I’m turning 30 years old tomorrow.
I’ll be as old as the 30 Years’ War!
It’s interesting thinking about the past–back to when I was turning 20. I was a brash college kid who thought he was better than most people and smarter than everyone.
I’ve changed. A lot. Because I certainly don’t think I’m smarter than anyone. I just feel like I’m BSing my way through life sometimes. Perhaps that’s just what everyone does. I certainly don’t have it figured out.
In the past ten years, I’ve graduated college, gotten married, had children, helped start a website, figured out what I wanted to do with my career-life, and worked many jobs.
In questing terms (I am, after all, a big RPG fan), my twenties were just the beginning of a greater journey. I’ve learned to cast Magic Missile with ease; now, I need to level up into throwing Lightning Bolt around. Or something. /nerd.
So maybe that’s why, in terms of the stereotypical-I’m-turning-30 freakout, I’m not freaking out at all. Of course, once you’ve had kids, you basically just feel tired all the time.
Anyway, here are some things I’ve learned in my 20s. I may not practice these lessons 100% of the time, but when I do, things go way better for me.
1.) Drop the cynicism.
Life is tough. There are so many times when something bad will happen in my life, and I’ll just have to shrug at my wife and say, “It’s always something.” And it is. I own a home; stuff is breaking all the time. And I don’t know always know how to fix it. I’ve learned, though, that a jaded negativity towards everything doesn’t help the situation.
Cynicism seems to pervade our digital lives. You can’t watch a YouTube video about a kitten jumping on a trampoline without the comments section being full of racism, sexism, and grammar-deficient morons. Cable news channels bombard you with everything bad that is going on (or spin things to seem worse than they actually are). It’s easy to get down.
I’m going to tell you, however, that there is happiness in the little things: going for a walk, eating some ice cream, listening to the birds chirp, enjoying a taco, making a three-pointer, swinging on a swing set. Life is full of small, wonderful things.
Cynicism, by contrast, is grating. It’s anti-good. It’s quick to take offense, and it’s quick to anger.
Being kind is more difficult, but I think you’ll get farther by being kind than succumbing to cynicism. (And this is coming from a guy that worked retail for a long, long time.)
2.) You don’t deserve anything
When I got out of college, I thought that an awesome job would be awaiting me when I entered the real world. I was wrong, and that was even before the recession hit! I was angry for a long time; I thought that because of my (mediocre) work in college, I deserved something great. After all, that’s what I was told so often during my childhood: Go to college; do anything.
I once had a job I loved. And I got laid off from it because they couldn’t pay me. I was depressed because I KNEW that I deserved that job. I was funny, wrote well, and always met my deadlines.
I quickly learned that people don’t always get what they deserve…for better or for worse. However, I also figured out that deciding what you want to do with your life, making a plan, and then working hard at that plan is the best way to get what you want.
It was a few years ago that I decided that I wanted to work in the tabletop games industry. I love gaming. I wish I could do it more, but I want to help create something that brings joy to people.
So, I made a plan. And I’m working toward that plan. I’m not there yet, but I’ve made progress. Even working hard, I might not get that success; I don’t deserve it, certainly. However, that isn’t going to stop me. I’ll keep trying my best. And really, working hard on a project and finishing it well is a reward unto itself.
3.) Listen and understand.
I’m still pretty bad at this, but I’m trying to do better. Listening is a unique skill. Many people can hear what someone is saying, but few people can truly listen and understand what someone is saying. When you listen, you are forced to give attention to the person who is speaking. Attention is a powerful thing.
It’s easy to get distracted. My phone will buzz at an inopportune moment, or I’ll be watching something on TV when my wife wants to talk to me. However, when I truly listen to someone without distraction by focusing my full attention, I find that it makes me a better person. People are quicker to tell me things. I find myself being better at anticipating how people will react to certain things after I’ve truly listened.
My wife can attest that I’m not great at this. However, I’m trying, babe. I really am.
4.) Play games
My daughter is one-year old and has been playing games for months. She’ll cover her head with a blanket and will leave her face covered until I say something along the lines of, “Where is the baby!?” at which point, she’ll uncover her head and giggle.
You’re never too young or too old to play a game. Whether it’s something simple like “Cops and Robbers” or something more complex like soccer, basketball, or even Settlers of Catan, games are awesome.
And games are good for you! Want to be better at multi-tasking, making decisions, being more social, or being more creative? Play a game! And obviously there are physical benefits as well to playing games in the form of sports.
Don’t have time to play games with other people? That’s fine. There are studies that indicate that even certain video games are good for you, too.
Want to relieve stress and be a better person? Play some games.
“Moderation” has been my soapbox for a long time, now. I try not to go overboard even with things I love and can be good for me. The old saying “Too much of a good thing is not” is something I’ve found to be absolutely true. It’s easy to dedicate too much time to hobbies, or work, or play, or anything.
If you can avoid obsessing too much over something, I think you’ll find your life to be much more harmonious.
I used to work at GameStop. I’ve seen people who have made video gaming their lifestyle. I’ve seen people who can’t make plans with their friends because they have to put in “video game time.” I’ve seen people who have made a lifestyle out of sports. Or drinking. Or any number of things that aren’t necessarily bad when they are taken in moderation.
6.) There are no guilty pleasures. There are just pleasures.
Sometimes, I like pop music. I bought a Demi Lovato album once because it was $3. It’s not great. But, it’s fun to mindlessly sing along with. She has a set of pipes.
I like frozen pizza. Some people couldn’t imagine putting that mess in their mouths. I think it’s delicious. Not all the time. But, sometimes.
What I’m saying is that you’re going to like things that people might make fun of you over. I get mocked for playing Halo 4, sometimes (even though it still sold a butt-load of copies, so other people MUST be playing it). People think it’s funny that I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons within the last three years of my life. Shrug.
Don’t listen to the haters if you like something that is innocuous. You can like what you like, and that’s fine. So dress up like Han Solo, or do whatever.
Unless it’s drugs. Don’t do drugs. That’ll mess you up.
The takeaway from these six things?
Be kind. Be confident.
“Do unto others as you would want done to you.”
Enjoy life because we only get one. Unless we live in a comic book; in which case, I’ll see you when the universe gets rebooted, and I get a brand new set of super powers and a new costume.