36 Things I’ve Learned in 36 Years

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sometimes it feels like I’ve lived several lives in these handful of decades. I’ve salvaged lessons from every one. In honor of my 36th Birthday, here are 36 things I’ve learned.

Megan's college yearbook photo
The life in which I sported a weird bowl cut, 20, college yearbook photo

In no particular order:

36 Things I’ve Learned In 36 Years

    1. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.
    2. Lying to others is problematic; lying to yourself is a cardinal sin.
    3. Write it down: dreams, schedules, goals, appointments, feelings, gratitudes.
    4. Sleeping with makeup on is the literal worst. The longer the gunk (dead skin cells, pollutants, makeup) is on your skin, the bigger the pore. Crater pores are a sign of aging no one thinks about until it’s too late.
    5. Motivation doesn’t exist.
megan and her grandfather
Grandpa and I, 2ish? Still my go-to expression.
    1. Winning at life means consistently choosing what is best for future me rather than what feels good for current me.
    2. Self awareness and disclosure is important, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all. There is no nobility in the ability to catalog one’s defects and mistakes unless there is also a willingness, purposefulness, and show of righting these shortcomings.
    3. Follow every interaction that begins with “I’m [blank], how may I help you?” with “Hello [blank], how are you?” End interactions with “Thank you for your time.”
    4. A firm handshake is important.
    5. Constant reaction to stimuli is a weakness in and of itself.
me and my mom
Mommers and me, 4ish.
    1. No one is paying attention. This is freeing as hell and means that, within reason and decency, you can do whatever you want.
    2. There is no safety in numbers. Metaphorically or physically. If you are ever in serious distress in public you need to be specific to get aid. “You! In the red shirt! Call 911! You! In the blue! Help stop the bleeding!” (Google “Bystander Effect”)
    3. Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Diet collectively and purposefully sicken us.
    4. Guilt is a useless emotion unless it is spurring a genuine righting of wrongs. Entertaining excessive feelings of guilt without action is just emotional masturbation.
    5. I’d rather be happy than anything.
me holding hands with my nephew
My nephew David and I, 2 and 14. My grandmother took this picture. She won photography contests and always had an eye for a good shot.
    1. Change the oil when the sticker says.
    2. We’re all just big dumb animals, more easily trained than we want to think.
    3. All of today’s dramas will eventually be looked upon with a wondering attitude of “that was such a big deal then, I hardly remember now.”
    4. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Megan in front of a statue
Hans Christian Anderson statue and me, 22. My friend Aurora and I explored Scandinavia for a couple weeks in the summer of 2005.
    1. Don’t know what to say? Say that. Mad as hell? Tell them. Scared? Disclose. Don’t want to pay full price? Ask for a discount. Always just say it. Always ask. It’s never as bad as it could be.
    2. Be nice to the people who prepare and serve your food.
    3. Pay attention to how your beloved loves you and mirror their behavior back at them.
    4. Always play the long game.
    5. Spirituality is more important than I’ve wanted to admit.
    6. Save on makeup, spend on skin care.
    7. You can decide what you are.
Megan in high school
In high school I could be found launching into the atmosphere or holding up walls, 16ish
  1. I don’t need so many things.
  2. Travelling is an essential way to learn life skills.
  3. You draw more flies with honey than vinegar. Pesky flies cannot be swatted if they’re not within arms’ reach.
  4. The most blusterous are both the least threatening and the least interesting.
  5. Give random compliments to strangers frequently.
  6. Just look it up!!! That low carb recipe, how to fix an appliance, someone’s criminal record. It’s amazing what you can find online with a little digging.
  7. Almost anything can be said accompanied by a head tilt and a smile.
  8. My mother is an amazing woman.
  9. Friendships are important and I need to be more proactive in mine.
  10. People are what they repeatedly do. Period.
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My whole world, piled on the floor.

And Some To Grow On

37. Those that find you “too much” are not your people.


38. Sometimes you have to tone it down. That’s just being an adult.

megan's sister and son
My sister Sasha and Big A, April 2017, <3

What About You?

What are your ultimate life lessons? Comment below, I’d love to feature your answer in upcoming posts.

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Ish Mom's 36 Things I've Learned In 36 Years




Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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