For the last two years I have been happily embracing the life of a 30-something. The world is a much less intimidating place. People in general take me and my ambitions more seriously. As a man, I’ve come into my own emotionally and in maturity. It would be foolish to imply that I’m fully enlightened, but I’m glad to say I’m no longer a clueless 20-something. As your friendly neighborhood wordsmith, I think it appropriate to share with you some of the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years.
1. The past is the past, yet it isn’t. The past lives inside of us and molds us into who we are. I think about the Iraq War and my brothers-in-arms everyday. I think about the women in my past nearly as often. I think about my friends from high school and the stupid shenanigans we used to pull. I think about the way my family used to get together for the holidays and the values instilled in me. Not all of these memories are wonderful, some bring deep despair into my heart. They’re always there, ghosts who help me take better steps than the ones in past.
2. Travel has a point of diminishing returns. One of the biggest must-do experiences that’s been sold to our generation is the need to travel. It will help you learn and grow, but there is an eventual plateau to that growth. The core of who I am was always the same whether I was back on the block in Huntington Beach, California, serving in the Army, contracting in Israel, or finding peace in Upstate New York. If you are a cowardly, apathetic loser with no social skills in your hometown, what makes you believe that you’re going to be more outgoing in a strange environment where no one knows or cares about you?
3. Petty rivalries are a part of life. There are always going to be people in your social circle who don’t like one another, and you’re in the middle of it. There are always going to be people who don’t like you. It’s ingrained in our instincts to constantly be at war with some group of people or idea.
4. Bitching and moaning about who has more privilege isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. Shut your mouth and put in the work required to make it irrelevant. If you are at rock-bottom, you can still have clear-sight picture of the moon. There is more respect those who conquered and triumphed over adversity more than those who acquired their status through windfall wealth.
5. Hey, what scandal in the media were you pissed off about two weeks ago? Oh, you don’t remember do you?
6. Anger is both a powerful fuel and destructive force. I have an anger that is harbored deep within my soul. Correctly harnessed, it’s a fuel that gets me through my work day, pushes me harder in my work out, and helps create quality written work. When my anger is allowed to go rampant through excessive consumption of booze, it destroys much of the good I have done.
7. Some women will leave you broken and tattered. Others will help you heal. Hopefully, one will make you whole.
8. A true artist has no typical look. Growing up, I never had any ambitions to be a writer or any form of artist whatsoever. I didn’t feel it fit my personality. I was a clean cut, athletic, stuttering video game geek. Artists to me were those scrawny, trendy kids with crazy hair styles and with an insatiable need to express their tortured souls in a moleskine labeled “My Poetry.” As I experienced artistic work from people from all walks of life, I realized being a true artist is a state of mind, not a fashion statement.
9. Vice is a form of hiding from your true self. I’ve used drinking many times to keep my mind off the fact that I haven’t written shit in a while. It’s easier to pick up the bottle and forget about what you should do, than it is to do that task. If you don’t break that cycle at some point, it’ll break you.
10. It takes about a year to fully set yourself up and feel comfortable in a new city. Building a social life, acquiring a job, learning your way around town, and knowing the cool unique things takes pure raw temporal investment. Especially building new friendships. Face time is needed and is very important. It’s hard to build a solid connection with someone you don’t have physical interactions with.
11. When you get into any new relationship, give the person a clean slate on your emotions. That means not projecting any past hurt any former lover may have inflicted on you. Don’t allow yourself to let the person project those past hurts on you either.
12. You are a product of your environment. I spent the formative years of my life in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Like anything else, I didn’t quite appreciate it until I left that place. I got to grow up in an environment full of the most type-A, competitive, intelligent, tough, and rough men in our country. It taught me level of masculinity, manhood, and perseverance that is probably unmatched anywhere else. It set the foundation of the man I am.
13. You are not defined by your environment. I still have the freedom to mold and sculpt myself into the kind of person I seek to be. I don’t have to be a certain way because that’s way people from the environment I grew up in tend to be. I am the master of my own character.
14. You don’t have to go to college right after high school, but really, what’s stopping you from taking that one class at community college. Knock some random general ed out. It doesn’t cost much and may benefit you more than you expect.
15. The worst thing they can say is “No.” That’s the mindset you must take whenever approaching anything in life: jobs, women, reaching out to possible mentors, applying to colleges, starting a business, and giving art the good junior-varsity try.
16. Embrace your minor vices. I love to start my day with two 16oz sugar free Rockstars®. Yet, every so often I get someone trying to lecture me how bad they are. Mother fucker, I work out and keep myself in pretty good health. Talk to me about your essential herbal teas when you have some muscle.
17. Go back and read books that you read when you were younger. You’ll be surprised by how much your world view has changed. One of my favorite writers, who I originally read when I was nineteen, is Tucker Max. While I still enjoyed reading his stories, I wasn’t as impressed now since I’ve had equally crazy over the top experiences.
18. Building good study habits is a discipline like anything else. You have to constantly be keep tabs on yourself and learn that in order to be successful tomorrow, you must sacrifice today.
19. Priorities in people’s lives change. Even those who you were at one time closest to may no longer align with what you value. Friends gets married, have kids, change a career, quit drinking, or may simply no longer believe the things that brought you together in the first place.
20. Information is a drug. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is how it’s administered. So much data is shoved down our throats that will never be useful. I’ve fallen into this addiction also. Constantly refreshing the feed for my “like” fix and those so precious comments. The social validation keeps one yearning for more and more, it just takes more likes and comments to get that high once again.
21. You must treasure your free time where you can indulge in your ambitions and lazy habits. Some weekends I’ll go on a sweet motorcycle trip to a new city. Other’s, I will layabout in my apartment watching 80’s and 90’s sitcoms and laugh uncontrollably. There is no shame in taking care of your needs, no matter how wild or typical.
22. Confidence is a muscle. The best way to build your confidence is to succeed at one task. Use that success as a springboard that will power through the inertia of doubt and make you stronger for the next challenge.
23. A good relationship is not built on only a few huge acts of generosity. Rather, it’s built on many small acts of kindness and caring compounded over time. The little sweet things you and your lover do for each other is what will keep your relationship healthy.
24. The significant other of your friend may not like you. Maybe you represent a part of his past that she wishes he’d leave behind. Maybe she doesn’t like that you go out and get drunk together. Maybe she doesn’t care for your general attitude toward life. It’s a frustrating position for me to be in because I can’t do much about it.
25. Some people are poison. A toxic person can destroy the most beautiful and promising of souls. Being able to keep those venomous personalities out of your life can literally save it.
26. Religious people don’t have a monopoly on love or morality. You don’t need to believe in a higher being in order to be a good person or one of character. I once had a Ranger buddy tell me that I couldn’t know love because I didn’t know Jesus. The self-righteousness of that statement infuriated me. I love my mother, my family, and my friends. I’ve been deeply in love with a few women. That belief in an of all knowing sky-daddy being the only way has caused more harm to humanity than any heathen activity.
27. The best way to get over a woman you loved deeply is to completely cut off communication with her. No trying to be friends. No checking up and seeing how the she is doing. That’s masochistic emotional torture. It prolongs the process of healing your heart and may keep you from pursuing other worthwhile relationships.
28. Nobody gives a fuck about what you could’ve done. You could’ve joined the military, you could’ve gone to an Ivy league, you could’ve been a doctor, you could’ve invested in bitcoin in the early years. But, you didn’t. What matters is what you did do and what you’re currently doing.
29. Writing as a craft is never ending. There will always be that next sentence, next paragraph, next article, and next book. As I’ve grown and changed over these few years, so have my challenges. The stuff that would burst out of me like wildfire a few years ago doesn’t even light a spark today. I’ve said a lot of what I’ve had to say on some subjects. It’s up to me as an artist to find that subject matter that reignites the flame in order to pour onto the page the words that are kindling in my head.
30. “You know what I liked about you helping me today, Raul?”
“What is that?”
“When I asked you to dig a hole two feet deep, you dug a hole two feet deep.”
Following simple directions is a core competency that is more valuable and less common than you think.
31. Ever notice that the news media makes you feel like the world is falling apart, but then you go outside and see the world is not falling apart. It’s like they have some sort of incentive to keep you glued to their programming.
32. The biggest myth of our lives and times is that we believe our lives and times to be especially unique. War, love, politics, civil unrest, creation, destruction, struggling, thriving, social norms, and social deviancies have always been a part of us. The reasons, locations, values, and methods may have changed, but at our core, we’re the same as humans from thousands of years ago. The greatest gift that our ancestors have left for us is the accumulation of the lesson they have learned. By reading, studying, and looking into the past we can apply those lessons into making our present and future greater.
Now, have a drink with me! A toast! To making it to thirty-three!