20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

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(E circa 1997)

Dear P,

Good morning, P! Today I am 20! I have entered into a new decade and the future looks very bright. To help myself to embark upon this new adventure of adulthood I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned so far. A lot of these may seem like oft-repeated platitudes, but I don’t care, because:

1. Things are repeated for a reason.

AND *drumroll* the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far is:

2. All you need is love.

And here are the 19 runner-ups, one for every year I was measured in more than months:

3. Change is hard, but our brains crave it. Also, it’s inevitable, so you might as well embrace it.

4. If you’re in a bad mood, run, eat, sleep, and laugh. Not necessarily in that order.

5. Even though there’s always going to be stuff in your way, like brothers, hunger, and homework, keep creating. It adds up over time.

6. People really just want you to listen to them and reinforce their right to feel and think things. This is the key to most human interaction.

7. Loss aversion messes with your mind in a lot of ways. You started with nothing. You will return to nothing. Try to worry less about losing the stuff you gain in between times.

8. Shame kills the living. Watch this video by Brené Brown to learn more about the harmful effects of shame in our lives. Push through it and be vulnerable, friends.

9. Most people act first and then justify their actions. For example, if you give someone a pencil, you will be likely to think that they’re a cool person, because you gave them a pencil and you’re an excellent judge of character. If you didn’t do your homework, it was stupid and your teacher is ridiculous anyway. Moderate for this tendency in yourself and take advantage of it in others.

10. A lot of things that are supposed to be fun are not actually very fun. Don’t be disappointed. Cherish and recognize things that are fun.

11. Gratitude is the only way to stop from comparing yourself to others and start living a happy life.

12. If you decide to skip piano, soccer, or horseback-riding lessons, your kids will be fine. A parent can definitely mess a kid up, but constant, exhausting over-stimulation is just stressful for the both of you and doesn’t benefit your kid in the end. If your kid doesn’t love something, it’s all right if you don’t continue it. Listen to your kid to see what he or she wants to do. My parents gave me the gift of autonomy from a young age and it’s the reason I’m the person I am today.

13. Humans learn through stories. Your memory is very efficient- it gets rid of boring information. Stories are not boring. Tie everything into a story.

14. Don’t constrain yourself according to limitations that do not yet exist. For example, do not put a damper on your career ambitions because you want to have kids. This hearkens back to number twelve: the imaginary kids are going to be fine.

15. Don’t listen to people who criticize our generation. They would probably be singing a different tune if they were in the thick of it. Today’s twenty-year-olds have skills and mindsets that our parents lacked. We understand social media, and how to portray ourselves through the internet. We understand that we can communicate and sell to people all over the world: we don’t need a middleman organize things for us. We, the generation that evolved the internet, know that we are in charge of our own destinies, and all the responsibility and risk that goes along with that statement. We were seven when Clinton lied about his infidelity, nine during 9/11, fifteen in the ’08 crash, and seventeen when Bernie Madoff was revealed as a fraud. It’s pretty hard to pull one over on us. We’re an interesting mix of the cynical and optimistic, and we’re going to change the world in ways not imaginable now.

16. Rules don’t always exist for a reason. Sometimes it’s just because people are too lazy to change them. Don’t follow stupid rules, stated or implied.

17. People are going to judge you for what you wear no matter what you wear. Therefore, wear what you want.

18. Chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac, pain-killer, and elevates serotonin levels. Eat dark chocolate throughout your day. It helps your brain’s reward system work at it’s maximum potential.

19. Eat breakfast. Also, Benjamin Franklin was right most of the time. His autobiography comes highly recommended.

20. Reading can help you become a better person, but a lot of people are not able to read with their eyes. Listening to books on tape, watching documentaries and listening to lectures are just as valuable. My man Ben Foss invented the intel reader, a device that reads out loud when put over a page. His book also comes highly recommended. Never talk down to someone who listened to a book on tape: just because they learn differently than you doesn’t make them less intelligent.

It was lovely skyping with you this morning. I love you loads and I’m so glad you’re here to weather the next couple of decades with me. I’m going to go watch Wilco and Kings of Leon at ACL now.

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Hugs and kisses,

E

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