A birthday is a cool day to take stock of your life, as if a reflective type like me needed an excuse. I don't know what Randi has in store for me tomorrow, but I am sure it's something delicious. I am a lucky man.
Inspired by Anne Stesney, who was inspired by Maggie Mason I wanted to write a list of all the things I would still like to do with my life. I am sure I will think of more stuff later. So here is the list for who I am today.
My List Of Things Worth Doing, or That I Really, Really Want To Do With My Life:
1. Always make time to write for myself. This can lead to great things and opportunities down the line that I could never predict. But I have to first be prepared and do the work.
2. Go back to Scotland with Randi and Stella. There's so much we didn't see on our honeymoon.
3. Strive to work harder on my marriage. Take better care of my wife.
4. Always work hard to have a strong relationship with Stella.
5. Take better care of my Mom.
6. Take better care of my sister, Barbara who has Down's Syndrome. I am her legal guardian.
7. Communicate more and better with my brother and other sister.
8. Own property some day. Not just an apartment, but a place with some land. Maybe even a vacation home.
9. Have enough to be able to do nice things for Stella like pay for summer camp.
10. Live in a place where Stella can be happy and free. Maybe this place is in Brooklyn, maybe it's not. But it's on my mind.
11. Try to not only take better care of my wife, but let her know I care about her. But show her more than tell her. So writing this doesn't really count.
12. Publish a book. Maybe even a crazy book, filled with all my old stories. Some might even be kind of racy, so inlaws, you're warned!
13. Maybe I won't write that kind of book after all, but something else entirely. Maybe something journalism based. Maybe something serious. I think about this kind of stuff.
14. Be a better friend in the next year of my life than I was in the last year. I feel sometimes that I was sucked into a tube, because having a kid is that intense. I need to manage my time better so I can see my friends more. For their sakes and my own.
15. Dance more. It sounds cliche, but it's true.
16. Sing more, and with other people. It feels good.
17. Compete in sports more. It's a lot of fun when you win, and not so bad when you lose. Drinks help both typically.
18. Take better care of my heart. Move around more.
19. Do standup comedy. At least once. I have some jokes, I think.
20. Participate in The Moth storyslam.
21. Reach out to those who can help me get to where I would like to go next with my life and career. In Yiddish there is an expression: the shy person never learns. So I need to get over myself and open myself up to professional rejection and failure more. And, also, opportunity. It's the only way to grow.
22. Someday, by god, I will own a dog. I've wanted to have a dog since I was born, and I have NEVER had one. I'm 37!
23. Learn how to relax in situations that are stressful. I take things too seriously.
24. Write more in this blog.
25. Host a TV show. I would be very good at it.
26. Find those baby pictures of me that my Dad says he has somewhere. As it is I have never actually seen baby pictures of myself other than one time when I was very young. This is because my dad put all his pictures on slides, and he took very few of me when I was young. It's a part of my history that I've missed out on.
27. My mother has letters written in Yiddish from her family in Europe from before World War II. Though they might break my heart I would like to know what these letters say.
28. Become more organized at work, so I can do more and enjoy it better.
29. Spend some more time doing actual investigative journalism. I miss it, and had been good at it.
31. Consider another career other than writing someday. Maybe there is something else I am meant to do. I should consider it.
32. Live in a nice small town with my family for a little while. Maybe in Europe.
33. When there is time learn to become much better at the acoustic guitar and perform for kids. They are the best audience there is.
34. Spend more time with my sister and her family, as I love them.
35. Try to figure out how to improve my relationship with my dad.
36. See the day when Stella recognizes my mom as her bubbie.
37. Invest carefully and with discipline so we are taken care of later in life.
38. Save more on a regular basis.
39. Put more into Stella's college fund.
40. See the Northern Lights with my family.
41. Give back to nature. I have donated to environmental causes throughout my life, but I need to do more on that end. Extinction is truly forever, and if we can't take care to save magnificent animals like tigers what will we preserve?
42. Take Randi and Stella to the Swiss Alps in the summer. Maybe to Gimmelwald, where I stayed when I was 21 and travelling through Europe on my lonesome. It may be the most beautiful place I've ever seen.
43. Go to Strasbourg, France with Randi and Stella. She's talked about it so much that it sounds fantastic to me.
44. Drink real mead. Where, oh where, can I get some?
45. Let my mother in law Judy know how much I appreciate her and care for her.
46. Read more history. How did we get to where we are? I would like to learn more about Lyndon Baines Johnson, for example, and Robert Cairo wrote a three book history on him and his era. I read the first book and it changed my view on American history. I would like to read the other two next.
47. See Les Paul before he heads to the Great Gig In The Sky. He's 94, so time's running out.
48. Become much better at playing my Gibson Les Paul. As it stands I love how it plays but sound pretty bad on it.
49. Play music live again in a band, but I feel like I can wait on this one as I used to gig quite a bit.
50. Make my bed every day, exercise every day and clean my house regularly. I hate mess, flab and roaches, so this works for me.
51. Recognize when I am being neurotic and looking for reasons to be unhappy. I do this a lot. If someone doesn't call me back or email me back quickly I feel I must've have offended them. This is false 99.9% of the time. I have developed a default where I gravitate toward worry and self-criticism even when nothing's going wrong. This is not the right way to live, forever finding reasons to be down about something. It all seems so reasonable at the time, there are always things to do and worry about. But really it's just another emotional crutch disguised as "responsible" thinking. As if being calm and happy is somehow frivolous. I have finally started to recognize that I am doing this, and catching myself in the act. Now I need to become better at cutting these thoughts off. Because, really, being unhappy and neurotic really ain't all that great. You might get a little bit more done, but you'll still be miserable. It takes courage and strength to be happy. I need to get better at it. And the nice part is if I do this everybody wins.
As I read the list above I am struck by how much my goals have changed in the past decade or so. Most of these are not all that "me" focused. I could travel more, of course, but it's not worth it unless I can do it with my family. And nothing on this list really matters if things aren't working right at home. This list is kind of stodgy, I realize, but this is where I am. I hope I can do these things. I am not rich, and never lived my life just for money, but I want us to be comfortable and never be afraid of not having enough. Everyone's definition of comfortable is different, but mine is having Stella never wonder about the future with fear. A great childhood is the best gift a parent can give, not only to their child, but to themselves. I hope I can do that for Stella, Randi and for me. That would be a great birthday present!