December 8, 2000
Birthday Wisdom


Ten Semi-Useful Things
I Wish I'd Known On *My* 19th Birthday
[even though it probably wouldn't have done me any good
because *i* already KNEW everything anyway]
~ By SecraMom ~

  • Decide early what you want to do with your life ... and then be prepared to change your mind a lot.

    When Jaymi was three years old, she proudly -- and insistently -- announced that she wanted to be a "garbage mans" when she grew up.

    Our world was very tiny in those days -- just Mommy and Jaymi, most of the time -- and visits from people like 'the mailmans' and 'the garbage mans' and the Puget Power lady, coming to give us our 24-hour disconnection notice, were a pretty big deal.

    Her career ambitions have changed many times in the years since then, of course, but I'll never forget how adamant she was about it that summer ...  how single-minded her three-year-old focus ... and how pissed-off she got whenever anyone tried to talk her out of it.

    (Grandma: "Wouldn't you rather be a nice BALLERINA?")

    I was a lot the same way. Seven-year-old Secra lay awake in bed at night, planning who would guest-star on her future TV show. Fourteen-year-old Secra had names picked out for her future children. Nineteen-year-old Secra sat in her junior college Sociology class and composed the "forewards" for her future novel.

    Forty-something year old Secra, on the other hand, is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.

    But I think that's OK. I think that unless you're, say, sitting in your crib playing classical violin at age six months -- or unless you were born in Buckingham Palace, maybe -- then it's OK to not settle too soon on any one direction in life.

    Spend the first forty or fifty years thinking about it, first. What's the rush?

  • Your hair is the boss of you: not the other way around.

    The sooner you figure this out -- and accept it -- the happier you'll be.

  • Wait at least 24 hours to answer any e-mail that pisses you off, hurts your feelings, offends your sensibilities and/or might end up costing you a buttload of money .

    OK. You're right.  We didn't even have e-mail when I was nineteen years old.

    (We were all excited about CB RADIOS, forcryingoutloud.)

    But the basic principle is the same: if someone sends you a message, via any means, that provokes an instant and intensely negative reaction in you ... wait at least one day before you respond.

    Do not write back immediately, telling them how hurt and betrayed and angry you feel. Do not forward the message to anyone else. Do not read it over the phone to anyone. Do not post it on your website (or anywhere else public ... like a bathroom wall). Do not call them names, or *remind* them that they still owe you money, or threaten them, or insult their dog or their meatloaf recipe or their taste in patio furniture, or take this opportunity to mention that you always defended them behind-the-scenes when other people were saying bad evil nasty terrible things about them, but that you probably won't be doing that anymore.

    Just walk away.

    Turn off the computer.

    Think about it for a day.

    Sleep on it.

    Talk to somebody neutral to the situation about it, if you need to.

    Let it cook for a full day before you do anything about it. And then, when you've had time to allow reason to overtake rage, compose a measured, thoughtful response.

    You may not be able to salvage the friendship, or get your money back, or avoid the lawsuit ... but you'll be able to look at YOU in the mirror with a clear conscience. And sometimes that's worth all the rest of it put together.

  • If there is a little voice inside your head whispering "This is wrong: I shouldn't be doing this" ... pay attention.

    There is a reason you hear that little voice whispering in your ear.

    No, it's not your conscience talking. No, it's not God, or Great-Grandma's ghost, or Mother Nature, or a *good angel* sitting on your shoulder quietly pointing out the difference between right and wrong.

    It's your mother.

    Seriously. I'm not kidding.

    It's ME! MOM!

    When you were born, I had you secretly wired with a special Two-Way Long-Distance Internal Communication Device, programmed to automatically self-activate on your nineteenth birthday. (Feel that little bumpy thing, right behind your left ear?)  From now on, every time you light a cigarette ... every time you go to bed with your makeup on ... every time you tell a little white lie to your boss, or forget to re-wind your videos before you take them back to Blockbuster, or call your little brother a "turd" ... that'll be *my* voice you'll hear, whispering in your ear!

    (Think that's cool? Just wait'll your twenty-first birthday: that's when the *Two-Way MomCam* self-activates!)

  • Size matters.

    All that hooey about how "size doesn't matter" when picking a romantic partner is just that: a big bunch of hooey.

    Size absolutely matters.

    The size of his heart matters. The size of his intellect matters. The size of his moral center, and his sense of humor, and his vision of the future, and his hands (for backrubbing purposes, of course) ... all that stuff matters.

    The size of his hard drive matters, but only if you're going to be sharing a computer.

    The rest of it is merely personal preference.

  • Document your photos.

    When you're young, and your brain is still all shiny and new, and all of your *memory molecules* are still functioning the way they're supposed to, it's easy to remember the names of every teacher you've ever had, starting from kindergarten and going all the way through grade school, middle school and high school, right up to graduation.

    It's a cinch to look at a muddy Polaroid of a family picnic, taken ten years earlier, and rattle off the names of all fourteen first cousins (plus the two former sisters-in-law that nobody talks about anymore).

    It's no big deal to pick up an anonymous black & white snapshot of an anonymous pine tree in front of an anonymous cabin and say, "Wow! That was taken at Camp Lyle McLeod on August 17, 1970 at approximately 4:18 p.m., just before archery practice!"

    But when you reach *my* advanced age, and everything sort of starts collapsing in on itself, you need a little help. (More help than ginko biloba provides, I mean.) That's why I am a firm believer in the practice of documenting your photos the absolute instant you get them back from the drugstore.

    Don't even fudk around. The minute you get home with your pictures, take them out of the envelope ... flip them over ... and write down any relevant information that you might be prone to *forget* in your old age.

    Like names. And dates. And locations.

    It may be sort of a pain in the rear end right now ... but someday you'll thank yourself.

    And so will your great-great-great-grandchildren.

  • The people who are making your life miserable today won't even be listed in your address book ten years from now.

    Except for family, of course. *Family misery* is *forever misery.*

    But other than that, 99.9% of the people who are raising your blood pressure/raising your rent/raising your hackles right now -- today -- this very minute -- will be a mere ketchup stain on the jacket lapel of your memory, ten years from now.

    In some cases, you won't even remember their names.

    (Especially if you've forgotten to document their photos.)

  • You are never too old to play Barbies.

    You are never too old to sit down with the nearest available four-year-old and discuss whether Barbie needs to wear track shoes or rain boots with her wedding gown.

    You're never too old for "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," either ... or for drawing pictures, or for The Chronicles of Narnia, or for sitting on your front porch blowing soap bubbles. You're never too old to blow out birthday candles. You're never too old to spin around and around, as fast as you can for as long as you can stand it, before collapsing to the ground in a dizzy heap. You're never too old for The Wizard of Oz. You're never too old for afternoon naps, or for cookies and milk, or for yellow rubber duckies in your bathtub.

    And -- as Grandma Vert always used to say -- "You're never too old for a hug."

  • If you're coughing so hard you're peeing your pants? It's time to call a doctor.

    If it's still bleeding, four Band-Aids later? It's time to call a doctor.

    If it's turning funny colors and it hurts to touch? It's time to call a doctor.

    If little children on the bus are pointing at you and saying "Mommy! Why is that lady blowing BUBBLES with her NOSE?"  It's time to call a doctor.

    If it doesn't start when it's supposed to, or if it does start when it isn't supposed to, or if it starts and then stops or stops and then starts?  It's time to call a doctor.

    And if it just wants to sit around eating Pringles and watching football in its underwear all afternoon on a sunny Saturday afternoon?  It's time to call your MOTHER. Because she's probably the only one who's gonna want to hear about it.

  • Time passes even faster than *they* tell you it does.

    All I know is that five minutes ago I was laying on a gurney in a labor room at TicTac General, hurling profanities at God and at my husband and at the medical community at large ...

    ... and now all of a sudden it's December 2000, and in exactly seventeen hours and forty-one minutes I'm going to have a nineteen-year-old daughter.

    That's how fast time passes. But I suspect that this, more than any of the other *Semi-Useful* stuff on this list, is one of those things that you can only learn the old-fashioned way.

    By living it.

And that's just the stuff I've learned in the past year alone!

(Imagine how annoying this list would be if I included all of the *wisdom* I've accumulated in forty-something years!)

Happy Birthday, Puss. I love you.

repaying a little more of that karmic debt

more jaymi-stuff:
one year ago: coming home
two years ago: yellow jell-o
ten years ago: fighting mice
sixteen years ago: hey fishy fishy fishy
nineteen years ago: i'm a mom

throw a rock