36 Life Lessons on my 36th Birthday

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My Life in a Nutshell

  1. When I was around 3 or 4, I tackled a kid for stealing my markers. Not only did he cry, but I didn’t get a prize for being a good student that day, so I learned to settle your issues with words if you want to get along in life. Also, I learned to keep my shit in my pockets.
  2. Around when Jaws came out, my aunt and cousins stood me on a stool in the middle of the living room, played the theme song on the record player, and told me Jaws would get me if I got off the stool. That day, I learned to distrust sharks and family. I’ve since learned to trust sharks because they are beautiful and amazing creatures who kill less people per year than cows and are endangered because of over-fishing and vilification by the public. I am still iffy about family, though. J/k…or am I.
  3. As a kid, I had a dog and we fed her Kibbles n Bits dog food. I was very curious about the fun looking food, so I would sneak it into my bed and hide it to snack on later. After a while, I developed chronic diarrhea and my mother couldn’t figure out why until she cleaned my room and found my horde of dog food. That day I learned not to eat pet food even if it looks (and tastes) amazing.
  4. My mother purchased a waterbed for me as it was the big trend for beds in the 80s. I thought it was the coolest thing until I rolled into the side between the mattress and the frame and got legit stuck for about 8 minutes because my little kid muscles couldn’t release the pressure from the bed. That day I learned that bedding companies lie to you. Holla at ya boi, Purple Mattress.
  5. Even as a small child, I loved any and all animals. I begged and begged for hamsters and was elated when I finally got a pair for the holidays. One day I noticed some wriggling little pink things in the bottom of the cage and was told that the ugly gummy worms were babies! I watched the babies every day for growth and was so excited to get to hold them when they were big enough. One night, I noticed that a lot of the babies were missing. I looked around until I saw the momma munching down on one of them, much to my abject horror. That day I learned that parenthood is hard.
  6. My first real boyfriend and I went to a Fiona Apple and Counting Crows concert on our first date. We talked in hushed tones and sat close all night and, right before we kissed for the first time, he said “I guess I’m just a bad person” and I wanted to ask about that but we started kissing, so I let it go. That night I learned it was ok to stop a potentially romantic moment to ask for some clarification.
  7. I had the biggest crush on this older guy in another city for a long time. We would always see each other when my mother and I visited his small and adorable town, we would slightly make eyes and talk a lot, but we never conversed about being interested in one another. One day, while out for lunch, he asked my mother if he could date me and I immediately was humiliated and angry and told him he was an idiot for asking my mom before asking me like I was some sort of object to acquire. That day I learned that objectively hot dudes who are 19 can still be fucking morons.
  8. One NYE when I was a Junior in High School I went to a coed party with some friends and their college aged love-interests. I immediately got wasted and called my mom while crying, begging her for forgiveness, and asking her to come pick me up even though I didn’t know where I was. That day, I learned that moms are super heroes and mixing alcohol is a legit bad idea.
  9. I had this boyfriend that would routinely stand me up after making plans and then get mad at me when I’d be upset with him for wasting time I could have used to do other things. I broke up with and blocked him on FB because I was done with his bullshit entirely and I told him in person because I didn’t want him to learn it by trying to find me online. He promptly blew up at me and that was the last time I talked to him. That day I learned that douchebags hate taking accountability.
  10. When I was in preschool I watched Legend for the first time. It’s an incredible fantasy movie that has probably the best Tim Curry performance of all time as The Darkness, a larger than life, red, half horse/half man-demon-thing with giant horns. I started having little nightmares about his character and once, during nap-time at my Southern Baptist preschool, I told my teacher about the nightmare I had with the big demon. They thought I was possessed by the devil and called my mom immediately to inform her. That day I learned to watch your words because people are way too fucking literal.
  11. While living in Chicago I relied solely on public transit and, just so’s you know, it’s the best place to meet weird people ever. One day on the L I randomly thought about a mini pony wearing overalls and I started getting teary-eyed which put me into a laughing fit off and on for the following 10 minutes. That’s when I learned if you act crazy not even the crazies will sit next to you.
  12. I have four dogs, one of which we are pretty certain is…not bright, to put it politely. One day I had the windows open in the house to get fresh air in and the suction pulled my bedroom door closed. My beautiful but dumb boy Action Jackson jumped behind me on the bed between the headboard and my back and just shook with fear. That day I learned that if a murderer were to break into my home, I would unequivocally get murdered in the face with no interference from my dogs.
  13. I moved to Chicago with my then boyfriend because it’s where he lived and worked. To be fair, I loved living in Chicago and stayed there for quite a few years after, but that first year with us was so fraught with issues it caused a huge rift between us that wasn’t fixed for many years after. After our breakup, I felt so alone and missed having stability in a social life and support from friends and family. It did get better and I made quite a nice life for myself there, but I learned never to move for a man again. Move because you want to move and pursue your own life first.
  14. I had this adopted uncle that I would go see every summer in the boonies in Arkansas. He was a best friend of my dad’s and the sweetest guy ever. He ran a rescue for big cats and other wild animals that were inappropriately kept as pets or for informal zoos and all the animals were housed on his property. Well, in Arkansas, the only big cat is the Puma, or Mountain Lion. He had a male who was the absolute sweetest lovey boy in the world and when I’d come up to the enclosure he would rub against the fencing and play with me. That’s when I learned that big cats can purr with a sound akin to a damn motorcycle and they like to rub their teeth on you like terrifyingly huge house cats.
  15. When my mother and I were on a road trip, we stopped into a gas station that was playing classic 80s music. Well, the song “Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting” came on, and mom and I started fake fighting in the candy aisle. Mom kicked at my face and hit me square in the jaw, breaking it in the process. That day I learned you need to train appropriately before you Kung-Fu and my mother has zero depth perception.
  16. When I was in high school I was a barista for a short period of time at a 24-hour coffee shop. I would constantly get socially awkward guys hitting on me all day, for some reason, whether I was dressed well or looked like a bruised banana. That’s when I learned dudes have a weird fetish for people who reek of coffee.
  17. Always wait a week before you decide to change your hair. Trust me. No story necessary, I just care about your wellbeing.
  18. I got big quick when I was pregnant because I have a short torso, so there was nowhere for baby to go but out. Because of that, I looked like I was just about to give birth when I was 5 months pregnant. Well, that and a Wendy’s Frostie craving that took hold for about two months. Side advice, check the calories when you’re pregnant, I’m convinced Wendy’s made me gain 70 pounds. Anyway, back to the point. Because I got big so quickly, I had EVERY SINGLE PERSON KNOWN TO MAN WHETHER THEY KNEW ME OR NOT comment on how I was “about to pop!” and “you look like you’re almost done.” I would always give them the stink eye and say “I have four months to go, I just eat a lot” and make them uncomfortable. That’s when I learned to just not comment on someone’s pregnancy. If they bring it up, cool, otherwise, your gonna have some cranky soon-to-be mom ripping at your tender spots like an angry chimpanzee.
  19. My one and only detention in grade school was for being in a dance off during recess and doing a FORBIDDEN dance move. Yes, there was a forbidden dance move at my school. It got popular because MC Hammer did it in a video, basically, you fall backwards on your hand and pump your hips a couple of times. SCANDALOUS. So, I knew we weren’t supposed to do that move, I knew it was a one strike policy, but I also knew I would own that cypher if I did it, so I went for it. I was promptly pulled out and put in detention, but it was worth it. That’s when I learned those who choose to cut footloose LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER.
  20. I don’t pretend to be the best role model on the face of the planet, and I for sure curse more than a normal person should in any given situation, but I try to limit my cursing to a certain extent in front of my child. Once during the holidays we traveled back home to Chicago to visit family and friends and attend my husband’s office party. I was with my daughter and I stubbed my toe on something and shouted “FUCK,” as I am often wont to do. Ripley, in her adorable 1-year-old voice, then repeated the fuck which elicited the biggest laugh from me. (Kids cursing is adorable, bonus points if they don’t use the word correctly.) When she heard me laugh, she continued to repeat the word off and on all day. That’s when I learned to HOLD YOUR LAUGHTER, GODDAMNIT, OR THEY ARE GOING TO INHERIT YOUR FILTHY FUCKING MOUTH.
  21. I rescued about a 7-8 ft boa constrictor named Georgie and the first couple of times I handled her I was so sweaty and out of breath that I could only last about 5 minutes before putting her back in her enclosure. I’ve since learned that, if nothing else, one should be strong enough to handle a large snake without sweating profusely.
  22. When I was around 14 years old, my neighbor across the street bought a calf for their little farm lot. Again, I get attached to animals so easily, I love all of them…even the creepy ones, and I fully believe that one day I will either run a rescue for animals or I’ll go back to school for vet care. The calf roamed free and I quickly made friends with him and would spend my free time running back and forth along the fence with him, giving him pets, and just sitting next to him enjoying his company. He loved to give kisses (oh, the disgusting but sweet kisses) and he always came when I called. I think you probably can guess what he was purchased for already, but it didn’t occur to me that he wasn’t going to be a permanent addition to my neighbors property. Buddy taught me that all animals, even the ones we regularly eat, have spirits, can make friends, and have personalities. They deserve so much better than we give them, and I think every person should have at least a day or two a week where they don’t eat any animal products.
  23. Let me preface this story by saying I don’t recommend you overdo any controlled substance, it’s just a recipe for disaster and embarrassment. I’m so lucky that I went through the majority of my experimentation before social media was a popular thing. The closest I got to it was LiveJournal ::pours one out for LJ::. I have only three experiences with losing control of my bladder as an adult, and one of them involved an inordinately long car ride in traffic so that’s not on me. The other two incontinence issues involved absinthe. Piss my pants once, shame on absinthe. Piss my pants twice, that’s my bad. Don’t drink absinthe. Just…just don’t.
  24. If you start to create a career out of a hobby, make sure you replace your hobby or you’ll end up always on the clock with no pressure release valve.
  25. Last winter we found a geriatric Alaskan Malamute just wandering around in our neighborhood. We took her in while we tried to make contact with her owner, but when it became obvious that the owner didn’t want her back, we decided to keep her. Her name is Keeta, and she’s a thicc bitch, but she’s a total sweetheart and loves talking and sleeping. Well, when we first moved into our house, Action Jackson was confused about where the back door was and he peed in front of the window of the family room. We cleaned it up, but it had since become the place that ALL the accidents happen. We’ve tried everything to curtail it and it seemed to get better for a while until Keeta happened. She was used to just running the neighborhood and doing her own thing, so moving into the house mostly was new to her. She quickly found the spot and decided that’s just where we go when the humans are asleep. Then the other dogs decided to kick off and we ended up just cleaning dog piss every day or so until we finally ripped up the carpet. That’s when I learned that “pissing contests” are taken very seriously by dogs.
  26. A long, long, loooong time ago I was a professional dancer. I taught, performed, workshopped, and directed. It was a lot of work for little pay, but I loved it and wouldn’t trade that period of my life for the world. People I knew from other places would often talk to me about how glamorous my life looked, how it was cool that I got to travel, and they would bet I was doing really well based on my photos, but I would always respond “I’M FUCKING HUNGRY ALL THE TIME.” That’s when I learned nothing on the algorithm is real and you shouldn’t look too hard at what other people are doing because it only makes you feel like a loser.
  27. One of my first jobs as a teen was working at a Chinese buffet restaurant in Memphis, TN. I loved my coworkers and definitely was ok with the free food, but the customers were freakin’ awful. How a person can eat two plates of food for $7 and then try to haggle for a better price because the “spaghetti” was dry is beyond me. I fully believe that every person should have to work food service for at least a month so they can see the absolute fuckery that food workers have to go through. Not only do they FREAKIN’ DESERVE a pay raise for dealing with your ass, they are mostly saints for not punching people on the regular. If you want to know what kind of person you’re dealing with, just watch them at a restaurant. If they treat the staff like shit, run fast and run far away from that person.
  28. I almost died making cinnamon toast. Let me backtrack, after making said toast I took a bite and breathed some cinnamon dust into my nose and then quickly sneezed and knocked my head on the cabinet door that was open. I fell to the ground and saw stars for a second and then realized that none of my neighbors knew me, so if I died they wouldn’t find me for a long time. Meet your neighbors. Get friendly with them (not too friendly, don’t freak where you live). Get to know them so if you die suddenly in your house, they will know that you haven’t come out in a while and call in a wellness check.
  29. I’ve worked one on one with people for a long time and the most common statement I hear is “I just feel like I don’t fit in with normal people.” Here’s the deal, ain’t nobody is normal. Everyone, even the most balanced individuals, are dealing with a lot of neuroses and -isms that other people wouldn’t guess. Nobody is normal, normal doesn’t exist, all humans are weird, so celebrate yourself. No one can be weird as shit quite like you. Wear it like a badge of honor.
  30. Vote early and often and riot against gerrymandering and voter suppression; the world doesn’t change if a bunch of people opt out of the decision making process.
  31. As a young person, I was of the firm belief that “I wasn’t like the other girls” and “I just got along better with guys than I did girls.” I wasn’t into drama, I didn’t like passive aggressiveness, and I desperately wanted to be chill, the cool girl, the girl that’s like a guy. That, my friends, is internalized misogyny and is patently false on all levels. A) Women fucking rock. Truth. If you want someone to tell you like it is, go to your best lady friend and ask her. If your skirt is stuck in your tights, she’s the person who will catch you and correct the situation. If you have shit in your teeth, she will stop the convo to tell you. Women look out for other women in such a special and intimate way and we need to instill that into our young people. B) Having masculine traits is fine and dandy, but so is being femme. Nothing about femininity is objectively dumb, passive, or petty. Be you and who gives a shit if the people around you approve. C) Video games, horror films, and skateboarding are not inherently masculine activities and it’s just fucking weird that we consider them to be. Do you play video games or skate with your…ya know…business? If you answered yes, I don’t want to kink shame you so you do you, but most people might agree that having a specific downstairs situation doesn’t preclude you from partaking in any of these activities. You can be femme as fuck and love hunting. You can be daddy as fuck and cross stitch daisies all day. Stop gendering basic activities. Basically, ladies are awesome. Dudes are awesome. People who identify as neither or both are awesome. Just keep an open mind and find other awesome people; don’t worry about who you are impressing.
  32. I spent the better part of my late teens and 20s dieting, exercising, and researching how to be skinny. I tried to shrink myself down to fit ideals that are impossible for some, improbable for most, and pushed by ever major media outlet in the west. Don’t shrink yourself down to be more palatable for other people. If you’re skinny, wear that body with pride. If you’re fat, luxuriate in your skin. Don’t focus on “getting skinny”, focus on being strong and feeling great in the body you have.
  33. I don’t talk about it often, but when I was around 14 an F3 tornado, one of the largest in Arkansas history, hit and demolished our home. I narrowly escaped having a full ass 20′ tree fall on me in bed because I heard the crack of the trunk and got up to see what was going on. I remember feeling like my whole life, everything that I had ever purchased, saved, or cherished, was lost forever. All my old notes from friends at school, my journals, photos, even old prized possessions I was holding onto for memory’s sake were destroyed. It affected me long term in that I am not the type of person to save mementoes because I feel like everything gets lost at some point and I don’t want to be heartbroken by the loss. My mother and I were homeless for a while, we had a hard time getting the insurance company to pay out to fix our destroyed house, and we just didn’t have the kind of money to sink into repairs on our own. One great thing that came out of that disaster was seeing all my neighbors pulling together to find pets, do temporary repairs on what they could of other people’s houses, and just coming together to mourn the loss. I learned that home isn’t possessions or houses, it’s the community you build and how you care for the people around you.
  34. Depression is a liar. Misery loves company and depression is a miserable son-of-a-bitch who just wants to bring you down to its level. Don’t fall into the trap of repeating the lies Depression tells you, start a habit of combatting those lies with all the good things in you. Fuel what feeds you. Fuel what feeds you. FUEL. WHAT. FEEDS. YOU.
  35. There will always be a million reasons not to follow your passion and, if you’re creative, you can think of a million and one to just fucking do it. Don’t measure your success in dollars, although I do know that you need money to live because capitalism is a cancer, try to measure your success in your self-worth and happiness. You don’t have to give up the day job that helps you pay the bills, just give your passion as much time as you can per week. An hour a week doing something you absolutely love can do wonders for your soul.
  36. I’m not religious, but I truly believe that if god created one perfect food straight from their god brains, it would be the burrito, so always keep burrito fixins in your house. Also, every bite should have at least half a pickled jalepeno slice. Praise Jesus!

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