wrinkles will tell you what kind of person you have been so far. Most likely, those won’t be pleasant news.
32. When older people tell you are very mature for your age, especially if you are a girl and they are men 5 or more years older than you, it is them who are not mature enough for their age. Run away as fast as you can!
33. Things change. The current status quo of your priorities, social circles, bodily ability, income, etc. is very fleeting. It just is. Sometimes you will look back and won’t recognize that person. Sometimes you will not recognize the person you are becoming. Breathe and shrug.
How about you? Any good advice for my next “now that I’m turning 35” wisdom list?