38 lessons from 38 years

my neurologist hipped me to this great blog called “zenhabits” and this post really spoke to me.  i’ve been 38 for a while now, and it got me thinking about what i’ve learned in those 38 years. i’ll be 39 in less than two weeks, so time to get crackin’.

it seems to me that my life falls into 4 sections, so i’ll break up the lessons that way.

kid –  birth to 17

1. fun is important

2. be as independent as possible

3. don’t let a kid win a game

growing up, we had a little cabin in the mountains east of los angeles. no tv. no phone. i played a lot of games with my parents. which means that i lost a lot of games to my parents. which also means that when i won a game, i really won it. when i was teaching, i loved to play wallball with kids during recess. i didn’t play to demolish them, but if i could get to the ball, i got to it. so they knew that when they beat me, they really did.

me with my folks in front of our cabin. 585 silvertip drive.

4. figure out how to be a good driver

5. neighbors matter

i first met the charnows when i moved across the street from them the summer before i started kindergarten. they’ve been my second family since then. in fact, i think that the definition of the word “charnow” is “noun: good neighbor” – look it up. i have fabulous neighbors where i live now. one of them is a two year-old who now bops into my apartment and makes herself at home. it feels really good.

young adult – 17-24

6. “cotton fields” by ccr is a great lullaby

7. it can be good to live someplace where nobody knows you

when i was 18 i moved from pasadena to arcata to go to humboldt state university. i didn’t know anyone there, and it occurred to me that this was an opportunity to change some things about myself. for instance, my sense of humor had a mean streak. but nobody expected that from me, so i was able to eliminate it.

the arcata plaza

8. larrupin sauce is delicious

9. raising arizona is an awesome movie

my college buddy hethir and i logged a lot of hours watching raising arizona. we ended up speaking a weird twin language based on dialogue from the movie. ah, the salad days…

we didn't even need to stop watching raising arizona to take this picture - self-timer off the top of the tv.

10. southern california is a super place to visit

teacher – 24-36

11. relationships are built on shared experiences

i remember a lot about my own elementary school experience. i remember which teachers liked me and liked being at school, and i remember the opposite. about 30 years after my time as a student at monte vista elementary school, it’s the moments of fun that we had in those classrooms that really stand out. i applied these memories to my own classrooms. i looked for opportunities for fun because those good times spent together are the way that you get through the hard times. looking back on the dozen years i spent teaching elementary school, i remember lots of good times. lots of laughs. and since former students find me on facebook, i know that they remember those times too.

a great thing about teaching is that you can pretty much play "i doubt it" whenever you want to.

12. you don’t have to like everybody (and they don’t have to like you), but you do have to get along with everybody

13. if you want to be a smartass you have to be smart or else you’re just an ass

14. elvis costello has a song for any mood you’re in

15. trying is everything

16. “i wrote it until it said ‘the end'”

you ask a stupid question… early in my teaching career i asked one of my students if his story was finished. that was his answer. he even pointed to the words “the end” clearly written at the bottom of his paper. he helped me improve my ability to talk with people about their writing, a skill that i still use to this day. so thank you, young man. you know who you are.

last day of school field trip to the beach

17. i learned a lot about how to be a good person from “to kill a mockingbird”

18. kids should know their teacher’s first name

19. bars can make great neighbors

20. a long commute isn’t bad if you use it well

21. the word “hamster” is always funny in a madlib

this fact was discovered when tyson used it as a plural noun in a madlib. it ended up saying, “tarzan was raised by hamsters.” this became a catchphrase in our classroom. and “hamster” was used in pretty much every madlib i’ve been a part of since then. go ahead and try to prove us wrong. i dare you.

"tyson is yelling at ms. york."

22. canvassing is fun

when i ventured out of my classroom, i got involved with the oregon bus project. i met a lot of great folks, and i discovered that i love canvassing – chatting with folks about what matters to them, checking out their yards, registering them to vote. i was once even given a popsicle on an especially hot day.

some really great people came into my life because of the bus project, including the gentleman in pink and his wonderful family.

stroke survivor – 36-38

23. people love to get mail

24. it’s amazing to still have people in your life who knew you when you were 5

i took this for granted, and through many conversations with friends i’ve realized how fortunate i am. i know some pretty cool people from way back when.

25. being alive is awesome

26. kindness matters

27. let people help you

28. thanksgiving is the best holiday

i’ve never been much of a holiday person, but man do i love thanksgiving now. and the plan is that this year i’ll host my first thanksgiving. we’ve been doing it at my parents’ house, and since my grandma florence was always a fixture of that meal, i thought that it was time to shake it up. we’ll be eating at the table that my grandma gave me, the anchor of my childhood thanksgivings. i was once invited to my friends ben and janet’s thanksgiving – they invited folks who couldn’t be with family for one reason or another. added card tables to their kitchen table, and did it as a potluck. it was such a good feeling to be a part of it – that’s how i’m going to do it this year. i have so much to be thankful for.

on the back of this picture, in my grandma's handwriting it says, "taken by mark thanksgiving 1979"

29. gratitude can save your life

30. jeff lynne is a genius

31. people who have grandparents are really lucky

for my entire childhood, i had 5 grandparents. incredible. my grandpa fred passed away about 10 years ago, and my grandma florence last month. my grandpa and step-grandma live in oklahoma, and my grandma betty lives here. i had breakfast with her on sunday. grandparents rock, and i’m a better person for having elders in my childhood and my adult life.

me and grandpa fred in what is now my chair

32. good nurses are the same kind of people as good teachers

33. oatmeal is delicious

34. getting tattooed (twice) with your mom is pretty cool

35. the universe is friendly and on my side

36. i took a lot for granted – things like walking carrying an umbrella, and buttering toast

37. what would elvis costello do?

through conversations with my friend bucko (a jimmy buffett fan) i’ve realized that one of the things i love about elvis is that he does what’s interesting to him. he doesn’t worry about what other people will say about it. for a while he got really into country. he did an album with burt bacharach. he’s in an american roots music phase right now. so what would elvis costello do? i think that he’d allow himself to pursue things that he finds interesting. and he’d encourage me to do the same. so that’s exactly what i’m doing. bucko is, too.

38. i will never enjoy wearing skirts/dresses

i’ve tried over the years, and i’m done. finished. and it’s a relief. i release myself.

i'm goofing off because i feel self-conscious

boy, i’ve learned a lot these last few years. this west coast woman will ring in 39 by dipping her feet in the atlantic ocean. seems like an excellent way to start my next trip around the sun.

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5 responses to “38 lessons from 38 years

  1. you are so awesome. there is much to be admired about you.

  2. What do Kristen Eagle and the wingback chair have in common? Each one made two appearances. Each one wore a new outfit for the second pic. And they both age very well. (really – is it ‘each’ or ‘both’?)

  3. I like your #35: the universe is friendly and on my side.

  4. I really love your insight. So many of these belong on postcards! “Trying is everything.” Hell yeah it is. \m/

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