The author learned these life lessons so you don't have to
When I was in my late 20s, my boss and I used to have epic lunches where we'd chat about life. One day, he told me that when you turn 30, you need to start being responsible. I didn't take him seriously, but now that I'm 40, I wish I had.
Here are nine of the hard-earned lessons I've learned leading up to my fortieth year that I wish someone had told me a decade ago:
1. You may see some friends less often, but the bond remains strong
I've found that the closest friends I've had for the past 20 years are the ones from my fraternity — it truly is a forever bond. As life moves on, though, people do, too.
Some of your friends will move to different states, and some will get married, have kids, and end up immersed in a suburban bubble. Your inner circle will become smaller and smaller as you get older.
But that's not to say that the folks you see less often are gone forever. With many of my fraternity brothers, when we get together, we're still able to pick up right where we left off. It's like no time has passed. You just can't get bogged down with wondering when you’ll see them again or feel insecure about why they haven’t called.
2. Your parents will need taking care of
My parents are on the verge of turning 70, and their health is becoming a concern. Between the two of them they have high cholesterol, hearing loss, and multiple medications, and doctor visits are becoming more and more frequent.
It's important to understand your family’s health and medical history, and to know all of their pertinent information so you can handle any medical situation that may arise.
3. An extravagant wedding is overrated
If there was ever a moment where the idiom "If I knew then what I know now" fits into this post, it pertains to my wedding. Yes, it was beautiful – everyone we wanted was there, we had an outdoor ceremony, the music was amazing, and the caterer's pigs-in-a-blanket were hand-rolled!
But weddings can be uber-expensive, especially in the New York City area. Planning a wedding often causes stress for the bride and groom and strife among the parents paying for it.
If you really want to have a wedding, focus on curating your guest list, paring it down only to the folks who must be there. Do what I would do now if I had the chance to do it all again: Take a long and lovely honeymoon and start your life together without this nuptial nonsense.
4. Being a parent is more fun than being the fun uncle
When my sister's first child was born, I showered her with gifts — 11 years later she still has the first stuffed animal I bought for her. This trend continued when my nephew was born. I'd even volunteer to babysit them. I was the coolest uncle. Ever.
Being an uncle certainly prepped me for parenthood. Now that I'm a father, I can't imagine a life without my son. The adventures we go and games we play are priceless. I wish every moment could be encapsulated.
I'm emotional around my son, and I give him the space to be so, too. He makes me want to be a better person and a better father — not one of those parents who sits on the park bench. I know I'm a damn good papa. And he does, too.
5. Having less stuff is more fruitful
As a kid, I'd steal everything from a hotel room that wasn't nailed down. (Years later I found out my father was charged for those missing TV remotes.) As a magazine editor, I had stacks of magazines. I also took full advantage of the "free table" at my magazine job — I quickly stockpiled enough shaving cream for the next four years.
Then I read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. I kicked those stacks of magazines to the curb, along with bags of books, DVDs, unworn clothes, mounds of papers, and more.
I stopped holding on to anything that didn’t bring me joy. I also adopted a work uniform — I wear the same outfit every day, and nobody notices.
6. Take care of your body
I tore my right labrum kickboxing, tore my left one playing volleyball, and slipped a disc in my lower back from doing who knows what. My knees are shot, plus, I can't rid myself of my beer belly.
I'm not trying to look like Lou Ferrigno circa 1980, I just want to be fit and feel good in my body. When I was an editor at a health and fitness publication, I realized it's possible to get in shape at any age, but it's a lot easier to stay in shape when you already are in shape. So take care of your body early and often!
7. Be patient with your career
I'm a Syracuse University alumnus, and since I work in media, some people assume I graduated from the famed S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.
I didn’t. I was a retail major. (I still don’t know what that means.) I always wanted to be a writer and editor — and I am one — and I’ve been involved with some really cool projects: I wrote a book, acquired a magazine, and even won an Emmy.
But because I didn't have a media background coming out of college, I was at a disadvantage early on. I've also had some tough luck in my career: I've been let go, downsized, been a part of a magazine closure, and dealt with difficult startups — I've collected unemployment seven different times.
It's been challenging and even depressing at times for my wife and me to wait for a big break in a tough industry. But I thrive on the stress is brings — the late nights closing a magazine issue and the sleepless ones meeting deadlines are all worth it for creating something.
8. Take financial security seriously
I've always been good with saving money — when I had it. But I never took risks with it to make more of it and make it work for me. I never met with a financial advisor.
Now I'm playing catch up for retirement while I balance my present-day spending. Lesson: It's never too early in life to think about later in life.
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