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last night at 41, a tub lecture

I'm eating Thai food in the tub, courtesy of bffs. We've known each other since high school and are basically the same, except with slightly broader color palettes, less patience, and more wrinkles.

I would describe myself as crotchety and wiser, a creaky veteran of life and all shapes and sizes of b.s. Here's how that feels: like being a grown-ass adult who has now made a daily "ritual" of self-help podcasts. Not because it feels like a fun idea or because I need more things to do with my time, but so I can be kinder to myself and others --- I hope.

This is my last night of being 41 years old and I'm going to tell you something about what I've learned, something to pass on to the young people:

1. First things first — you don't know shit, and that’s because you haven't had much life yet. Why do you think we look like this? It's because we've been on the goddamn spin cycle, and it's possible we're only halfway through this rodeo, which is exciting and terrifying in equal parts.

2. Confidence is hard-won. It's earned by showing up and figuring things out that you admit you don't know. Over and over again. Forever.

3. It seems like intervals of play and rest need to be factored into the above, but that's something I'm still figuring out.

4. One good thing is that humans seem to be evolving with each new generation being further along than the one before. And yet, a nagging sense of despondency is felt more deeply and earlier in life, even within relatively more "protected" environments, intergenerationally.

So, youths of the world, if you can manage to do anything besides throw up your hands, sleep all day and play video games all night, I have high hopes. And if you feel personally attacked by this example, the next part is for you:

We need you to tip the balance in a new direction. Obviously, we screwed everything up — our fathers, forefathers, and theirs before them. But there was also love and gargantuan effort. Somehow we're still here—this particular assembly of atoms and nerves, the sum of every person before us, through all humanity and everything before that in the totality of time. Here's your chance!

The duality is that you can only feel and experience anything as far in one direction as you can in the other. So choose your own adventure: a life of carefully planned constraints or one where challenge is, in many ways, an invitation. But...

At some point, our elasticity after ignoring sleep, food, and energy stores wanes. Time makes us more selective in how and where we spend our waking hours and who with. All the tenacity of tactical defense, basic survival or proving a point, feels better spent discovering or creating alternatives.

In the words of Mary Oliver, "what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?"


My two adult children are now bouncing around the globe, living their own lives in their own ways. The youngest of 3 is headstrong and self-aware 8-year-old. We finally have a child who says YES to a life of wild adventure, where her brothers weren’t (at least at first) so sure. I’m excited for her…afraid and excited in equal parts.


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