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25,000 Days

in hammock

On July 8, my body’s odometer went over 25,000 days. When life’s dial flipped to that number, I woke with wonder and thought, once again, that I probably should have changed the oil more often. The joints are pretty creaky these days.

But I’m grateful because not everyone is blessed with so many days in a life, and most of mine have been joyous. I’ve tried to learn something new on each of them, and I thought I’d share a short list of what life has taught me so far:

  1. When you’re a kid, be a kid. Take off the training wheels a week earlier than is comfortable. Do jerky things you’ll probably cringe at in later years. Those are the things you’ll remember most.
  2. In this business, no one really takes you seriously until you’re thirty.
  3. Nothing really significant will happen for you in this business until you’re forty.
  4. When you’re sixty in this business, you’ll either be respected or you’ll be that old fool that they laugh at. There’s no in between. It’s up to you which way this will go. Decide early on.
  5. It pays to listen more than you talk.
  6. Read every day. It doesn’t matter what you read. Just read.
  7. Don’t text and walk. There are cars and open manholes out there.
  8. Turn down the volume when you’re young so you’ll still be able to hear when you’re old. I wish I had known this back then.
  9. If you’re going to tell someone that you will love, honor, and respect them until death do you part, keep that promise. Or don’t make the promise in the first place.
  10. And how you keep that promise is to put that other person ahead of yourself in everything that you do, no matter what.
  11. When a friend is in trouble, the only acceptable thing to say is, “How can I help?”
  12. Never ever ask a woman when she’s due.
  13. If someone tells you that you’re an idiot, consider that they may be correct.
  14. Kids come with date codes and are as perishable as milk.
  15. Wine is better than whiskey because wine makes you mellow. Whiskey makes you believe that you have the answers to everything, and that you really need to share that knowledge with everyone else. And right now.
  16. Writer's block visits only people who are not paying attention.
  17. Don’t park your work truck in front of a gentlemen’s club, even if you’re working in there.
  18. Don’t tailgate cars with your work truck.
  19. Don’t put any stickers that have to do with politics on your work truck.
  20. Show up.
  21. Volunteer.
  22. Pick up the tab when it’s your turn, and even when it’s not your turn from time to time.
  23. If you’re watching the game and your kid wants to watch Daniel Tiger, change the channel to Daniel Tiger. And don’t get up and leave the room. You can learn a lot from Daniel Tiger.
  24. What you don’t spend on vacations you will spend on doctors. Look around and try to tell me that’s not one of the truest things there is.
  25. If you’re not good at something by the time you’re 30 you’re probably never going to be good at it. Move on to something else.
  26. Always ask the docent if you can go in the basement to see how they heat the old place. Most of the time they’ll say no, but ask anyway.
  27. Walk more; drive less.
  28. Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
  29. People don’t smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes smoke people.
  30. Don’t look at your phone when someone is talking to you.
  31. It pays to clip magazine articles and file them by topic.
  32. Research is oak; Search is veneer.
  33. The greatest gift of a long marriage is the common memory. Words become unnecessary.
  34. Chores are gender-neutral.
  35. Never go to sleep angry with your partner, even if you have to stay up all night. And you probably will have to stay up all night.
  36. If you’re wrong, admit it. The saddest people I have ever met were not able to do this one simple thing.
  37. Call your parents.
  38. Thank a teacher.
  39. Talk to strangers.
  40. Take 10-minute naps during the day.
  41. Have something to do when you retire. If you don’t have something to do you’re going to be insufferable.
  42. If you’re saving for your old age, decide what age that is and then spend the money.
  43. Make your kids work for things. Those things will mean more to them when they have to earn them.
  44. Know that people will better understand anything technical if you gift-wrap it in stories.
  45. No one ever complained about an explanation being too simple.
  46. If your waiter tells you the plate is very hot, don’t touch it.
  47. Ride more carousels. Every carousel has a lead horse. Find it and show a kid what makes that horse special. Oh, and know that carousels go counter-clockwise and that Merry-Go-Rounds go clockwise. To see a Merry-Go-Round, you’ll have to go to England.
  48. Heat doesn’t rise. Hot air does.
  49. If you buy cheap, you’re going to buy the same thing more times than if you bought not-so-cheap. Cheap is expensive.
  50. If you buy a high-efficiency refrigerator, you’re going to put the old, low-efficiency refrigerator in your garage to keep the beers cold. So much for high-efficiency.
  51. Mark Twain wrote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” I smile at the wisdom of those words, but I also know that my parents made mistakes, and so did I. I think we both learned from those mistakes. You can’t be human and not make mistakes. Learn.
  52. Put the seat down.
  53. Make your bed each morning. It’s a neat way to bookmark your days.
  54. Say I love you without using words.
  55. And along those lines, sometimes, it pays to just keep your mouth shut. I am a man of many opinions. I’ve come to have so many of them because I generally don’t give them away unless someone asks for one. Most people don’t ask; they’d rather give me theirs, so I have a lot of opinions, and I’ve been saving them for years. That’s where the stories come from.
  56. In this business, or any business, it pays to read and reread Southern Pacific, Carl Sandberg’s small pearl of a poem about Huntington and Blithery and their six-foot-long houses. Reading it puts life into perspective. Go read it now. You’ll worry less as your odometer turns.
  57. And finally, I’ve learned that editors are always write. (Gosh, I hope Jen leaves that one just as it is.)

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