Tag Archives: Birthday

I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now When I Was Younger

(Image/financeandmortgage.com)

(Image/financeandmortgage.com)

I heard a car alarm going off while exiting the mall.

I’d have ignored it like I do most car alarms, but I was still on high alert from a previous car break-in in the not-too-distant past. I had left a large shoebox with about 70 compact discs in plain sight on the floor behind the passenger seat. I had also failed to remove the detachable face from my car’s CD player. Someone broke a window and stole them.

It was the first time I’d ever really felt violated. It’s a unique sort of anger. I replaced the broken window, the CD deck and about two-thirds of the CDs with insurance money and my father’s generosity.

Then, not long after that on my 17th birthday, my mom and stepdad took me to dinner and then the mall to buy me gifts. I realized while walking out into the mall parking lot that the car alarm I heard was mine.

My walk turned into a run.

Sitting in my passenger seat with my car door open was some asshole trying to yank the CD unit from my front dash, and my fight-or-flightometer was firmly set on fight.

Arms spread wide and displaying the universal sign language for Tough Guy® I yelled: “What the fuck, man?!” and just kept coming. I had every intention of slamming my heavy 1986 Buick Regal car door into him over and over again, but this guy was spry.

He jumped out and pulled a knife. It wasn’t a hardcore Crocodile Dundee knife, but it wasn’t some wimpy punk knife you wanted shoved into your gut either.

The switch flipped on the fight-or-flightometer, and I backed up. Dude ran away. My stepdad chased him, presumably less afraid of being gutted than I was. I always thought that was awesome, but only because he didn’t get stabbed. Later, I ID’ed the guy to police detectives from a series of photos at the police station. Maybe that guy is dead or in prison now. Or maybe he reads this blog and remembers that night (Hey man!).

Standing in my father’s kitchen with all four of my parents, my dad totally ripped my ass, which he almost never did. After going through all of that trouble with the police and insurance and him spending more money so that I could have my stupid (but awesome at the time!) car stereo that drove all the neighbors crazy, I had left a detachable face on the CD deck and more CDs just laying around in my car like a Welcome sign for thieves.

He was pissed. So I spent the evening of my 17th birthday, getting a verbal ass-kicking from my dad in front of all four of my parents who were pretty much never in the same room at the same time.

I totally deserved it, too.

(Listen to this song on repeat for the rest of the time you’re on this page, please.)

I turn 37 tomorrow.

For the same reason I left that detachable CD player face on even though I’d already had it stolen once, and the same reason I foolishly sprinted up to some stranger where I could have easily been shot and killed, I don’t know that there’s ANYTHING you could have told me 20 years ago that would have kept me from (stubbornly) “needing” to figure things out on my own—often the hard way.

I tell my young son 100-percent of the time we’re eating together to eat over his plate so crumbs and sauces and whatever fall on his plate and not on his shirt, lap, or the floor.

And pretty much 100-percent of the time, he gets crap all over his clothes and the floor. Because, almost certainly to his mother’s chagrin, he’s a little bit like his father.

But what if I could somehow get Doc Brown to fire up that old DeLorean time machine and hand-deliver it to myself in 1996? Wouldn’t I pay attention then? Probably not. But let’s pretend I would to eliminate some of the pointlessness from this exercise.

If I had to give the gift of knowledge and wisdom to a young man oblivious to his need for it in the form of a time-warped letter, what would I write?

A Letter to Myself on my 17th Birthday

3-24-2016

Dear Matt,

Happy birthday, dude! I really wanted to come back to ’96 and just have a nice sit-down talk with you, but Doc was all “blah-blah-blah… time paradox… blah-blah-blah… space-time continuum… blah-blah-blah… destruction of universe…” so I was like: “Fine, Doc. Whatever. Give him this letter AFTER you tell him he’s a 37-year-old divorced single father who lives alone, works in an office cubicle for 40-plus hours per week, and doesn’t smoke or even drink often to help manage the shame. It’ll probably go over his head because I was kind of a dipshit at 17.”

Sorry I said that. But you really are kind of a dipshit. You get solid grades and have an excellent vocabulary so you fake everyone (and yourself) out. But you’re totally dumb. This isn’t unique to your teenage years. You’re actually a moron all the way through your twenties.

Intellectually and maturity-wise, turning 30 is really good for you. But sadly, that’s also when a bunch of bad personal-life things will start happening, and since you fake being smart instead of actually being smart, your entire life is going to fall apart. Like, clinically depressed, fall apart. Like, have a few things in common with suicidal people, fall apart.

Today, you have no idea who or what you want to be. You see all these other kids who are going to go off to college knowing their career path. You see people who seem focused and disciplined and who seem to genuinely crave knowledge.

You sometimes wonder what’s wrong with you because you don’t know what you want to do with your life. You don’t know why you never seem to be able to maintain long-term attention and focus. You don’t understand why all of these other people want to learn things. School’s boring. You just want a job that helps you pay the bills so you can get to that next weekend party. Living for the weekend.

But now you have a secret weapon. The knowledge of what you WILL want. I’m going to tell you what some of those things are, how you can have them, and a few bonus secrets, too. You’re welcome.

There Are No Shortcuts

There’s only the long way. But here’s something awesome I didn’t expect at 17: Today feels the same as Today did in 1996. I know 37 sounds totally old to you. But it doesn’t feel old when you’re in the moment. The 20 years between your Today and my Today is more than enough time to master everything you want to master, even after learning what I’m about to tell you.

You Have Something Called ADHD

You’ll hear a lot about it later. You’ll think it’s made up. People will tell you it’s a fake thing Big Pharma is pushing to sell drugs to kids. And maybe it is! One of the best things about being 37 is that you’ll get really comfortable with the idea of uncertainty. It’s totally okay to not know things! Pursue knowledge. Pursue truth. Try your best. Learn about ADHD and how to manage it. That will help you with everything you do, and your relationships with everyone you meet.

You Value Money Too Much

I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. It’s nice to have. I’m just saying you rank it above most other things, and it’s a really bad idea. You should put most of your energy into the most important things. If you had a billion dollars, and then you found out you had brain cancer, would it matter that you were a billionaire? When your health is poor—mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally—everything in your life falls apart, and there aren’t enough dollars to fix it. Which brings us to…

College (Fresh out of High School) is Overrated

Not only is it overrated, there are some fields in which attending college can be demonstrably proven to be a bad financial proposition. It’s not your fault. In 1996, it seems like only the kids with no future skip college. The losers. And the conventional wisdom is you need a bachelor’s degree to get a professional job. But it’s a big lie everyone believes and I can’t figure out why. Some fields of study lend themselves to higher education. Law. Medicine. Engineering.

But pretty much everything else? You’re paying tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars for a piece of paper that says you learned things that if you drank enough beer, you didn’t actually learn.

At 37, I’ve had three full-time jobs following college graduation, NONE of which benefitted from me attending college.

I’m NOT saying be a burnout loser. I’m NOT saying don’t learn things. But I AM saying don’t take on a bunch of debt for a crappy four-year degree after classes you won’t remember and having acquired zero useful life skills or valuable knowledge.

Instead, read every book you can on the subjects which genuinely interest you, and then spend 40 hours per week actively practicing a skill or attempting to create something in your field of interest, instead of sitting in expensive classes that won’t help.

Because you’re you, it will take you five years to earn your bachelor’s degree and cost a small fortune.

You can get 10,000 hours experience (a time length generally accepted as achieving expertise at any given thing) by putting in 40-hour weeks for 4.8 years. Guess how many 22-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees are experts at anything other than bong hits and using coin-laundry machines?

You’re Not the Only One Who Thinks and Feels That

About what? About anything. You have thoughts and feelings and fears and questions and beliefs, and you never talk about them with anyone because it feels safer to keep it a secret. Maybe you’re afraid your friends won’t be friends with you. Maybe you’re afraid your parents won’t love you. Maybe you’re afraid you’re a freak, and if everyone figures out who the real you is, they’ll all laugh at you, and you’ll die alone and celibate with no friends.

EVERYONE else is ALSO thinking and feeling those same kinds of things. That’s an awesome life secret. Don’t be a fake version of yourself in order to win the approval of your friends, or family, or people you know from back home, or for girls you meet. No one will like the fake version of you any more than the real version.

Just be yourself, no matter what, and enjoy the absence of insecurity that comes from being surrounded by people who love and accept you as you are. Changes your whole life.

You’ll Have to Change Your Eating Habits and Exercise Regularly to Maintain Your Shape

One day, your metabolism slows, and you’ll gain weight. You’ll have to exercise even though you’ll no longer compete in organized athletics. When you do so in the morning, you will feel really good all day long, and you’ll look better, and the combination of those two things will improve your confidence and performance in everything you do. Which is good.

Write Down 10 Ideas Every Day

You’re going to discover a writer you really like named James Altucher. He preaches this, and it’s because he’s really smart. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad the ideas are. The point is simply to habitually be able to come up with new ideas all the time. When you’re 37, the superpower you wish you could have is the ability to quickly come up with several viable solutions to ANY problem as needed. It’s how you help people. It’s how you make money. It’s how you improve at things. It’s how you do anything. You think of something that may or may not have been tried before. Then you figure out how to execute it. Then you give it a try and see what works and what doesn’t. Repeat the good stuff. Avoid the bad. The applications for your ability to generate new ideas are limitless.

Human Beings Weren’t Designed to Sit in Office Cubicles and Take Things So Seriously

You’re pretty good with people. You have a lot of friends. It’s one of the best things about you. Don’t let the world tell you that you should abandon the love you have for your friends and the joy you feel from social connectivity because “it’s time to grow up.” If you meet a girl and she wants you to abandon your social life for her because she wants no part of it, you run. You’ll never make it with anyone who doesn’t share your values. You need not be ashamed of valuing fun and your social network. It matters so much more than money ever will.

You will learn SO MUCH about romantic relationships and about yourself over these next two decades.

Don’t Marry Until the Day You Love Someone More Than Yourself

If you’re wondering whether she’ll make you happy, she won’t. Making you happy is your job. If you WANT to make her happy, you’re on the right track. Marriage isn’t for you.

Marriage is harder than you think, no matter how many people told you it was going to be “work.” It’s hard to be afraid of what you don’t know. But I hope you’ll believe that you should be. Fear is generally bad. A healthy fear of divorce is wise.

It’s hard to understand that being a good person is not the same thing as being a good husband or a good father.

When you’re young, you don’t realize something VERY important: Your brain is hardwired to feel bored when you do any one thing too long, or when you fall into routine and familiarity. It’s not just you. It’s every person in the world. It’s called hedonic adaptation, and it’s probably responsible for most divorce, feelings of depression, sexual affairs and addictions. If everyone knew about this, we’d all stop looking for the bigger, better deal all the time and ruining our relationships and destroying our chance at contentment on our never-ending pursuits of happiness we never achieve.

So, no matter how gorgeous, fun, kind, smart, sexy your wife is, you will get used to her like all other good things in your life you take for granted (health, income, safety, shelter, transportation, etc.). Make it a daily habit to feel gratitude for the good things in your life and major discontentment will never set in.

People who do whatever they “feel” like will never have healthy relationships, will never pay bills, or hold down jobs, or take care of children, or accomplish anything, EVER. We succeed when we rise above our feelings and make good choices. Some days you will feel “in love” in your marriage. Other days you will not. If every couple who didn’t feel “in love” got divorced, 100-percent of marriages would end in divorce. Never forget this: Love is a choice.

Lastly, there’s a word you don’t quite understand. You’ve just heard adults use it. It’s probably the most important word you can ever fully understand as an adult if you like healthy relationships and a low-drama lifestyle.

The word is: Empathy.

It sounds a little feely and bullshit to you. I get that. You know what else feels like bullshit? Divorce. So shut up and pay attention.

You’re alive and you think things. You look around and you see the world, and you react to others and life events based on all of the things that have happened to you from birth until right now.

This is very important. Every other person on Earth thinks and feels differently than you. Sometimes what they think and feel will conflict with your thoughts and feelings. This is okay. People disagree all the time, and often work things out.

Sometimes, something happens, and it feels like a HUGE deal to you and you can’t figure out why someone else doesn’t feel the same. Other times, something happens, and someone else makes a HUGE deal out of it, but you don’t get it because it’s not on your radar or doesn’t impact your life.

You’ll accidentally rub strangers the wrong way once in a while in situations like this. Fine. Whatever. Just try to be polite.

But here’s the really scary part: You’ll also accidentally upset those closest to you in situations like this. Like your girlfriend or wife. They’ll TELL you. And you STILL won’t recognize the gravity of the situation.

I know you don’t get it. She likes Reba McEntire’s music, and you think it’s absolute GARBAGE. And then when you say so in a chiding, not-particularly-serious way, she acts super-butt-hurt about it and you can’t figure out why. You think she’s overreacting and you’ll say so.

She’ll want you to apologize for hurting her feelings.

But since apologizing is tantamount to admitting fault, you won’t do it. You did nothing wrong! She freaked out like a crazy person. If anyone owes anyone an apology, she owes me!, you think.

You will KNOW that you’re in the right and she’s in the wrong.

You’ll know it because your heart tells you that you love her, and that it’s totally insane to conclude that your repeated mocking of Reba McEntire music is a punishable crime.

Every time a situation like this arises, you will argue your well-thought-out and honest point. You will see her anger and frustration grow. You’ll hold your ground because you’re certain she’ll eventually come around to your mature, emotionally stable and intelligent point of view.

And then one day, she’ll leave you. Over something as seemingly benign as a dish left by the sink.

You’ll be taken by surprise. First, by the move, then by how miserably broken and lost you feel. It’s hard to breathe sometimes when it REALLY hurts. It’s not something you’ve ever had to deal with. You’ll be terrified because you didn’t know the human body could feel like that. Joyless. Totally defeated.

Then you’ll go on living, and all around you everyone else is pretty normal. They laugh at jokes and do fun things on the weekend. You’re on the brink of a breakdown, and a constant threat to cry. (I know! CRY! Like in front of people. It’s wild.)

How is it possible, I can feel like THIS while they’re right there feeling like THAT?

BOOM.

Two people. Same situation. Two RADICALLY different experiences.

Empathy.

Things happen to other people that affect them emotionally in profound ways. You won’t always understand because the event didn’t affect you at all.

How healthy your relationships are, and how happy your life turns out will hinge predominantly on your ability to care about things that affect people in your life—not because they impact you emotionally, nor because you are naturally interested in whatever the subjects are—but because the people you love care about them.

On its own, this wouldn’t matter to me. But this matters very much to her. I love her. She matters very much to me. Therefore, I care about the thing, too. It now matters to me BECAUSE it matters to her.

That’s it, kid.

That’s your birthday present. You don’t understand how important it is, and if you work a little bit, you may never have to because all of your relationships can be mostly healthy, and free of pain and drama. That would be awesome for all involved.

It’s the little things that can change everything. Some crap like Reba McEntire. Or even just dirty dishes.

Now, go play your Alice in Chains and The Fugees, then don’t forget to remove the detachable face when you’re done.

Happy birthday.

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A License to Live

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper.”

Within the first week of getting my driver’s license in 1995, I let a woman with two children in her backseat who had just crashed into my rear driver’s-side quarter panel drive off without calling the police or making an insurance claim, and I ran the front-right corner of my car into the back-left corner of a high school classmate’s car while backing out of my parking space at school.

No one had ever told me what to do in a car accident. It was probably only my third or fourth time driving alone. I was just worried about the kids. They were fine. I figured I’d drive home and my parents would make an insurance claim.

Doesn’t work that way, it turned out.

Oops.

My classmate Jill was in her car next to me when I backed my car out and spun the wheel too fast without clearing the front while leaving school my sophomore year.

I scratched her paint pretty significantly. She was really cool about it. I was really embarrassed.

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper. That is a driver’s license. And it’s not only a driver’s license. It’s an automobile license. And it’s not only an automobile license. It’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” — Dean, License to Drive

Freedom. That’s what turning 16 and getting my driver’s license represented. Next to moving out of my parents’ house and into my college dorm room, nothing in life has ever rivaled the taste of freedom one feels behind the wheel.

I made the mistake with the mom who crashed into me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I made the steering mistake while backing the car out of the parking space at school because that was literally the first time I’d ever backed out of a parking spot with cars on either side of me.

I hope it goes without saying that neither situation has come even close to happening again. I’m generally pretty good at not making the same mistake twice.

20 Years Later

At 4:37 a.m. Central Time tomorrow, I turn 36.

There are so many parallels between that time in my life and where I now find myself. Rapid change is occurring. I find myself in uncharted life territory with so many new experiences to have and life lessons to learn.

Freedom.

Not freedom I wanted or asked for. But freedom, all the same.

What are you going to do with it, middle-aged guy?

That’s the question we all have to answer about the precious time we have. I mean, maybe I’ll live to be 80. I hope so. But I might not. A heart beat seems like a fickle thing. Many people younger than me have had them stop without warning.

What are you going to do with the time?

One of my favorite writers Austin Kleon always reads a few New York Times obituaries every morning. About the lives of people who don’t have a today or tomorrow to plan for.

He doesn’t do it to be morbid. He does it to every.single.day remember to live. We all have an hourglass constantly getting emptier with no knowledge of how much sand remains in the upper half.

Today better count.

Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Not later. Now.

The divorce changed everything. It’s because divorce changes everything. A little good. A lot bad.

All the sand in the bottom of the hourglass is just going to sit there now. Days that already happened. Will never matter again. Can’t matter anymore because the sand never flows upward, even if we shake it up a lot.

After divorce or some other traumatic life event, you’re just trying to tread water. Just trying to stay alive.

But it’s nearly two years later now. Life can no longer be about treading water. Now, it’s got to be about choosing a direction and going that way. About lifting the sail and steering as best I can.

I’m a little like that 16-year-old again. Capable, but unsure. Bound for mistakes and missteps. But climbing toward good things. Always climbing.

Because this birthday isn’t an ordinary birthday.

It’s my 36th birthday.

And it’s not just my 36th birthday.

It’s the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

And it’s not just the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

It’s a license to live. A license to be free.

A license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever I choose.

Let’s go.

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Happy Birthday, Mom

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

It must have been hard. Raising me.

You were so young. Just 21, right? Just a kid? A kid with a kid.

I still feel like one of those.

Is it the same for you as it is for me? Did you think about your future and assume it would all just click one day? Magically? When I was in grade school, I knew I’d finally figure it out in high school. When I was in high school, I knew I’d finally figure it out in college. When I was in college, I knew I’d finally figure it out once I got out in the real world. Once I got out in the real world, I knew I’d finally figure it out once I settled down and got married.

And now I’m divorced. Single dad. 35.

And I don’t have anything figured out.

At one time, that might have terrified me. But not anymore. Because I’m beginning to think the older and wiser we get, the more aware we become of how little we ever really know or understand.

We don’t have much control, and we were delusional whenever it felt like we did.

Each day I wake up, I get incrementally closer to making total peace with that: I am not in control. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But everything’s going to be okay.

You had to say goodbye to me for months at a time when I’d leave for dad’s.

That must have been hard. I have such a hard time saying bye to your grandson for much more than a couple days.

You had to deal with my selfish, me-first, independent, only child nature. I took EVERYTHING for granted when I was a kid, mom. Everything.

Love. Money. Safety. Health. Fun. Friends. Family. Laughter. Innocence. Spiritual peace.

And you, mom. I took you for granted. I still do. You can tell because I don’t call you enough. Because I still am so good at doing the me-first, only child routine, even all these years later.

I think you carry a lot of guilt about my childhood. Questioning some of the choices. Wondering whether you could have done anything different to give me a better life.

It’s been a rough go in my thirties. Everything just seemed to go to hell right then. And it has taken me a long time to find my way. I still haven’t found it. But I’m not just wandering aimlessly anymore. I feel close.

Mom. You’re why that’s possible.

You’re why I get to feel any sense of hopefulness and excitement about my future.

You dedicated your existence to providing me with the guidance, life lessons, kindness and decency, principles, and spiritual foundation that have allowed me to feel alive again.

Without you, I might not know what love looks like.

Without you, I might not understand what it means to forgive, or be forgiven.

Without you, I might not be alive because I didn’t know being alive could hurt so much until one day it did.

Mom, without you, I couldn’t be me.

It was so easy to not like who I was throughout these past years. Self-loathing. You probably know the feeling because I think everyone whose lives don’t turn out absolutely perfect feel it. And I’m pretty sure that’s all of us. Even those whose lives seem particularly charmed.

And you know what saved me?

All of the things that you instilled in me, via genetics or example.

Love and kindness live inside me and the days worse than I’d ever imagined couldn’t kill it.

Friendliness and smiles are my gift to those near me because most of the time I don’t even know how to be another way.

Hope is my favorite word. My favorite idea. Hope. Always.

I’ve taken to saying the following, and I love it because it’s always true and always will be: There’s no reason that today can’t be the day the best thing that ever happens to you, happens.

I am genuinely hopeful, mom. That I can be a better man today than I was yesterday. That I can be a better father. A better friend. A better writer. A better son.

I am ashamed of my failings. And I’m sorry for all of the times I didn’t act grateful for all you’ve done. And I’m sorry for all the times I might seem ungrateful in the future.

But I need you to believe that deep down in the places no one gets to see, that I am trying to do good. To be good. To be a teeny tiny part of making this world better than I find it.

I would never want to be anyone but me, mom. Ever. I’d trade nothing but some poor choices.

So much of the good that lives in me is because of you.

In many ways, I am you.

Thank you for my life. Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to mine. Thank you for teaching me how to love.

You sacrificed everything (nearly your life, mom—I don’t forget that) for me.

And I’m not going to waste it.

That’s my birthday gift to you, mom. And I hope it’s enough.

I love you more than I say.

I appreciate you more than I act.

And I’m still chasing those dreams. The ones you instilled in me all those years ago. And now it’s time to start running faster.

I know this life can be beautiful. Because I’ve lived beautifully. And it’s because of you.

I still care about making you proud. And I still intend to.

Happy birthday, mom.

To many, many, many years.

I love you.

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The One Where Everything’s Different

Tomorrow happens.

Tomorrow happens.

At 4:37 a.m. Central Time, I turned 35.

I’m completely unfazed. I’m less interested and less affected by the occasion than anticipated.

But the build-up to today in my head was a little bit bigger than other birthdays.

Because even though the only constant in this life is change, this is my first birthday where everything feels different.

Statistically speaking, if life’s a race, I’m at the halfway point.

I am mathematically likely to die between the ages of 70-71, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

I’m not to a place in life where I spend a lot of time worrying about that. In fact, none at all. I always try to stay aware (unsuccessfully) that my clock could stop ticking any second. It’s hard to live passionately and with purpose if you’re not always aware of how precious life and time really are.

I am the sentimental sort. Always have been.

I am acutely aware of certain meaningful anniversaries. I like flipping the calendar on New Year’s. And I tend to think of birthdays like our own personal New Year’s. An opportunity to grow. To have a better year than the last.

Turning 30 was a pretty big milestone in a lot of ways.

I had been married five years. We just had our son. I was employed in a different industry.

I don’t remember how I felt on my 30th birthday. But I tend to always think five years down the road. About the metaphorical tomorrow.

Divorce Changes Everything

My wife and I used to talk about it a lot.

We’d learn of friends having marital problems. And there were others who seemed destined to have them. And of course, there were those wearing their masks, pretending everything was okay.

She and I would be driving around, or sitting at the dinner table, or hanging out in the living room.

The math said about half of our friends’ marriages wouldn’t make it.

But who? Certainly not ours! We love each other too much. That could never happen.

Maybe them, we’d say about a particular couple. Or possibly them, we’d say about others.

But not us.

We said it a bunch of times.

Not us.

But here we are. Five years later.

35.

And it was us.

It was me.

And now 35 feels so much bigger. If life was still “normal,” today would be even more of a non-issue than I consider it now. I don’t feel particularly weird. On the inside of me. There is more peace with the milestone than anticipated.

But that five-year plan? Gone.

And now there must be a new one. At least, that’s what my brain wants to do. It always wants this nice and neat and safe five-year plan where I have my eye on some end goal. Something to chase and work for.

And at age 35, I don’t have that.

I have absolutely no idea what my life might look like five years from now.

That has always been true.

But I just didn’t know it until now. And that’s the great lesson for me today. The reminder that our plans don’t always work out the way we want them to, or thought they might. That we are not promised tomorrow at all.

But the Sun Will Rise

With or without me.

The earth will spin. The sun will rise.

That’s my gift this year. And it’s my favorite gift of any I might receive. That growth. That maturity. That knowledge.

I thought of an important math equation on my drive to work this morning. I’m probably not the first person to come up with it:

My Choices + Time = Today

And acknowledgement of that equation—that truth—is my gift today.

I am here because of my choices combined with the natural course of time.

And wherever I am on my 40th birthday will be determined in large part by whatever My Choices are moving forward.

In my career. In my friendships. With my family. And in my romantic pursuits.

I’m 35.

And I’m getting sweet and thoughtful “Happy Birthday” text messages from girls I didn’t know 365 days ago.

Wow.

Because the future is uncertain.

Because life happens.

Chuck Noland said it in Cast Away.

“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

Maybe nothing.

Maybe something.

But for sure—opportunity.

If I wake, tomorrow happened.

Smile.

Because anything can happen.

And a lot of those possibilities are really good.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

I know a birthday girl. I just met her husband. I don't know if they'll make it. But I really want them to. And I believe they can.

I know a birthday girl. I just met her husband. I don’t know if they’ll make it. But I really want them to. And I believe they can.

I met a shitty husband last night.

And I liked him. First impressions go a long way with me.

And I don’t think he’s a bad guy. Not at all. But I do think he’s a shitty husband.

He’s 34 like me. He reminds me of me five years ago. He’s not a father, and that can be a disadvantage for guys from a maturation standpoint. Sometimes, you don’t really figure out what unconditional love looks and feels like until you hold your child.

And I think that revelation—that recognition of what it feels like to love something more than yourself—can be a very useful tool in a marriage.

Applying the Love for Your Children to Your Partner

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship for any reasonable amount of time understands the infatuation phase—while the most fun—can’t and won’t last.

Just the smallest amount of effort can do wonders for her emotional security, which is directly correlated to how much she wants your penis touching her.

Infatuation and lust will get you so far, then you’re inevitably looking to recreate that feeling with someone else sooner or later.

And sometimes, during the eternal pursuit of that next passionate romance, you just end up breaking a bunch of things.

Families.

Friendships.

Children.

Yourself.

But with a little self-recognition and awareness, we can combat this.

With the realization that the grass is most certainly not always greener—that there is no perfect partner with whom you’ll never have conflict or disappointment or hurt feelings or dissatisfaction—you can learn to stop trying to change your partner. Or change partners.

And you can start trying to change yourself.

There’s only one constant in the lives of those people you know who are constantly in and out of unhealthy relationships. And that’s the individual who keeps putting his or herself there.

They are the common denominator. And that cycle must be broken.

It can’t happen until those people learn how to be honest with others. And more importantly, with themselves.

Once we accept that it’s not going to be lovey-dovey happiness forever, we can move on to learning how to love in ways that matter. In ways that are sustainable.

1. Stop making it about you.

Stop asking why that person doesn’t make you feel the way they used to. Or why all of these things keep happening to you.

2. Make it about them.

Ask yourself how you can make your partner feel the way you want to feel. How you can make good things happen for them. Lead by example, even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t feel like it.

3. Choose to do that every day, forever.

The same way your parents did for you. The same way parents choose to do that for their children—even when they’re acting like little heathen assholes. THAT’S real love. Because it’s not about how we feel. It’s about the choices we make.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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I’ve Already Seen This Movie

And it has a tragic ending.

That’s what I was thinking last night when I saw her being ignored by her husband. Literally, the entire night.

The birthday girl.

She looked magnificent. And I’m not sure he told her once.

She misses his company and attention because he has a pretty inconvenient work schedule. But I don’t remember him standing next to her.

I don’t remember him kissing her. Touching her arm. Whispering in her ear. Even just a nice smile from across the room to let her know how happy he was to see she was having a nice birthday.

I’ve seen this fucking movie.

I starred in it.

I played the male lead.

Because that was me. Not doing all of those things I so desperately wish I had the opportunity to do now.

I didn’t tell my ex how perfect she looked. Not enough. I didn’t make sure she knew—without a doubt—how much she was loved and wanted. I was too busy telling jokes and talking football with my friends when we’d all get together.

Guys, you have got to get better at this. I have got to get better at this, should I ever have the opportunity to try again some day.

Don’t do the thing where you ignore them all night and then try to have late-night drunk sex because you’re feeling horny. Please.

Just the smallest amount of effort can do wonders for her emotional security, which is directly correlated to how much she wants your penis touching her.

Tell her you love her. Whisper that you want her. Make eye contact from across the room. Smile. Touch her. Pay attention to her. Maybe when she least expects it.

Care about the things that she cares about—NOT because you give a shit about how her hair color didn’t turn out like she wanted or what color she painted her accent nail or whether she’s wearing new shoes or why she chose to carry that particular purse or handbag that night. Not because you like talking about the same things as her, because maybe you don’t.

That’s okay.

Care about the things she cares about BECAUSE she cares about them. That’s the reason to care. That’s the reason it matters.

Because these things matter to her.

This applies to her hobbies. Her hopes and dreams. Her career. Her passions and interests. Her stories about her friends or family or coworkers that maybe you don’t really want to listen to.

Fortify your relationship by doing the little things. Every day.

Do that, and there will be an every day.

Don’t? You might be sitting right here feeling sorry for a birthday girl who deserves the world and an oblivious husband who doesn’t know the damage he’s causing.

Tequila Makes Me Smart

Ever drink a bunch of beer and vodka, and then switch to a perfect salted-rim margarita on the rocks and start solving the world’s relationship issues with a fellow divorcee from Scotland in an open-air rooftop bar?

Me too!

Dear Jesus, you should hear me pontificate after eight or nine drinks.

The funny part? People think I’m smart! I con them with my above-average vocabulary and my cocksure attitude on subjects I may actually know nothing about.

I don’t know if any of this shit has merit. I don’t!

But, cocksure or otherwise, I do think I can identify the marital sins of my past. And I REALLY want to help men avoid going through what I’m going through. I REALLY want children to have the opportunity to grow up with both of their parents under the same roof.

This doesn’t have to be a pipedream. It doesn’t have to be so goddamn hard.

It just takes two people willing to give more than they take. Two people trying to out-give one another. Doesn’t that sound fun? Isn’t that something everyone can get behind?

My marital sins were on full display last night. The oblivious husband was me. And the birthday girl was my ex.

And it doesn’t have to be like this.

They are two good people. Two kind people.

She loves him.

And I don’t know for sure, but I just vibe that he’s a good man—a good man who loves her back.

And I know they can make it.

And I want them to make it.

And I believe if he only knew what I knew—felt what I felt—that he’d dig in and try his very best to make sure she felt the way she needs to feel for this to not fall apart.

Loved.

Safe.

Needed.

Appreciated.

Validated.

Respected.

Desired.

If they can make this happen, maybe I can be at her birthday party 10 years from now. Maybe she’ll be smiling. Maybe he’ll be smiling. Maybe it will be at one another. Maybe everyone who sees it will privately Awwwwww. And maybe they can be what the rest of us envy.

Happily. Ever. After.

In real life, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies.

But it can be beautiful.

And I still believe in it.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

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