Lessons From 40: Four Decades Of Dumb Stuff I Learned

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At the end of this week, I cross the threshold from cool hip dude in his 30s to decrepit antediluvian in his 40s, and to prepare I have already begun strongly investigating the fiber content of the foods I put into my body because if there’s one thing I know about being in my 40s, it’s that healthy pooping is king. I have also picked out a casket and decided which socks I will wear up over my knocking, withered knees. Soon I will begin properly grousing about those kids today, with their hoverboards, their mohawks, and their lazy good-for-nothing ways.

Okay, it’s not that bad.

But hitting 40 is narrowing my eyes a little more than when I hit my 30s. My 30s were fucking great and I kinda knew they would be. People overestimate how great your 20s are (also, how great high school is, because high school is basically The Hunger Games with yearbooks). Your 20s are spent bewildered and poor and navigating a world that everyone forgot to explain. But your 30s? OH SHIT. That is the decade when you — or, at least me — start figuring shit out. You get who you are. You stop caring about who you aren’t. You focus more on what matters and less on what doesn’t. I loved that decade. I will pine for its loss with great, blubbering dirges.

*blubbers*

*dirges*

But 40, oof. *whistles*

See, given the history of the men in my family, it is not likely I’ll live to 80, which means 40 is beyond the halfway mark — I’ve already crested the top of the hill and from here it is an uncontrollable skateboard ride down the aforementioned hill, and by the way, at the bottom of the hill is the giant mouth monster called YOU GONNA DIEZILLA and it has teeth like gravestones and a zombie’s hunger. That kaiju motherfucker’s gonna eat me, and being 40 confirms I’m closer to that point than I am farther from it.

At the same time, I feel pretty good? I’m healthier now than I was when I turned 30, and I’ve got my shit way, way, way more together now than I did then.

It’s happening whether I like it or not — I mean, unless I get eaten by a bear before then.

Fingers crossed for “no bear.”

So, for my birthday, I decided to come up with forty lessons (GET IT BECAUSE I AM TURNING 40 THIS IS CALLED “NUMERICAL PARITY”) of things that I learned over the years, and I’m passing them along to you under the implicit assumption that nothing I say is true and this is all bullshit and you should take all of it with not just a grain of salt or a salt lick but rather, a salt mine‘s worth of dubious shenanigans. None of this will be particularly enlightening, and a lot of it will be privileged horse-waffle, but what else is this blog for if not be pontificating and bloviating, breathily huffing my supposed truths all over you like a gassy dog?

NOW HOLD STILL AND RECEIVE MY OLD MAN WISDOM

[edit: warning, this post got fucking long and you’re just gonna have to deal with that because WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE WE USED TO READ LONG BLOG POSTS AND NOW YOU KIDS TODAY ONLY LIKE THE TWEETERS AND THE TINDERS AND THE INSTAFIZZLES.]

1. You Know Less Than You Know

Youth is about certainty. You pick a direction and run screaming toward it. As you get older, it’s good to realize you know less than you know. I constantly face situations where I have no answers. I don’t know the lead singer of that band. I don’t know what to do about a crisis. I am unaware how to answer complicated moral conundrums. I mean, I still make up answers and as a result? I’m wrong a lot. A whole lot. And sometimes I’ll find myself with that young, fiery certainty in my belly and then I’ll say the thing I’m thinking, PRETTY SURE AL BUNDY WAS THE SERIAL KILLER, and my wife will be like, no, you froth-mouthed cretin that is incorrect just like the last six things you were sure about. I’m coming more to terms with the fact that I know a lot less than I know, and I have more questions than answers, and not only is this okay, but it is in fact ideal. Because it’s a very good way to learn new things. Gazing upon the world with questions instead of answers is like looking through many windows instead of one closed door.

2. Nobody Really Knows Anything, Actually

It’s not just you. Nobody really knows a hot sack of poop about a hot sack of poop.

3. People Are Wrong A Lot, And They’re Wrong With Epic Confidence

I was at a preschooler birthday party and the parents at this thing were white and affluent and educated and one of these white, affluent, educated people said that, “AT LEAST 80% OF CALAMARI IN RESTAURANTS IS PIG RECTUM,” and she said this with great certainty and everyone nodded and blanched and agreed. It’s not true, of course. It’s nonsense. It’s horseshit of an epic magnitude. But it’s not this person’s fault, because that thing she said is not a lie, in that she’s not making it up: it’s a thing some people believe. And it’s vital to realize that people stumble about all the time just being wrong about shit. And they don’t know they’re wrong. They were told something or their minds invented a thing and now they consider it truth. And then they wander around and their jaws work and wrong information tumbles out of their faces onto other people’s faces. On a whole, people are probably more wrong about stuff than they are right. You too. Me three. And the media is wrong a lot, too, because in a way it is the media’s job to be wrong — they have to make money via advertising and that means putting information out there that grabs your attention despite the validity of it. Eggs are bad until they’re good until they’re bad until they’re the best until they’ll kill you. (Seriously though, eat eggs. Eggs are delicious. And cholesterol is probably nonsense anyway.) We’re all wrong, all the time, and it’s why Snopes exists. In fact, if I had to offer only one piece of advice to the world, it would be the word SNOPES written on a business card and slid silently across the table.

4. Most Stuff Is Just Stuff People Made Up

We have lots of ideas about things and ideas are just things people made up. We made up genres, we made up the three-act structure, we made up morality and religion and credit cards and scientific taxonomies and the concept of email and fashion trends and on and on. We just made a lot of it up. Out of nothing, probably. Some guy walking around somewhere suddenly decides how poems are supposed to work and there it is, at least until someone else challenges that idea with her own idea of poetry. Someone else says THOU SHALT NOT KILL and then advocates the death penalty because obviously they didn’t mean that guy. It’s not to say everything is subjective, or that everything is bullshit, but it is occasionally clarifying and humbling to realize that a lot of the stuff we believe, someone just invented. Possibly as a joke, or on a dare, or while on the toilet.

5. Doubt Is A Powerful Skill

Doubt things. Skepticism is useful. Someone tells you a thing — like, say, calamari is actually just a bunch of chewy buttholes — it’s worth stopping, squinting your eyes and asking, “Hm, really?” Scratch the paint off, see what’s underneath. Sometimes it’s good to follow that all the way down, too. Implicit in the fear of SQUID = PIG SHITTERS is that somehow, it is crass or bad to eat hog poopers, but really, if you eat sausage, you probably already eat hog poopers. By the way, I bet this isn’t how you thought this list was going to go, did you? I do feel like it’s been a little heavy on the “pig butthole,” but this is where we are and we’re all going to have to deal with it. What I’m trying to say, it’s good that when information is poured into your eye- and ear-holes you don’t just immediately take that information and slot it into the I BELIEVE THIS WITHOUT RESERVATION cubbyhole. You should instead put it in the bin marked LOOK INTO THIS MORE. Doubt is healthy, as long as you’re not a dick about it.

6. Logic And Empathy Are A Vital Tagteam

Logic and Empathy are like two power rings that, when pressed together, make you a better human. Have both. Don’t have just one. People who claim to be super-logical are usually just super-jerkoffs. And cleaving only to empathy means someone is probably going to take advantage of you. Do each of them. Make logic and empathy have sex, and be the progeny they birth into the world. BOOM. There’s a motto for you. Get that on a t-shirt and let’s make some MONEY.

7. The Truth Is Often In The Middle

Not always, but often, the truth of the thing is somewhere between the two sides angrily urinating on each other. (Which means that yes, the truth is often urinated upon.) We’re very good at polarizing topics and making everything hyper-binary, but often, the truth is roving between the two perspectives like a drunk ping-ponging between two of his favorite bars. It’s not to say we shouldn’t have strong beliefs or principles. And some things — like human rights — are non-fucking-negotiable. But a lot of other stuff isn’t about right or wrong. People like feeling right because it makes them feel righteous, but so many of our big topics and moral challenges are the kinds of things philosophers have gnashed their teeth bloody over for centuries. We want things to be easy and to have simple answers, as if all things are like the moral decisions you face in video games. LOOK, HERE IS A BABY. YOU CAN FEED THE BABY SOME PUREED PEAS OR YOU CAN FEED THE BABY TO A CROCODILE WHO IS ALSO A NEO-NAZI CROCODILE. We want to feel like most of our challenges and decisions are all about righteous rightness and that the other side is over there feeding infants to racist water lizards, but things are rarely that extreme, y’know?

8. Everything In Moderation, Except Meth And Hatred

You are you and I am me and I can’t do the ascetic lifestyle denial thing. I have to have a life with ice cream in it. Or gin. I also need to exercise and — what’s the phrase you hear? “Eat right.” Or “live right.” The problem with those phrases is, as noted above, the truth is in the middle and most things are just things people made up. Plus, we learn the things we hold true about living right are right today and wrong tomorrow — diet is better than exercise until exercise is better than diet, and social media is bad NO WAIT it’s good now. And then we get judgey about it because we think we know how to live right, which of course means other people live wrong, and then we’re just a few bad decisions from burning people at stakes again. I dunno. Point is, you can’t live life doing ALL ONE THING ALL THE TIME. You can exercise to death. You can eat ice cream until you die. My advice is, don’t push the pedal down and accelerate in a single direction. Do a little bit of everything. Hedge your bets. Find the balance. The sages of Greece had it right. Have fun, but not all the fun. Live right, but not so right you forget to live. Also don’t do meth.

9. Learn To Cook And Buy Good (But Not Great) Cookware

This is a hard switching of gears, maybe, but we kinda talked about food, so here we are. Don’t just consume. Learn to cook. It’ll help you manage your eating if you know what goes into food. And buy good cookware. Not shitty cookware, not great cookware, but solid, middle-of-the-road, dependable stuff. Don’t buy cookware sets, either — just pick and choose the CULINARY WEAPONS you will need. A good Chef’s knife, a good skillet, that sort of thing.

10. The Best Thing To Buy Is Rarely The Cheapest Or The Most Expensive

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR is sorta true and also sorta not. Usually the cheapest thing is the shittiest thing. Whatever it is, it’s probably full of lead paint and rat hairs. (Or pig buttholes.) But the most expensive thing is often too expensive and not justifiably so. In a lot of things there’s THE CHEAP SHIT, and then you can only go so far with quality before what you end up paying for is a brand name or a trend or some snazzy color. Let’s say you want like, an apple. You go and the shittiest apple is an apple you can probably buy in bulk in a garbage bag. It’s the apple they feed to old, dying goats. You can eat it, sure, but it’ll taste like sadness and goat mortality. But if you go to the store and say, BRING ME THE FINEST APPLE HERE, THE APPLE OF RICH MEN, THE LUXE APPLE OF THOSE WITH FOIE GRAS IN THEIR BLOOD, they’ll have to invent an apple to give you because apples only get so good. You’ll end up with an apple where the tree is massaged by monks, with the skin of each apple misted with gold and complimented by professional fruit-talkers. Pappy Van Winkle is a very expensive bottle of bourbon, and I’m sure it’s divine, but I also know that most mid-range bourbons are amazing. Wines, too. Hell, you can probably cook a steak as good as you get at most restaurants (excepting quality steakhouses) and pay considerably less and have way more control. Try not to pay the least. Try not to pay the most. Did I mention the truth is usually in the middle? Here, too, as it turns out.

11. Eat Your Vegetables, You Squawking Manbaby

I know grown men who won’t eat their vegetables. And here you’re like HASHTAG NOT ALL MEN AND ALSO WOMEN and yeah okay whatever, except I’ve never known a woman not to eat her veggies, but I know way too many dudes who refuse to eat their veggies. So. Grow the fuck up and eat your fucking vegetables. Vegetables are super good for you. Stop being man-babies. Your masculinity is not so fragile that you have to eat hamburgers all the time but not, say, asparagus, or broccoli, or butternut squash. Butternut squash is fucking amazing, by the way. Vegetables are nearly all amazing. Though artichokes are kind of bullshit. They’re like armadillos, those things. The juice is not worth the squeeze. (I don’t mean that literally — I am fairly confident artichoke juice does not exist and would be barfworthy if it did.) Whatever. Listen, if you’re not sure about vegetables, have them roasted. Roasted vegetables taste like fire and lightning and conflict, and they will make you feel manly because you punished them with heat. Now shut up, grow up, and eat your greens, manboy.

12. Pie Is Better Than Cake

Go ahead. Fight me. Actually, don’t fight me. You might like cake more, and good for you. BUT LET ME DEFEND MY CHOICE: pies can be savory or sweet, can be healthy or not, whereas cakes are often far less versatile a dessert. And so by their Swiss Army Knife-like nature, I consider pie to be dessert that would survive natural culinary selection. I mean, I still love fucking cake, though. Wait, I don’t mean that I actually fuck cake. Though that might be nice, too. Cake is moist and spongy. That American Pie kid maybe had it wrong. Maybe pie is for eating but cake is for fucking. I feel like we’re really off-track, suddenly. Something something pig sphincters.

13. Do Not Live Your Life Only For Your Retirement

My father lived life for two things: his children and his retirement. The first is nice, even though I was probably a shitbird and rarely made it worth actually living for me (sorry, dad). The second, well. He got a year or so into his retirement and then just fucking died. My advice is: plan for retirement, but live for today. You are guaranteed no days but the one you have right now.

14. Give The Proper Amount Of Fucks

So much of life’s more meaningless problems are mitigated by “give less of a fuck.” Not “give no fucks.” But also, don’t give all your fucks. Spread your fucks around. Know that many problems are less important than we feel or fear that they are. We’re bound up with social anxieties or weird feelings or fears and so much of that gets pushed aside by saying, OH WAIT THIS MATTERS LESS THAN I THOUGHT. It’s like calculus in high school. Calculus, for me, was worthless, and initially I of course wanted to do well and yet I wasn’t very good at it and I realized, I was giving too many fucks. Calculus didn’t matter. My life was not a life that was going to need calculus. My life merely needed not to fail at calculus. So, I needed to give some fucks — the minimum quantity of fucks! But if I gave all my fucks there, then I would have too few fucks to devote to the things that truly mattered, like hiding in my room and writing Ultima fan-fic.

15. On The Subject Of Fucking, Actually

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX. BREAK OUT THE LUBE AND THE POMMEL HORSE AND THE CHIMP MASK AND THE UNICORN HORN DILDO. Hey, don’t run away! I don’t mention “pig butthole” at all in this one. Anyway, here’s my sex lesson at age 40. Sex is awesome and it’s more about giving than receiving. And it’s not about the orgasm, it’s about what you do to get to the orgasm. Something something blah blah blah, it’s the journey not the destination. It’s like life that way. Also, sex is better when you’re older because you actually know what you’re doing and what you actually want. And they do, too. Ideally. We have a lot of puritanical hang-ups about sex, and the sooner you can boot them to the curb, the happier your heart, genitals and brain will be.

16. You Got To Get Schwifty

Find the sex you like, but don’t be afraid to try new shit. I know, I know, nobody wants me to keep talking to them about sex, BUT HERE WE ARE AND YOU’RE DUCT-TAPED TO THE CHAIR. What I’m saying is, get freaky. Or try freaky. Sex is like food, you gotta try new things to find what you like. Eat everything on your plate. Pick from the back of the menu. Which is maybe a butt-stuff metaphor, I dunno? Whatever. Be a cake-fucker if you want, is the thing.

17. Masturbation Is Great

I had a more intelligent thing here initially, something about rejecting fundamentalism and eschewing polarities, but then I was like, man, masturbation is great, and I think people are still occasionally weird about it, and maybe if more people tickled their fiddly bits and worked their own sexual levers-and-flywheels, maybe we wouldn’t have so much fundamentalism and so many polarities because everyone would be like, no, no, it’s fine, I masturbated today, I’m in a pretty chill mood, let’s go eat some Chinese food and watch We Bare Bears.

18. Early On, Say Yes — Later, Say No

I have found this to be true in my writing career, and in many ways, I have found this to be true in life, too. Early on, buy the ticket and take the ride. When people say DO YOU WANT TO TRY THIS THING, you say yes, as long as it’s not heroin or a hate crime. You go on the adventure. You take the opportunity. You close your eyes and jump because you don’t know differently. But as time stacks and responsibilities mount — and even better as you figure out just who you are in this life — you start learning to say NO more, and you learn to take time for yourself and you learn to consider opportunities before just leaping pantsless into the chasm. (I’m still sans pants, because pants are a tool of the oppressor, but I just do less chasm-leaping in this manner.)

19. If You Want To Do It, You Have To Do It

There comes a point where it’s just YOU and THE THING YOU WANT TO DO. For me it was writing, but it can be anything that scares you, anything that’s difficult, anything that’s important. Career or marriage or some adventure you want to have or some skill you want to learn. We want our support system, and it’s vital to have a support system, but they can only crowdsurf us to the stage — we still have to climb up on it, grab the mic and scream ARE YOU READY NEW YORK CITY and then start in on our set. It’s advice that is simple and obvious and yet, for me, very hard to conquer: if you want to do the thing, you have to do it. Nobody can do it for you. Or really, even with you. We’re still alone in our bodies and, well, you either kick down the door and go through, or you stand there wondering why you never left this one room.

20. The First Step Is Often The Hardest

The thing seems hard, but really, it’s the first step that sucks. I dunno why. Maybe I do know why? Maybe it’s because we imagine for ourselves the whole journey, and because we’re fools we imagine the string of failures and terrible consequences that unfold naturally from that first step, as if any movement we make will knock over dominoes and set off a Rube Goldberg machine whose end product is our humiliation. We envision the worst and it’s often easier and more romantic to talk about the thing we want to do than doing the thing we want to do. But that first step is the most important. It lubes the gears (and originally by the way I mistyped Rube Goldberg as LUBE Goldberg and it made me laugh for like, two minutes straight). Look at it this way: you want to clean up your desk or a room, it feels overwhelming. Part of you just wants to soak it all in gas and fling a match and walk away from YOUR ENTIRE LIFE rather than clean up the kitchen. FUCK THOSE DISHES, I’M CHANGING MY IDENTITY. But you clean one thing — a dish, a countertop, that squirrel who died in the oven — and it all gets easier. You’ve moved one stone and the scree starts to fall. It was like that for writing, with me. Writing the first book is the hardest. But you do one and the rest are ready to come. Writing the first page is the hardest, too — you stare at its snow-white oblivion, fearing how badly you’ll mess it up. But then you tromp into it and write your name in the snow with pee and oh well too late THE WORK HAS BEGUN.

21. Embrace The Success Of Failure

Failure is a success. School poisons the value of failure for us (in many of the same ways school poisons the joy of learning new shit). Failure is a no-no, school tells us. Don’t fail. Don’t do that. Only succeed. And that’s nuclear horseshit. Every failure is a rung in the ladder toward success. Failure is an indication that you’re doing it, that you’re trying to do it. Most people are spectators. They’re pretenders. They’d rather talk about the thing instead of doing the thing. Or worse, they’d rather just get online and spray their urine into some comment section somewhere. We mock failure, but my lesson to you is: embrace it. Learn from it. I have said it a hundred times and I will say it a thousand more: failure is an instruction manual written in scar tissue.

22. Know The Difference Between Failing And Quitting

Note: quitting is not the same thing as failure. Quitting is giving up. Failure is following through and missing the mark. Knowing the difference is vital. You learn less from quitting.

23. Also, Know When To Quit

But also, sometimes you need to fucking quit some shit. And I don’t mean this in a glib winky-winky YOU NEED TO QUIT BEING AN ASSHOLE way. I mean, there is value in recognizing when you’re heading in the wrong direction so you can turn around. You don’t need to follow through on everything. I have been at jobs where I knew in my gut something wasn’t right. Either I was stepping on a path that put me into a future I didn’t want, or it was a place where I was going to be exploited. Any time that happened, I just got my stuff, turned in my one-minute notice, and then hauled tail out the door. I’ve quit some writing projects, too, because the choir of my colonic flora sang me a jaunty tune about how I was very clearly writing something that wasn’t working and wasn’t ever going to work. If you quit a lot of things, that forms a pattern, and you should narrow your eyes at that. But sometimes? You need to just run screaming into the woods.

24. Work Hard, But Always In The Right Direction

My father always told me to work hard, work my ass off, dig this ditch, hammer this nail. It’s a good work ethic, but it missed the component that hard work for the sake of it is not that clarifying. Hard work in the right direction is smart work. Don’t work hard at stuff that won’t get you where you want to go. Life is too short to build bridges to nowhere.

25. Other People Are Not Mirrors

Don’t look to other people for how you should act. Or to compare your success. Or to see who you are. People aren’t mirrors. PEOPLE ARE INSECT MONSTERS IN SKIN SUITS AND YOU ARE ALL ALONE IN THIS WORLD EXCEPT FOR YOUR TALKING COFFEE CUP WHO UNDERSTANDS ALL YOUR PROBLEMS AND whoa hey sorry guys, had a little peyote there.

26. People Are Also Not Stepladders

Also, people aren’t there for you to step on to get somewhere else. A lot of career advice seems predicated on networking and glad-handing and all of it smacks of using human beings as ladders so you can climb up over them to greater heights. Be among people, not above them. Do not make friends in order to “get somewhere.” Make friends so that you can kill them and eat them if the shit goes down. … I mean, make friends because friends are cool, not because you intend to use them as footholds. Also, seriously, eat them. HANNIBAL4EVA

27. You Do Not Control Luck, But You Maximize It With Work

We want to believe that luck isn’t a thing, but it totally is. The existence of you is luck. The existence of all of humanity is luck. A confluence of atoms, a lucky governance of molecules, one paramecium gets drunk and has sexy-time with some amoeba. You are a person acting upon the universe, but luck is the universe acting upon you. You can’t create luck, but you can be ready for it. Seize on it. See opportunity in things. You can only find a four-leaf clover by walking in the grass. The more you work, the more you put yourself out there, the greater chance that luck will happen along and tuck a little fortune in your pocket.

28. Privilege Is A Thing

In my 30s, I didn’t even know privilege was a thing, and if you told me about it, I probably would’ve been a dick about it. Because sometimes it’s hard to see past your own limitations and experiences. Empathy is a necessary component for seeing this, I think, which is funny in a way because even empathy is ultimately selfish (I CAN ONLY UNDERSTAND YOU WHEN I PRETEND I AM YOU). Sometimes privilege is just looking outside yourself and your experiences and realizing that other people have it harder, and that can because of their gender or their sexuality or the color of their skin. And you see it more clearly, I think, when you do some MARTIAL ARTS EMPATHY REVERSAL shit — you look at your own problems and then realize how those problems would worsen if happening to someone more marginalized. SUCKS MAN NOT GETTING A JOB, you think, but then you realize how much harder it would be for someone disabled, or elderly, or of a different skin color or culture. Recognizing privilege is 101 stuff, and it doesn’t mean you’ll always get it right, but it feels like a vital human realization if we’re all gonna survive together.

29. On The Subject Of Shame

Shame feels right. It feels productive. I HAVE DONE A BAD THING, you think. You ate a whole pie. You didn’t exercise. You didn’t reach your Goal to do the Thing. Shame feels like a way of getting back on track — IF I FEEL BAD ENOUGH ABOUT THE THING I DID OR DID NOT DO, THEN I WILL RIGHT THIS SHIP AND GET TO WHERE I’M GOING. But it never seems to happen. We don’t learn through shame — and shaming others won’t teach them, either. Negative energy rarely yields positive outcome. Shame is a shovel. It digs a pit and as you go deeper, you feel like this is good, at least I’m heading in a direction, but the only direction you’re going in is down.

30. Be Kind, And Not Because It Will Repay You

Be good, not because it’ll get you anything, but because it’s what you’re supposed to do. Kindness is what will ensure that when the zombies come, the story that emerges is not The Walking Dead, but rather, “Hey, remember that time we all banded together and shot a bunch of zombies? What a weird year! Let’s go, I’ll buy you a smoothie.”

31. Fuck Perfection

You can’t have it. It doesn’t exist. Perfection is a paradox rubbing elbows with Zeno’s. I’m at a point where in most things I aim to be strongly good. I let others judge if it’s better than that. And nothing I do, ever, will be perfect. Except my abs. My abs are perfect because they bring all the girls to the yard OH MY GOD THESE AREN’T GIRLS THESE ARE SQUIRRELS SOMEONE GOT THE SONG WRONG THEY’RE BITING ME PLEASE SEND HELP

32. Profanity Is Cleansing For Your Soul

Your goddamn mileage may fucking vary, but I love this shit. I could go into some piffle about how profanity helps reduce pain and how smart people use profanity and how profanity is just a circus of words that some people have identified as forbidden, but instead I’ll say this — go outside where none can hear you, or walk into a room where your sound will be muffled, and at the top of your lungs just yell FUUUUUUUCK. Feels good, doesn’t it? Then add words to it. FUCKPOSSUM. PUDDINGFUCKER. Make whole new words up. FUCKOLOGY. SHITPLASM. Yell it. Yell it loud. Let it be the coarse carbon filter that removes impurities from your soul.

33. Let People Be Who They’re Gonna Be

As long as who they want to be isn’t total assholes, I think this world is plenty judgmental about who people are and who they should be. It’s as if the vision of others we possess in our head should be canon, and unconsciously we decide that they should fulfill that vision so we don’t have to deal with the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. Man, fuck that.  Let people be who they are. And that goes for yourself, too. Earlier I said to be kind? Well, be kind to yourself. You be you. I’ll be me. Let’s be us together in maximum identification mode and then we will be a bunch of awesome individuals who form a self-actualized VOLTRON. Because giant robots, that’s why.

34. Pop Culture Is Not A Religion

Only religion is a religion and frankly, that can be a big problem, too. Dogma and fundamentalism are things I not only distrust, but fear. Trust me, your favorite TV show or movie or comic book is not worth engaging in a holy war. We got bigger issues to deal with. Like climate change, like the post-antibiotic age, like how STAR WARS IS BETTER THAN STAR TREK YOU MOTHERFUCKERS *burns your house down, steals your pets, stabs your grandmother*

35. We Are All Very Poor At Risk Assessment

I became afraid of flying at one point after 9/11 and not because of terrorists but because of imagining this tiny fragile plane crashing into something. And turbulence in particular began to bother me and it gave me grave anxiety, and really, for nothing. The reality is, we’re terrible at risk assessment. I look at the imagined end. I behold the worst outcome and forget to think about the steps it would take to get there. I don’t think about the plane ride, I think about THE FIERY DEATH AS WE SLAM INTO A MOUNTAIN. Our hell-fucked risk assessment — and the fear it leads to — stops us from asking someone to dance, or going for a job, or trying to do something. We stop taking risks, even small ones, because we behold a false consequence. It’s a fear-based life and I think it stops us from actually living life.

36. Don’t Write Giant Lists On The Internet

I’m just saying, this thing is 5500 words long so far. I made a mistake, you guys. I don’t even know who’s still here. Anybody? Am I alone? Well, if I’m alone, then I’m taking these pants off. *takes off pants* *burns them in a barrel* *performs sinister NECROPANTSOMANCY using the smoldering denim vapors and trouser embers*

37. You Actually Have To Like, Do Stuff

You can’t just talk about it. Less talk-talk. More do-do. … wait, that came out wrong.

38. Run

Nobody believes me, but running clarified a lot of things for me. I’m not good at it and I do not “run” so much as I “fling my lumpy ragdoll body at top speed down the asphalt,” but it helped me feel better, helped me think more, and eventually I got that weird runner’s high people talk about. For you, it might be some other EXERCISE-SHAPED ACTIVITY. I tried an elliptical for years and it felt productive, but then I ran one time and I was like, ohh, so this is what exercise feels like. Running for me is painful. I hate it. It opens me up. It wears me down. I love it. Try it.

39. Eat Tacos

What? Shut up. “Eat tacos” is a perfectly good life lesson, you heretic. Tacos are delicious. Don’t sass me. They’re like the perfect food. The tortilla can be flour, corn, lettuce, old newspaper, new diaper. You can put anything in them: meat, veggies, fruit, ice cream, leftover Chinese food, murder gloves to get rid of evidence, whatever. Tacos are the most versatile food. They are a transformative shapeshifter. Eat tacos. Best life advice ever. I SAID DO NOT SASS ME.

40. Share Love

I am wont to say that life is short, but in a lot of ways, life is long. (Almost, in fact, as long as this post.) Life is long and boggy and weird, and why let it get anchored to the ocean floor with all the weight of what you hate? They say that complaining changes your brain chemistry, and I don’t know if that’s true, but I will say that both love and hate have a kind of momentum — you hate on things enough, you start to hate on everything. It feels good even as it feels bad. For me, it’s more interesting and more powerful to share what you love. Because those who take that thing and find love, too — you’ve just improved their lives. Hate is a short game of bandminton against an angry badger. But love is a long-con of light and unicorns and peyote. Or something. At this point, I should stop writing, but thanks for reading, and I love all of you for reading. And I love tacos. And profanity. And pie. And I even love pig buttholes.

SEE YOU KNEW WE WOULD GET BACK TO HOG SPHINCTERS

WOOOOOOO

HABBY BARFDAY TO ME

*drunkenly throws up in your lap, runs in the other direction, puts a Chuck-shaped hole in the drywall, keeps on running forever until he’s gone*

* * *

Chuck Wendig is an author who says things like, “Hey, like, buy my books and stuff because that’s how I won’t die.” Surely you don’t want him to die. OR DO YOU, YOU MONSTER.

73 comments

  • It took me two days but I read all 40 rules and I love them and I’m passing them on to all of my family and friends. Right after The Golden Rule will be Chuck’s 40 Lessons in my personal code of morality. Happy Birthday to you!

  • Happy birthday!

    #39- Tacos. They are a food from the heavens. And speaking of, do you have some good recipes for tacos that you like? I recall you mentioned a taco recipe last week you might post NOW WHERE IS IT I MUST DEVOUR NEW TACO FOODS

  • Greetings and felicitations on your natal anniversary, good sir. (Or Hoppy Bunnyday. You pick.)

    I come from long-lived, young-looking stock on my dad’s side (though I inherited some other things from him that that are even better, so to speak). I turned 60 last month. An acquaintance, when prompted, said I looked 45. I feel like 48. I was 47 when my husband died of metastasized bladder cancer. 2016 is the first year I’ve looked around and thought, “Man, people are dropping like flies alla sudden.” Like how my 85+ years old dad does now.

    On the other tentacle, I’m still walkin’ an’ talkin’ an’ laughin’, so life’s pretty okay.

    Your list had me nodding, laughing, giggling, muttering “Too true,” and paying attention. Thanks for all that.

  • Ok, so I never comment on blog posts nor do I expect you or anyone else to read this. But this list actually blew my mind and has the potential to change my life. Hard to tell since I just read it, but I just figured out a huge part of my personality/behavior that I’ve never been able to understand before.

    I have always been extremely hard on myself. I’ve live my whole life with unrealistically high self-imposed expectations, and for the most part as a high achiever I’ve been able to meet them. Lately though, with a lot of things going on in my life (significant family health issues, high pressure/high travel work), I haven’t been performing as well as I want. And I feel bad about not doing enough, and I feel bad about myself. I am ashamed of what I have or have not done–when I fail or haven’t done enough it’s because I am a bad person. I’ve never understood why I reacted that way, though, and it has always bothered me.

    I’m sitting on a plane flying back home from a work trip crying (sorry, seat mate) because the way you wrote #29 on this list gave me a much clearer understanding of why I react the way I do in those scenarios. Feeling shame and self-loathing is exactly as you say for me–it gives me comfort because I feel like I’m doing SOMETHING. It’s the illusion of progress–if I punish myself long enough, I can atone for whatever sin I’ve committed.

    Reading this post and putting a name to something I’ve wanted to change about myself for forever really has the potential to be life changing. If I can stop spending so much time and energy on self-loathing and shame, I can do so so much more. It will be a challenge to see if I can implement it, but I think having an understanding of my behavior is so powerful that I don’t see how I can’t at least try.

    Click bait version of this comment: These 40 tips will CHANGE YOUR LIFE (#29 will SHOCK you).

  • April 24, 2016 at 2:32 AM // Reply

    My husband, sleeping next to me, woke up twice wondering why the bed was shaking. I said, “I’m laughing, I’m sorry, go back to sleep.” (I really wanted him to go back to sleep so I could continue reading and laughing. It took awhile but I finished and now must send your post to my brother, who I know will find it as funny as I did. Maybe I’ll even send it to my husband so the shaking bed will make sense to him in the morning. Thank you for that great post and Happy birthday!

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