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10 truisms for adulting, among other things


March 22, 2016

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    At 28, in an attempt to quit smoking, I saw a hypnotherapist whose office was directly above the Tiffany store in Philadelphia. He asked me what my current self would say to the Katherine that began smoking at age 19: “What do you wish you had known?” 
     Contrary to popular belief, I was alert and aware while “under,” and remembered the session later. While I do think hypnotherapy can be effective, I didn’t quit smoking after that session. In fact, I spent that afternoon in bed, crying — maybe dramatically, but maybe also justifiably — about how little I had understood on the day I smoked that first cigarette. It was like watching myself run upstairs and into a corner to get away from the maniac in a horror film. 
    Not surprisingly, no matter how precocious I was, how jaded I felt, or how wise I’d been told I was For My Age, there were so many things that my 19-year-old self didn’t yet understand.
    My birthday just passed, and I’m 35 now. In just the seven years since that hypnotherapy session above Tiffany’s, I’ve had direct experience with death, suicide, multiple relocations, heartbreak, divorce, financial crises, friendship breakups, addiction and personal, professional and creative rejection — among other things. 
    There are definitely a few things I know now that I wish I’d known at 19, and even at 28. Sometimes I was truly ignorant, and sometimes I was not yet ready to receive a message that later seemed pretty obvious. So I’m sure that in another 10 years, I’ll see the person I am today as a mere babe in the woods. It’s likely I’ve got my hand on the knob of a door or two that a wiser me would advise against opening.
    But I also believe the following truisms will remain relevant, regardless of particular circumstances, and that I will add to them as I age. Now that I’ve graduated into a new census bureau age group (35-44), I thought it was worthwhile to put them down in writing. Which is a truism, itself: Make clear your most fundamental beliefs. Here are 9 more, to round it out: 
 
    1. Go outside, even in less-than-stellar weather. If you are experiencing hurricanes, tornadoes or tsunamis, please ignore me; it can definitely wait for tomorrow.
    2. If you are able-bodied, get exercise, whatever that looks like for you. The body wants to be moved and engaged. It can seem hard at first, but as with most things, it gets easier with practice, and oftentimes becomes ritual. It is also good for your brain, and I try never to underestimate what is good for the brain.  
    3. For the love of God, don’t rely on your screens. Even if only to preserve depth perception, look up and out every once in a while. Don’t be that kid who nearly gets clocked in the face with a baseball bat because they are on their phone, which is not only embarrassing, but also obnoxious. 
    4. Tell the truth. If you find this challenging, it means you are acting in ways that make truth telling difficult, and that in and of itself is something to think hard about. 
    5. If you are wrong, or hurt someone’s feelings, apologize. Apologizing doesn’t necessarily mean that you are wrong, or admitting fault. Pride certainly has a time and place; try asking yourself: Is this it?
    6. D-I-Y. It’s easy to let people do things for us when they seem more capable, educated, experienced or brave, but doing things for yourself will make you more capable, educated, experienced and brave. 
    7. Provide your brain with input. Whether it’s where Djibouti lies on a map or how to solve for x, it is important to keep learning. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the most important is to keep from boring yourself. 
    8. Perform a daily body scan. Every morning, assess yourself for discomfort, illness or pain. Being grateful for good health is just as important as addressing aches and pains, but if you do feel pain or discomfort, go easy. Throughout life, your body will make requests, and they generally become more demanding as you age. The earlier you begin paying attention to your body’s particular chatter, the easier a time you will have accepting the aging process — which, spry as you might be, is inevitable for you, too. Yes, you.
    9. Lastly, and to me, most importantly: Be kind. I can’t possibly say this better than Kurt Vonnegut did in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, so I won’t try: 
    “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

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