Enjoy Yourself – It’s Later Than You ThinkPosted: March 21, 2011
On Turning Thirty
Guy Lombardo’s “Enjoy Yourself”
Turning thirty is unlike any previous birthday. It’s the first birthday I’ve had to “accept”. Like I was convincing myself I had a choice in the matter. When I was younger I looked forward to my thirtieth birthday because I thought that by then I’d surely be reaping the rewards I’d earned by meeting all the demands of the past 29 years. You see, obligations started at age 4 when I had to go to pre-school. No more day-dreaming or deciding how to spend my own time. Time to be a big girl. I had no idea that would be followed by another nineteen years of school and a bunch of part-time jobs. Then real life silently took the reins in the form of a full time job to pay off college loans and provide me with health insurance I was sure I didn’t need. No more day-dreaming or deciding how to spend my own time.
I grew up, I guess. I’m making what I can of life and I suppose I’ve started reaping rewards. Sometimes I remember to feel grateful. But as I look back, there are things I would have done differently if I’d only had this foresight. Learn from my regrets.
It’s a Different World
I should have gone to a liberal arts college instead of art school. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? That’s foresight for ya. Attention parents of arty kids: only about 20% of kids who go to art school SHOULD go to art school. Everyone else should take art classes at a liberal arts college.
Love Your Mom
When I was a teenager, I was a fucking handful. Not easy for a single mom who had to commute for hours to and from work every day. I could’ve been more helpful, and less of a bitch.
Don’t Discount Poetry
Growing up, I loved poetry. In high school I’d won awards and been published in little lit mags. I went to workshops, festivals, conferences. I met Allen Ginsberg the year before he died. I wish I’d stuck with poetry (or literature) in college instead of painting/drawing.
Have a Place of Your Own
I had a few roommates in a dumpy apartment in Queens and then I moved in with my boyfriend. I never had my own place. Don’t underestimate the importance of this.
Don’t Disapprove of Others
My yoga practice is helping me with this, but still, I judge. I’ve lost good friends because I didn’t approve of their choices and I’ve been cut off because they didn’t approve of mine. This is a waste of emotion; just not worth it.
Quit Your Day Job?
Once you start taking any job, it’s hard to go back to pursuing what you love to do because you’re stuck. You’re making money, paying off your bills, but it’s just a job – not what your child-self would have chosen for you to spend your life doing. Become childlike again. What did you want to be when you grew up?
If I’d had known how easy it was to lose 60 pounds, I would have done it years ago. Going through life heavy is a half-life because you don’t know what you’re missing. People treat you differently when you’re not big; society is kinder, you’ll be healthier and you’ll do better in job interviews. Start losing your weight now while you’ve still got a life to enjoy. And while you’re at it, take better care of your skin.
Get to Know Museums
During college, I worked in museums and nonprofits. My career shifted to nonprofits, but I was never as happy as I was when I worked in museums. At the Brooklyn Museum, I handled ancient Egyptian maps and scrolls. At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I helped clean Gauguin’s post-impressionistic masterpiece “Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” and one of Monet’s little sunlit haystacks. Experiencing such famous works in such intimacy is priceless. I should have stayed in museums.
If my French was better, I could have pursued my master’s degree in medieval fine art. Aside from the additional professional opportunities it affords you, being bilingual will help you travel internationally.
Enjoy Your Wedding
There were a lot of stressful elements to planning and executing my wedding. I only wish I took it less seriously.
It hasn’t all been regrets. It turns out that in my first 30 years, I made a lot of decisions that were right on:
Leave New York City
After 9/11 and the subsequent blackout, I moved out of New York. I wanted to be in charge of my own transportation and I was feeling a bit claustrophobic because the city was anxiously nursing its wounds. I wanted fresh air and trees outside my window. I wanted a slower pace of life. It took a while before I could visit and ride the subway again with confidence, but now I go back to the city every few weeks. The most wonderful food, art, music, dance and opera are there.
Now that my mom reads my blog, I can’t list my teenage exploits here. But I don’t regret anything – I had a ball. I didn’t know those years would be so passionate, so educational, so independent.
Give Up Meat
Since I adopted a vegetarian diet, I have never once regretted giving up meat. Before that, I used to think that vegetarians could never really know good food. In fact, they appreciate it more because they give their diet greater consideration than omnivores.
Refuge in Estrangement
I’ve been estranged from my dad and most of his side of the family. You’ve got to know when to protect yourself.
Quit Your Day Job
“They” say you’re not supposed to change jobs too frequently, that it’ll look bad on your resume. I don’t regret the jobs I’ve left because again, you’ve got to know when to protect yourself.
Get Married – When it’s Right
I’m immensely grateful to have my husband in my life. We lived together for about five years before we married and even with that prep time, I could not have prepared myself for the effort of marriage. I’m learning that a successful partnership involves tremendous compromise, unconditional love, and simple balance. Every day, it continues to shape me.
I don’t really regret any negative experiences I’ve endured because they’ve been influential. It’s a strange blessing to not get what you want; to not have a dream life. You develop empathy and compassion and humility.
Any regrets at age 20, 30, 40, 50? Share what you’ve learned with me.