I turn 50 years old today and, on the whole, I'm pretty happy about it. I'm healthy, I'm married to an incredible guy, I'm close with my family, I have interesting and inspiring friends and I have work that is fulfilling. Turning 50 doesn't seem so bad because I have never been happier in my life.
Of course, it is a bit jarring to be 50 and work at a place like The Huffington Post, where almost everyone around me is half my age. I go by the moniker of "Grandpa Paul" when I am feeling crotchety or want to get someone to help me with this darn thing known as the Internet. Or, on a good day, I was once called a "silver fox" by one of the attractive hosts on HuffPost Live.
It is tempting in such an environment to hold forth, offering my acquired wisdom to the eager young ones clustered around my desk. But I don't -- and not only because of a complete lack of interest from my audience.
I do believe there is a wisdom that comes from living life for a while and one of my deepest regrets is not asking my grandparents more questions when I had the chance. However, there are also life lessons to be learned from the young. One of the best parts of my work at Princeton University and now at HuffPost is that I get to be around some incredibly inspiring and talented young people who give me hope for the future of our world.
Young people can have a greater sense of adventure, less of a filter, and a passion for life and a belief in life's endless possibilities that can become tempered over the years.
So, on this 50th birthday, instead of giving advice to my 25-year-old self, I have decided to think back to my worldview when I was my raw 25-year-old self. What would I have thought about my present life and what life advice "back to the future" would I have given to my 50-year-old self?
So, without further introduction:
25 Things My 25-Year-Old Self Would Like to Tell Me on My 50th Birthday, in no particular order:
1. Don't try so hard to be respectable. Speak from your heart about what you truly believe, even if it makes you look naïve or sentimental.
2. You can radically change your life when/if you need to. You don't need to keep doing what you have been doing, just because you are in the habit of doing it.
3. Being friendly and open to meeting new people in random places can lead to cool adventures and friendships. Don't get too comfortable in your present circles of acquaintances.
4. Remember -- spending a night dancing to a great DJ in a disco is an important route to transcendence -- do it again once in a while.
5. You need way less money than you think to survive, stop obsessing about it, and just spend less. You lived in the East Village on $10 a day.
6. It's OK not to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Leave space for the completely unexpected to happen.
7. God loves you even more because you are a bit of a freak. Don't hide your light under a button-down bushel.
8. Leave your door without any purpose once in a while and see where the city takes you. Don't just stay on the path between your apartment, work and the gym.
9. Hang out with your long-time friends more and contact those with whom you have lost touch. You don't seem to have as many friends as you used to.
10. Ambition is overrated. Stop trying so hard to be "successful."
11. It's a good thing to believe that a utopian society where everyone is treated with dignity and equality is possible and worth working for. Cynicism doesn't make you intelligent -- it just makes you cynical.
12. Create art every once in a while. Even though you aren't particularly talented and nobody really loved your 'nude portrait under autumn leaves' the creative process is good for your soul.
13. The next time you hear yourself reminiscing about how you "used to do something," make a plan to do it. Studying dance, carving pumpkins for Halloween, and doing improv shouldn't all be thought of in the past tense.
14. Pray with the same sense of urgency you had when you were 25 and were painfully aware of how much you needed God's help.
15. Please, please, please learn how to play at least one song on the guitar. You have been wanting to learn for 30 years now.
16. Don't just give money, go volunteer somewhere so you can have direct interactions with people. Your life is too antiseptic and it is making you a bit boring. Sure you didn't get any sleep, but spending nights at the homeless shelter introduced you to some amazing people.
17. You should be so crazy thankful that you found love with Brad. You spent a lot of time very lonely, never thinking you would find such an amazing guy. Don't let a day go by without remembering how fortunate you are.
18. Try a new sport! The routine of cardio and weights just to look decent is getting old. You were an athlete! Get back into swimming and sign up for the race across the East River or take up boxing.
19. When did you become such a preppy bore? You used to not be afraid to stand out and it wouldn't kill you to wear something a bit more fashion-forward once in a while. Wearing J. Crew is not mandatory within your religious tradition.
20. Your parents were there for you, even when you were going through rough times and, frankly, a bit of a brat. They need you now. You will never regret the time you spend with them.
21. Find ways to be alone in the woods or on the water by yourself. Don't forget how much you value solitude in nature.
22. Given that you owned a record company and were a DJ, it is shocking that the last "new" music you bought was Radiohead's OK Computer. Find a group that has been formed within the last five years and buy a new CD.
23. Stop beating yourself up about mistakes that you have made. It's good to be self-critical, but you need to be compassionate as well.
24. If you can be a parent to a child of your own then do it! You've always wanted to have a family. If that doesn't work out, be the best uncle to your nephews and nieces. They make you so proud.
25. Value every day you have. At 25 I never thought you would live to be 50. Celebrate your life.
Talk to you when you're 75.
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