This is my last column as a 30-something.
Yes, next week, I will turn 40.
When I was a kid, 40 was old. Ancient. Forever. Granted, so was 30. And I survived that.
I remember when my parents turned 40. I remind myself that I also remember when they turned 50, 60 and 70.
What have I learned over 40 years of life on this planet?
I’ve learned that …• Honesty is important. When I was 8, my mom took me to buy jeans at the Sears in Augusta. When we got to the car, we realized we had two pairs of jeans, but they had only charged us for one. Free jeans! I thought. My mom told me that we had not paid for them, and we needed to do the right thing. We went back inside and paid for the other pair.
• Listen to people who care about you. My senior year in high school, I was an invincible daredevil, in particular behind the wheel. Somehow, one of my sisters, who was in college at the time, got word of my driving idiocy. She wrote me a letter about it. She included a Dear Abby column about a kid who had died because he was driving like an idiot. She told me that people cared about me. I slowed down that day.
• Today is not the end of the world. When I was in college, I asked a girl out on a date. She told me no, as her sorority only let girls date guys from certain fraternities. I was crushed and called home and told the story to my dad. He said, “Well, some people peak early in life.” He was right. Her loss.
• Persistence pays off. The first time I asked my now-wife out on a date, she told me no, as she had a boyfriend. I was patient. And six months later, she didn’t have a boyfriend. And we went out that first time. … That said, it should be duly noted that I respectfully stood by during that six months and was not a creepy stalker.
• Be nice. It takes as much time to be nice to someone as it does to be nasty. When my wife and I were returning from our honeymoon, we were flying standby. There were about 40 of us waiting for eight seats. One gentleman decided that if he berated the airline clerk, that would get him on board faster. When I reached the clerk, I said, “My wife and I are returning from our honeymoon. We haven’t seen our dogs in a week, so if that helps, great! But if cursing at you works, I can try that, too.” She laughed and told us we would just have to wait and see who got on the flight. When we boarded the flight, the clerk said, “Congratulations on your marriage. And I love dogs.” Mister Nasty missed the flight.
• Relate to parents. You know who gets most upset by that crying kid in the restaurant? Their parents. Sure, there are some folks who don’t care, but for the most part, if you’ve ever been a parent in a restaurant with a screeching child, you are by far the most upset person there. When my daughter was 2, she decided to launch into the most horrific caterwauling the world has known. As I carried her outside the restaurant, a kind woman patted my shoulder. “It’ll be OK,” she said. I needed that.
• Know that kids look up to you. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. If you’re older than a kid, you are looked up to. It’s not just family. Got kids in your neighborhood? Guess what – they look up to you. Set the example.
• Sticks and stones may break your bones but words – oh, brother, words are powerful. Bite your tongue. Hold it. Don’t say something you’ll regret. I am fortunate that I do not have a laundry list of things I’m sorry I have said, but I have seen too many times when emotion and anger take over and shoot a dart that can never be taken back.
• Never underestimate the power of a pet. For you non pet-lovers out there, you don’t have to love the dogs and cats and other critters of the world. But you have to acknowledge what they mean to us pet lovers. I love all the critters I have now, but I’ll forever miss B.D. Nero, Gilbey and Montgomery. Family often has four legs.
So next week, I turn 40. So what, right? I’ve learned plenty over my first 40 years. Imagine what I learn over the next 40.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. He is a graduate of Aiken High and the University of Alabama. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.