Turning 31

Posted by kdow on Jan 8, 2016 11:20:24 AM


Last year I wrote a post about 30 things I thought were important as I turned 30. I thought I may as well make this ritual a regular one by writing a few pieces of advice I’d love to have given myself in June, 2001. This month was the half way point to this point in my life (so far).

So, if was to tell my adolescent self something, these would be the points I would make:

Everyone is a weirdo

In school I wasn’t particularly weird. At least not by my class’ standards, anyway. I was one of those guys who clearly had a bent for being a nerd, but was okay talking to the others. Towards the latter school years, I sort-of bridged the gap between various groups. I like to think nothing’s changed today.

Of course, there’s always a kid in class who picks his nose and dumps the retrieved contents into his hair (true story). That guy is a weirdo. But truly, everyone is a little weird. Granted, in school, this line of thinking isn’t going to help. If someone finds a witty joke about you it’ll stick. But once you leave the school gates, or in a few years hit college, don’t mistreat someone because they’re not in your “crew”. Trivialities like hair style, shoe brand, weight, or anything else that appears to matter in school, go away really quickly. Once you’re open to being friends with anyone, a huge swathe of the world’s problems fall off of the face of a cliff.

That Bill Gates quote is kinda true

I remember a few occasions where teachers would quote Bill Gates. “Be nice to nerds, they’ll probably be your boss one day,” he said. Of course, myself & the other nerds chuckled away to ourselves safe in the knowledge that we’ll probably go to college and earn more money than the others.

However that didn’t ring true immediately. I remember working hard in college, holding down a retail job to pay for booze and enjoying myself. I ran into a guy (a nice guy, not one of the others necessarily) whom I still keep in touch with. He had €35,000 in savings. He dropped out of school after the junior cert. and became a plumber. Even today, as a 31 year old I don’t have that much in savings (granted all of my income goes into a wedding — 15.5 year old me would be delighted to know I found a woman, or more that she found me).

Years later, college paid off. I had various jobs, really good ones that have lead to life changing events and experiences. My current job pays really well, is fun and gives me a lot of challenges to solve and experiences to have. My job is the kind of job that you’d call a career, and none of the others will experience that. So while I’ll never directly manager one of the others, Bill Gates wasn’t wrong about the hierarchy of nerds to others.

Clean yourself up

If I saw a photo of 15.5 year old me, I would probably cringe right now. But I doubt there’s anyone in the world who’d look back 50% of their lives and see a picture of someone dressed well, with great hair and sparkling teeth.

I wasn’t bad, but I certainly could have improved. I seemed to have some sort of penchent for pseudo-military wear with those flappy bits on the shoulders. I also loved wearing long sleeve t-shirts underneath my unreadable band logo t-shirts. All of which are probably cool today, but my god, the baggy jeans needed a serious change.

Only this year did I decide that I needed to fix my wardrobe. Too much Penneys & Dunnes for things I need to look good in. Nothing was fitted, nothing ironed well and nothing lasted a particularly long time. So I donated a huge amount of clothing to charity, or my brother-in-laws to be and replaced everything with something nice. It’s incredible how good you feel when wearing fitted, nice clothes.

Moreover, every day I have a shower (which probably dries my skin out, but I love being clean) followed by moisturising and the usual man stuff (hair gel, etc.). If there’s one key takeaway here it’s this: moisturise. Daily. My skin, according to my wife-to-be, is that of a porcelain doll.

While we’re at it, shave properly. Or at least learn how to use a proper razor. Different parts of your face need different lengths. I didn’t know that until about 6 months ago!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice

Something that always killed me was my approach to problems. I am gifted with a brain that’s very quick to make decisions and solve problems. It’s a great trait to have, and this alongside organisation are the only key skills I think I actually can claim ownership of.

But as a school-goer or college-goer my personality just didn’t extend far enough to ask for help. This wasn’t some sort of brash, chest-beating trait. No no, this was a fearful one. I rarely asked my parents for help with work, college or advice on life matters. I remember breaking up with someone and instead of chatting about it and going amicably (which made sense since we were the worlds worst relationship), we just broke up and never spoke again. She’d probably be a good friend now!

I have an inherently introverted personality type. It took nearly 30 years to figure this out, but that doesn’t mean that you’re shy, afraid and like a deer in the headlights all the time. It means you get your energy from being alone, as opposed to an extrovert who gets their energy from being with others. An extrovert isn’t necessarily a comedian type who has to entertain those around them.

No one ever explained what being introverted meant, especially since I’m a weird case because I’ve no problem in groups or entertaining folks. I’m sarcastic & witty enough to worm out of any problem. But knowing where I get energy from has changed how I see the world and how I act in the last year or two. It’s improved so much of what I do! If I had thought to ask about this from someone older & wiser, then I would have made serious personality inroads quicker. But instead I’m figuring these things out as I go.