Today is my dad's 60th birthday. He's entering the "fourth quarter" of his life (something he's been reminding anyone who will listen for the past month or so) and I can't think of anyone who has influenced me more than him, with the exception of my mom.
I am a very lucky person. I have two wonderful, loving parents who have always supported me and each other. I grew up in a loving household. We fought, of course, but at the end of the day we always sat down for dinner together - no matter what. When I left for college in 2004 (holy smokes that is so long ago) I made the conscious decision not only to leave behind my friends, but also my mom, my sister... and my father. We still talk on the phone several times a week and often have interesting, insightful, and, okay, sometimes weird conversations (last night I called up my dad and he recited the Gettysburg Address to me - no joke) but we're there for each other.
So I wanted to share with you some things my dad has shared with me. Things he's told me outright, and things he's shown me through his actions. I hope these little tidbits of wisdom help you as they've helped me, and I hope you'll join me in wishing my dad the best birthday anyone could ask for.
1) Life Isn't Fair. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Don't expect life to give you stuff. It won't. Work for what you want and keep getting up no matter how many times you're knocked down. Don't feel sorry for yourself. No one else does.
2) Always be respectful. Whether it's a coworker or the woman at the grocery store checking you out, take the time to smile and say hello. Be attentive. Be present. Listen. Everyone is trying to get through the day just like you are. If someone calls you, call them back. Write thank you letters. Remember birthdays. Treat everyone how you would like to be treated, even if they're a big pain in the ass.
3) Never take the little things for granted. It's easy to get lost in the big picture. Remember to take a deep breath, stop, and appreciate all the little things it's easy to overlook. Not losing your car keys. Getting an unexpected call from an old friend. Smiling at a stranger on the street and having them smile back. Expecting rain and getting sun. Being stuck in a traffic jam for two hours instead of three. Winning $2 on a $1 scratch off ticket. You're here. You're alive. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.
4) Work with your hands. Do something outside. Get your hands dirty once in a while. Garden. Build something. Mow the lawn. Pick up trash at the park. Don't be afraid to break a sweat.
5) Don't worry about impressing anyone. Life is too short to worry about the opinions of others. Be the real you. Tell bad jokes. Wear weird clothes. Who cares if your hair isn't perfect? Say what you feel, not what you think other people want you to say. Do what you want, not what you think other people want you to do. Step out of the box. There's only one of you, so let yourself shine.
6) Do something that makes you happy. Even if it doesn't make you a lot of money.
7) Love. Love yourself. Love your significant other. Love your siblings. Love your parents. Love your children. Love your children's children. Love your friends. Love your pets. Build lasting relationships. Take the time to nourish them. Make those you love feel special, even if it's just with a kind word. At the end of your life money won't matter. The size of your house won't matter. The kind of car you drive won't matter. Your family and your friends -- they will matter. You put in what you get out. So put in lots of love.