33 Things I Believe Are True

I got a tattoo shortly before my 33rd birthday. It will absolutely be gone by my 34th/next week.

I turned 33 yesterday. As I often do, I wrote down some thoughts. My annual birthday essays are primarily directed at me. Still, I share them for three reasons:

  1. I have uncovered truths that you can potentially benefit from.
  2. I have only recently uncovered truths you were already wildly aware of, thus reassuring your concrete belief that your personal growth is significantly ahead of mine.
  3. You are an editor at a well-paying publication and you’ve been on the mighty prowl for an idiot writer who is rather middle ground in skill and insights and you’re looking to sabotage the periodical’s agro parent company but secretly hope the new column takes off because you could readily take credit for the success for whatever future endeavor you have in mind.

Anyway, to me, birthdays, are good checkpoints for me to sit down with my good/bad self and evaluate how I did the past year and how I plan to do the next year. It’s also just solid recourse to have performance reviews outside of work. For instance, I was in a bad place getting better at 30, I was in an incredible mindset at 31, I was at a low spot come 32, and I’m at decent plateau at 33. If you tracked at my development as a human being, it’d likely look akin to a climate change chart — peaks and valleys but trending upward. I figure that should be the case.

So here now are the first 33 semi-coherent thoughts that came to mind on my birthday.

11 Things I’m Totally (Mostly) Sure About

1. Life is short and it’s still the longest I’ve committed to anything.

2. I like that (in my personal belief) the universe is random. That means it’s fair — in theory only, because in no way at all is life fair in execution. It wasn’t until a theology discussion on a road trip through the barren landscape of Utah that I realized this. In that moment, I formed a pyramid and it was the first time I realized I had long ago put myself at the top. I didn’t put that mentality into practice for nearly a decade though.

3. There is absolutely no one path that is correct for anything and anyone who says so or even hints at it is just trying to get you to keep them company or reaffirm their guesswork. Get married whenever or don’t. Buy a house if you can and want to. Have kids if you think that’s right the call. Try drugs if you’re curious and understand the risk and effects. Work an office job or for yourself. Have a close relationship with your family or don’t. Explore any faith that’s true to good human nature. Travel or stay at home. You are on Earth exactly one time. Do what you want, not what you’re under the impression you should. Most people have ties of some kind, so consider how your actions impact others and just keep in mind that each decision brings new weight to later ones. One choice may cancel out another.

4. Being mean almost never pays off in the long run. It is an indescribable high to be harsh to someone you momentarily believe deserves it, but that crash is horrific when you come up for air.

5. People who say they like to have fun, as some kind of summary interest, aren’t the ones contributing to the fun. They view fun as an art form they’re a patron to, like movies or sports. That’s totally fine, but it’s a pretty weird deal to scam people on when presented as an activity. Who doesn’t like fun, you gigantic serial killer? Likewise, people who are “so random” are the most predictable individuals on the planet. Just because one time you put Sufjan Stevens and and Madvillain on the same playlist doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to nail your top three categories of Instagram posts.

6. It is a million times easier to say something is cool or interesting than to say, “Well…,” and descend into a bunk diatribe like some goblin shaman. Most of the time, even if someone’s talking about their love of a Chuck Lorre program, you can just say, “Right on.” Everything doesn’t have to be Pitchfork. But also there are terrible things out there that suck. I’m just saying, be selective about that vocal stamp of disapproval.

7. We will love something until we destroy what made it interesting. I’ve seen it happen to everything from to pomegranates to Chris Pratt. Culture gives the average person the impression they’re participating in a discussion when it’s more like we’re Elmyra from Tiny Toons, just strangling the cutest animals. Playing your favorite song until you hate it is one thing; but giving your opinion about something gets murky when if you’re the reason you it’s not at the level it should be.

8. Not enough people work on themselves. They go their whole stupid lives wondering how to level up their career, remodel their house, and change their wardrobe, but they’ll hit an age and just assume it to be the endgame playing out forever. You need to have conversations with yourself about yourself — daily, weekly, monthly, annually, whatever — because blindly assuming you’re as good as you’re going to get is a bonkers way to move through life. Odds are you’re not that great.

9. Likewise, you have to take care of your body. You don’t have to be a well-hydrated marathon-runner who speaks of Taco Bell like a deranged ex, but there has to be some kind of physical maintenance in play.

10. The best thing about age is caring less. The worst thing about age is caring less.

11. The concept of dying (outside of instant) sounds terrifying. The concept of being dead, however, is the most non-issue deal imaginable for me. I will be forgotten. My first and last name can die with me. Everything I’ve ever written can disappear. My memories and motivations shall perish. My debt will of course live on and someone else will have to deal with that. Otherwise, nothing matters.

11 Things That Are Really Just Words to Live By

1. Look on the bright side when you have the view. It will not always be there. That’s okay. Wait for it or work on it (as best you can).

2. Consider your luck. It’s the least you can do.

3. Keep in mind that exercise and a good night’s rest make a world of difference. Emotions make reality relatively subjective. Don’t start low.

4. Be careful of what you actually hate — the thing, the hype, or the fans.

5. Speak up if there’s a problem. Don’t assume what’s obvious to you is obvious to others.

6. Forgive as best as you can. You certainly don’t have to, but holding a grudge is like drinking poison so you can eventually spit it on someone else.

7. An ego is a good thing to have. An unmanageable ego is the worst thing to have.

8. Get out of your comfort zone. It makes you well-rounded, which informs perspective. Think of the initial moments of the afterlife being spent filling out the world’s longest survey about what you tried. You don’t want to just check off Soup, Hawaii, and Chili’s and call it a life.

9. Have something to look forward to. If not tomorrow, consider your week. If not then, think about your month. If not that, open up your year. There is something somewhere in your timeline that you’re stoked on.

10. Just start things, damn.

11. And deal with reality, you delusional idiot.

11 Things That Are Unfortunately Also True (About Me)

1. I’m almost positive there’s a part of my subconscious under the impression that if I don’t kick out a certain amount of words every hour, aside from rest, I will die. You think I talk too much? Imagine being me literally every waking second. It is exhausting. I’m like the bus from Speed.

2. I have a very punchable face with extremely punchable expressions. I also add tremendously punchable words to the whole package. I cannot imagine why I do this.

3. I get up my ass without realizing it. Sometimes, I do realize it — like, halfway through a sentence — and the person I’m conversing with shrinks their eyes, knowing they now have to watch me plot an elaborate escape from a prison of my own impulsive making.

4. Pampering yourself is the ultimate high in my book. There’s an altruism to pampering others that is beautiful and good and wonderful, but there’s no guilty indulgence there. Being madhouse good to yourself is an insane rush. It’s like hitting nothing but green lights through a busy city. It’s just cruising through noise.

5. I don’t always recognize when I’m in a bad spot, but I’m getting better at it. Took me years to come to terms with how arrogant, aggressive, and unapologetic I was in my early 20s. Only took me months to realize my brain was leaky last year. This is why I need a time machine. Everyone wants to kill Hitler — I mean, sure, so do I — but I always think of time travel as the most effective method to correct mistakes. I have also learned to apologize and make amends, which is much, much, much easier.

6. Much of my self-deprecation is fueled by embarrassment/fury regarding past behavior. I’m also my own safest target in any given room and there’s always plenty of material.

7. For someone who loves learning about everything, I am spectacularly terrible at literally everything that isn’t writing, eating spicy food, or simply asking one question after another without regard for anyone’s time. Honestly, just barf a verb and I’ll probably botch my attempt.

8. I have 100% gotten dumber since college. This might be why I ask so many questions. I am desperate for new knowledge and this seems to be easiest route. That’s another thing, my readiness to put forth big-time effort is extremely select. The concept of hobbies gets shinier with each passing year.

9. I wasn’t always such a cheerleader for others. It took a broken heart in my late 20s to get me to fervently root for the lives of others while pulling myself out of a weird funk. Then it stuck. Also, I think I came to realize I don’t have many skills to offer to help other folks, but being excited for stuff can be second nature for me and it’s totally free of charge.

10. I’m getting better at a lot of things. I’m also getting worse at several things. For instance, I’ve gotten more clever in recent years, but I used to think I was waaaay cleverer. Meanwhile, my attention span has significantly weakened. I blame the internet. I also blame myself.

11. I am horrifyingly aware of how little I know. This is a good thing I’m trying to correct. That’s why birthday check-ins are key.

Raised by handsome wolves, I mostly write these days. jake.kilroy@gmail.com

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