2014 marks twenty-six years on this planet for me. As I’ve done for the past two years, I’m once again taking the opportunity to look back at the people, events, ideas, and experiences that have defined me. At 24, I listed 24 things I learned in 24 years and for 25, I reflected on 25 things for which I was grateful (part one and part two). For 26, I’m running through 26 pieces of unsolicited advice that I feel make for a richer life. Make of them what you will. Here we go…
1. If you have the opportunity to grow your own vegetables or seasonings, even just a few tomatoes, do so.
2. Watch the Big Lebowski.
3. If you’re worried that others look down on you for whatever reason, whether it’s your career path, lifestyle choices, or politics, just remember that most people are too damned self absorbed to really care what you do or what you think. In fact, when they asked you about any of these things, they probably didn’t even listen to your response.
4. Read the poetry of Hart Crane.
5. Read the poetry of WH Auden.
6. Listen to the Smiths while reading the poetry of Hart Crane or WH Auden.
7. Specifically for my fellow Torontonians, your city is bigger than your neighbourhood. I understand that our less than stellar transit makes it difficult, but you have to put in the effort to explore all of Toronto. You need to soak up the culture on Queen West and stroll the waterfront, but you also need to bike Rouge Park, see Shakespeare in High Park, and head north of the 401, which is where the best food in the city can be found.
8. Once a week, call up a friend. Pick a coffeshop that you’ve never visited or haven’t visited in a while and go there. Sit across from your friend, or around the table with a few friends, and have a conversation over coffee.
9. Get a public library card and use it.
10. Should you ever find yourself in Paris, you may go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and take pictures. I understand that this is practically mandatory. In addition, however, climb the steps of the Pantheon and Sacre Coeur and take pictures from the top of both places.
11. You know that bit of sidewalk between your front lawn and the other strip of grass that’s just before the road? Shovel it in the winter! Also, throw some salt on there. It will prevent others from injuring themselves and potentially suing you and will also make you less of a douche.
12. Don’t use your phone as your alarm clock. Also, don’t place your alarm clock on your nightstand. Place it at the point in your bedroom that’s farthest from where you sleep.
13. Be evangelical about something. Have something that is so damned important to you that you need to know everything about it and feel compelled to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with everyone. Then, actually share that knowledge and enthusiasm with everyone and do everything in your power to make them as excited about your passion as you are. This will make you a more interesting person and the world a richer place.
14. You don’t have to learn to play golf or take up the game, but if you truly want to test your mental fortitude, you should at least learn to swing a club and hit a ball properly. The whole process is an exercise in choosing grace and restraint over brute force.
15. The ability to move and be active is a gift that can be taken away. Walk, run, bike, play a sport. Do something of that sort for an hour each day that doesn’t involve sitting down and takes you outside.
16. Blowing out somebody else’s candle will not make yours shine any brighter (Note: credit to a colleague who first passed this phrase on to me).
17. If your job involves sitting in front of a computer or being in meetings for a significant portion of the day, please don’t put the word guru in your job title.
18. Stop pretending that you’ve seen it and actually watch The Godfather. It really is that good. Part II is even better.
19. Choose love.
20. Keep a journal. You’ll be surprised how much you forget if you don’t make a conscious effort to document things. You’ll also be surprised how many thoughts that you didn’t even know you had will come flowing out once you sit down to write.
21. In the midst of a dilemma, ask yourself the following: What would Serge Gainsbourg do?
22. Share your books, your music, and your movies.
23. There are two types of wine, ones you enjoy and ones you don’t. Make your selections in accordance with the former rather than the latter.
24. Read Henry Miller.
25. Youth is rather overrated.
26. Pride is not a matter of mindless chest-thumping and droning about the superiority of one culture, community, or individual over another. It’s a matter of cherishing those things and striving to preserve and improve them. It’s about representing them at their best. Leave your community better than you found it. Learn your own history, that of your culture and especially your family and see yourself as building upon their greatest triumphs and creating a richer legacy.