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April 07, 2009

Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18

John Hawkins' list of 50 Things Every 18 Year-old Should Know got me thinking about things I've learned since I was just a sweet young thing. I don't know that any of these are particularly surprising or insightful, but they represent a few of the more noticeable times when life has smacked me upside the head with a clue bat:

1. Never subordinate your personal values to those of the crowd; there is no surer way to erode your self-respect.

"We're hard wired that way/everyone does it/it feels good/It's not wrong so long as I don't hurt anyone else" are excuses, not rational arguments. Unless you think sheep are magnificent and admirable creatures, don't let others drown out that little voice inside your head.

2. Avoid attention rapists. People have a perverse compulsion to watch train wrecks. That doesn't make doing so a wise use of your time or emotional energy. If someone consistently makes you feel bad or wastes your time, walk away.

3. If you wish you were a smarter, braver, more confident, kinder, or happier person, align your behavior with your goals. Human nature gets it backwards: often, function follows outward form. This is a fancy way of saying that actions are more important than feelings.

You're not a slave to every transient mood - the quickest way to change the way you feel is to change the way you act.

4. The way you carry yourself instructs the world in the way you see yourself and how you expect to be treated. Stand up straight. Square your shoulders and look others in the eye even when you're scared or unsure of yourself. Smile, even when you don't feel particularly happy. Most people are far too wrapped up in themselves to look below a happy, confident exterior.

5. Love - real love - always requires some degree of commitment. That's a big decision; one no person can make for another. Love can't be obtained through persuasion, guilt, force, bribery, seduction, or trickery.

In order to be worth anything, love must be the gift of a willing heart. People will decide to love you - or not - for their own reasons, most of which you will never know. Be thankful for that.

6. You can't "give" someone else self-esteem by praising them. The obverse of this rule is that no one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you give them permission.

Throughout your life, people will see you through a lens shaped by their own values, personalities, and experiences. You have absolutely no control over their perceptions. The important question is not, "What do they think of me?", but "What do I think of myself?"

7. Never make major decisions while in the grip of strong emotion.

8. Pay as you go. This applies to everyday life as much as it does to your finances.

When you don't pay your way in life financial and emotional debts begin to mount and you'll begin each day, not with a fresh slate but carrying yesterday's backlog of guilt, resentment, and anxiety. If you truly value your friends, romantic relationships, reputation, career or credit rating, don't allow deficits to build up until they become overwhelming.

Fix it now.

9. Beware the Psychic Vampire. This person will suck every last ounce of joy from your soul, leaving only a drained husk. You are not responsible for making other people happy or solving their problems.

This is not to say you shouldn't help others, but lending a sympathetic ear or helping someone out of a jam doesn't make you responsible for their decisions. Do these things because you want to, not because someone else "needs" you to. Happiness is a responsibility that can't be delegated.

10. Believe in something greater than yourself, then act upon that belief.

Once you have a few years under your belt you'll start to wonder why you're here and what you'll leave behind after you die. If there is anything more human than the search for meaning, I don't know what it is. Animals spend their lives eating, drinking, having sex, avoiding pain. People examine the world and their role in it.

"What do you believe?" If you don't have an intelligent answer to that question, what makes you any different from an animal?

Posted by Cassandra at April 7, 2009 04:40 AM

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Don't let the little things distract you from what's important. Ignore the shiny coins along your path through life.

And as Heath Ledger said in a movie, don't let anyone make you feel like you don't deserve what you want.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at April 7, 2009 11:05 AM

I like that one, Joat :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 7, 2009 11:07 AM

What about not deserving what you get?

Oh. Right.

That whole "Attila the Hun in a previous existence" thing...

Posted by: BillT at April 7, 2009 11:10 AM

If you do not learn three new things everyday and realize you were wrong about three things you thought you knew then you're just not paying attention.

Posted by: Roy Lofquist at April 7, 2009 11:15 AM

Keep debt under control. The borrower is slave to the lender. Just ask the former CEO of GM.

Don't sit around waiting for someone else to make your life better (especially a politician). Make it better yourself.

Posted by: Schnauzer at April 7, 2009 12:08 PM

Could it just be a case of the advice given by caring parent and other older and wiser individuals being ignored, discounted, or assumed to be deceitful acts of misdirection by most 18 years?

The old admission which generally follows along the lines of something like, when I was in my teen years, my old man was as dumb as a stump and so remained until I aged into my thirties. Then he <insert a miracle occurred here> which ensmartened him beyond measure... Seems to hold true across the generations.

Beyond that, I plead the fifth!

Posted by: Manchurian Bubba_hun at April 7, 2009 12:25 PM

I notice that the '50 things' list has an entry that claims there are six key areas of your life; none of them is "family." The closest is "romantic," which is not at all the same thing.

Posted by: Grim at April 7, 2009 12:44 PM

God and family.

Posted by: Cricket at April 7, 2009 01:07 PM

9. Beware the Psychic Vampire.

Yeah, howdy! A psychic vampire nearly killed me, but I divorced him and married an adult. Still, I found them among my aquaintences (and one boss at work) with alarming regularity, until I changed my behavior with them. Instead of pouring my whole spirit into helping them, after one attempt (or maybe two) I would say, "That sounds like a tough problem. Let me know how it comes out!" I haven't had problems with them for several years. One blob of karmic gum on the shoe removed.

Posted by: MathMom at April 7, 2009 01:08 PM

11. No matter how stupid you should act, odds are you'll probably still live long enough to grow old.

Wear the damned helmet.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 7, 2009 01:48 PM

I found them among my aquaintences (and one boss at work) with alarming regularity, until I changed my behavior with them.

We women are famous for that. What I used to tell my friends is, "If ya lie down and act like a doormat, don't be surprised if people keep wiping their feet all over you."

I was going to put something to that effect in the list (about making sure you're not encouraging annoying behavior) but I couldn't think of a pithy way to say that in time.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 7, 2009 01:59 PM

"Let me know how it comes out!"
Welcome to guy-dom, ladies.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 7, 2009 02:12 PM

Yeah, well I am still not that very good at resisting that sort of thing, nor at standing up for myself unless it's really important.

Women tend to feel bad over things even when our brains KNOW that is stupid. I am quite capable of feeling guilty while doing what I know makes sense, and I'll feel bad for hours or sometimes even days afterwards.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 7, 2009 02:32 PM

Grim, I agree on the "family" thing. Good catch!

I think that sort of thing becomes more important as we get older, and also after you marry.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 7, 2009 02:34 PM

It seems to me that these are "things to do"; things that will keep you from falling through the cracks of life. God, country and family will follow inevitably if people keep these things in mind.

Chesterton had a line about that last one ("10. Believe in something greater than yourself, then act upon that belief.). He said that people who believe in nothing will believe in anything.

Posted by: ZZMike at April 7, 2009 02:41 PM

Un pour tous, tous pour un."

Posted by: Alexandre Dumas, pere at April 7, 2009 04:13 PM

Impatience is a poor lever.

Posted by: Sister Mary Ita at April 7, 2009 04:29 PM

[at the risk of sending bthun into a tailspin]

"There is little in life that can't be improved by a good spanking".

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag O'Metaphors at April 7, 2009 04:52 PM

True, but Impatiens bloom a New Guinea.

*grabs steel yard stick as a premonition of Jake Blues... or could that be that hun fellow? wafts past her wimple*

Posted by: Sister Mary Stigmata at April 7, 2009 04:54 PM

Oh Lord... :p

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag O'Metaphors at April 7, 2009 05:06 PM

Impatience may be a poor lever, but my hand can slap your face at a fire-rate not to be exceeded by any militray weapon known to man.

You feelin' luck, punk? Well, ARE YOU?

Posted by: Sister Mary "Machine Gun" Lawrence at April 7, 2009 05:26 PM

Sister Mary M-G Lawrence, would you be open to a steel-cage match in full habit with Sister Marie Chantal?

Whoa! Just the thought makes my hair stand on end!

Posted by: Don King at April 7, 2009 05:39 PM

Marie was never a good girl growing up. It's good to know that she finally learned to pay attention.

Posted by: Sister Mary "Machine Gun" Lawrence at April 7, 2009 05:43 PM

And God bless her.

Posted by: Sister Mary "Machine Gun" Lawrence at April 7, 2009 05:46 PM

Sister Mary Stigmata taught me and Elwood to appreciate the little things;
# 9011: Thanks to the new redistributive thrust of the Congress and the Administration currently in the White House, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, we're wearing sunglasses and there are 573 days and a wakeup until the polls open for election day, 2010.

Elwood, "Hit it." "But we gotta stop in and see da Penguin!"

Posted by: "Joliet" Jake Blues at April 7, 2009 07:09 PM

Elwood: It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas.

Jake: Well, it can't possibly be a "green" vehicle then, can it?

Elwood: Out. NOW!!!!

Posted by: Sister Mary Richard Petty at April 7, 2009 07:19 PM

20) Here are 3 keys to keeping a reasonably clean house: Make that four, four things...

Never have relations with a chimney sweep.

Posted by: Sister Mary Poppins at April 7, 2009 07:28 PM

Animals spend their lives eating, drinking, having sex, avoiding pain.

LOL, I've said the exact same thing about my fellow fighter pilots! Perhaps I've been more accurate over the years than I realized!

Posted by: Tater at April 7, 2009 07:57 PM

Oh Lord... :p

Do *not* get me going on pilots! One of my favorite pilot memories is of riding down the stairs of someone's house on a motorcycle during a very crowded party.

That, and carrier quals. Yikes. Was I ever that young?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 7, 2009 08:02 PM

Dang... small world. Who knew you could find so many sisters in one comments section?

Seems as though everyone's related. Makes me feel right at home - kinda warm and fuzzy like...

/and I'm outta here!!!

Posted by: West By-God Virginia Native at April 7, 2009 08:04 PM

32) If you think a doctor's wrong, don't hesitate to ask for a second opinion. Your health is vitally important and doctors make mistakes just as often as anyone else.

This becomes more critical when your doctors tell you that you will be staying over in the VIP suite. The one that has more padding on the walls than on the mattress.

Posted by: Sister Mary Hartman at April 7, 2009 08:05 PM



thank you.

Posted by: Sister Mary Elephant at April 7, 2009 08:07 PM

doctors make mistakes just as often as anyone else

Speak for yourself, buster. Nuns never make mistakes.

We never forget anything, either.

*rim shot*

Posted by: Sister Mary Elephant at April 7, 2009 08:09 PM

Paper or plastic?
A guy that ran the ladfill in a rural county in North Carolina told me that after one rainstorm, paper bags were no longer a problem with regards to blowing away from the landfill.

Time enough for love? There's always time enough for love.

The noble soul has reverence for itself.

Things you will probably never see on a tombstone: "He wished he spent more time at work"

For every time there is a purpose under heaven.

Beer is God's way of telling us he loves us.

Gladly will I live this life
And when the time comes
Gladly lay it down
But they'll have to run pretty fast to catch me!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 7, 2009 08:10 PM

Donuts...is there anything they can't do?

Posted by: Homer J. Simpson at April 7, 2009 08:42 PM


Posted by: Sister Dunkin (a man trapped in a bad habit) at April 7, 2009 08:55 PM

This is good for a start for me.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 7, 2009 11:08 PM

"DANGER!" in six inch high red letters is not meant as an invitation.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 7, 2009 11:30 PM

That, and carrier quals.

Ooooh, didja get weather deck qualified? Didja hook the three wire? How many bolters? Didn't foul the deck, didja?

I hope they were reasonably sober and you didn't get a strike on the fantail...

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 01:51 AM

Damn - step away from the 'puter for a day or two and come back to find that I can barely tell the difference between this place and Lex's, based on the comments.

The only thing that helps is all of the nuns running about.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at April 8, 2009 03:04 AM

The nuns here are too fond of gratuitous violence -- totally unsuitable for Lex's place.

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 04:29 AM

We are the people your mother warned you about.

Posted by: Snark Le'Puss at April 8, 2009 04:46 AM

You're *Democrats*?!?

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 07:53 AM

The nuns here are too fond of gratuitous violence

It's only gratuitous when you're the victim. In other news, I can fly!!!

Posted by: Sister Bertrille! Sister Bertrille!!!! at April 8, 2009 09:19 AM

Just as I suspected -- you're Sally Struthersfield.

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 10:50 AM

There are five: You sweep a room with your eyes and hide all Offending Stuff in the dishwasher, oven and microwave.

That is known as the ten second tidy and it works if you don't plan on feeding anyone.

Posted by: Cricket at April 8, 2009 11:22 AM

Nuns running amok.

I have seen everything.

Posted by: Cricket at April 8, 2009 11:25 AM

Nuns running amok.

Nothing wrong with that, every once in a while.

Just as long as they don't make it a

*Noooooooooooo!* I can't say it, I can't! There are some places even *I* won't go!

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 11:53 AM

Obama Campaign Slogan "It's The War Stupid"

Col Jack Jacob (Ret) Amry, this morning on Imus in the morning, mentions todays politicians are primarily "media personalities". Col Jacobs is more focused on the U.S. Military Budget, and the Afghanistan War and our build up of troops. President Obama promised to increase our footprint in Afghanistan. Imus asked Col Jacobs out of all his campaign promises why did he decide to keep this one?

Maybe we will outfit our troops with those little PUMAS in the news because apparently that is the only way our U.S. Military build up is going to get any attention.


Posted by: Ree at April 8, 2009 12:02 PM

Word doth spread, festivities here abound. Then here is where I shall be!
*wonders why all the good ladies are dressed in such a fashion*

Bye the by, what, pray tell, is a fantail? *struggles to suppress a grin*

Posted by: Falstaff at April 8, 2009 12:12 PM

A U.S. official says the crew of an American-flagged vessel hijacked off the coast of Somalia has retaken control of the ship and has one pirate in custody.
The official said the status of the other pirates is unknown but they were reported to "be in the water."

By, God, boys, I'll sail with you to the ends of the earth! Good show!

Posted by: Lt. Stephan Decatur, U.S.N. at April 8, 2009 12:20 PM

Trillions for defense but not one penny for tribute!

And what the good Naval officer said...

Posted by: Ghosts of great men past at April 8, 2009 01:31 PM

She said we rolled that camaro like a cowboy cigarette
Out on the highway in a puddle of beer
That's just about how close to death you're gonna get
Till the only thing standing is fear

Singing, oh darling, faces were changed
The names of the innocent, the story at five
Oh darling, faces get strange
But only the song survives

She said, now don't you remember they put a patch on your eye
Like dread pirate roberts, you looked so unplanned
They cut off my wedding ring and you started to cry
A one-eyed niagara falls man

oh darling, faces were changed
The names of the innocent, the story at five
Oh darling, faces get strange
But only the song survives

I said, but I never married - I said with surprise
And is this the diamond you said that you lost
It was under my eyelids when they flushed out my eyes
Hell and I don't know what the thing cost

oh darling, faces were changed
The names of the innocent, the story at five
Oh darling, faces get strange
But only the song survives

But I woke up sweating to breakfast in bed
And there were my children, and there was my wife
Post-traumatic stress, of just a bump on the head
Or maybe the ride of my life

Posted by: The Dread Pirate Roberts at April 8, 2009 03:42 PM

One of mine:
If you put something in the digital domain, odds are it's there forever. If don't want some future boss seeing you in a thong and high heels, then its probably a good idea to leave that one off your myspace page and out of your cell phone messages.

Posted by: cyr at April 8, 2009 04:21 PM

If don't want some future boss seeing you in a thong and high heels...

Ummmmm -- about your archived comments, darlin' girl...

Posted by: BillT at April 8, 2009 05:09 PM

I see dead people :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 8, 2009 05:11 PM

Well listen me brothers
I'll sing you a yarn
about women and whiskey
and a life well unearned
About days in the mast
where I could only see God
and those others on deck where
such manners were flogged

I became the young brute
that they made me to be
But I never let go of my
precious Eileen
And I wracked my ship
towards the ends of the earth
for each mile we stretched
was a mile of worth

Here and now,
Your dreams are to be had,
Looking now,
The coast is clear, lad
In the end,
we've naught to complain
Because we've crossed
the inland sea, babe.

Posted by: Dread Pirate rdr at April 8, 2009 05:35 PM

"The Dread Pirate rdr...".

I like it. It has a certain... je ne sais quois :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 8, 2009 08:45 PM

When the old woman is late, the hyena sh**s gray hair.

Posted by: Paul Theroux at April 8, 2009 11:00 PM

After almost 16 hours of ruminating, Mr. Theroux, I've yet to divine any purpose to your statement. As joke is only as good as it's intended victim's prejuices, I must admit that you are from Mars and I am from New York.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 9, 2009 07:40 PM

Leave the typos. They sing.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 9, 2009 07:42 PM

You can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes you might find,
you get what you need.

Posted by: KJ at April 9, 2009 09:05 PM