So it didn’t surprise me when my eyes were drawn to an article on my newfeed titled, “35 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 35 Years.” It was a heartfelt account of a woman’s hard-earned discoveries over the course of her life and filled with little pearls of wisdom such as, “The results we strive for aren't as valuable as the experiences along the way” and “There's no one-size-fits-all approach to anything and there is no magic bullet.” I found myself nodding along with most of the items and felt satisfied that I too had learned many of these self-actualizing truths in my time on this earth.
I finished the article, put my phone on the counter, and walked into the kitchen to take the burned ham out of the oven. As the hot air of the oven hit my face, I could feel both my makeup and my self-inflated awareness slowly melting away. Standing in the middle of my kitchen with smoke billowing out of the pan of pork in my hand, I finally had one of those “Aha” moments that Oprah always talked about. Sure, all of those high-minded lessons were nice…but what I really needed to learn was how to make a meal without blackened edges.
So here is a more realistic list - 35 Life Lessons I Should’ve Learned in 35 Years (But Still Haven’t):
- How to hem an article of clothing. When the director of my daughter’s play handed me her costume last week and said, “This just needs to be hemmed up a bit and it will fit her perfectly” I felt an involuntary pang of terror followed by an intense need to call my mother and ask for drop-off service. (Note to school administrators: please bring back Home-Economics class!)
- How to cook chicken. If you’ve been reading my articles with any frequency, this item needs no explanation.
- How to replace the roll of toilet paper. I know, this one is a surprise; usually it’s the husband who sets the new roll on top of the empty one. Not in my house. (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)
- The appropriate amount of water for a plant. Do I keep pouring until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot or do I measure and pour a specific amount? Or maybe there is a third option. For the sake of my future plants, you should tell me the secret before my next herbicidal spree.
- How to resist the dollar bins at Target. I don’t need a mint green clipboard or a collection of chevron patterned plastic cups, yet there they are, in my cart again.
- How to return a rented movie. They day I check out a blue-ray without paying an additional $18 in late fees will be the day I’ve finally arrived.
- How to wear a white shirt without spilling coffee on it before 9:00 a.m.
- How to sort lights and darks when doing laundry. Just kidding, I know how to do this one…I just don’t have the time to separate and I no longer care about fading. Dirty is dirty and clean is clean; no need to make things more complicated than they are.
- How to charge my phone. I like to live dangerously and perpetually exist at 22% battery life.
- How to enjoy eating clams. I’m sorry, as refined as my palate has become, those slimy things still look nasty and I just can’t.
- How to fold and put away laundry as soon as the timer goes off on the dryer. (Pause for a giant chortle) I’ve learned to embrace the wrinkles.
- How to avoid reality television. I’ve seen every single episode of Survivor, Big Brother, and The Bachelor. It’s shameful, but a Monday night thunderstorm that interrupts my regularly scheduled programming can throw me off for the entire week.
- How to kill an earwig without recoiling in disgust.
- How to get a chocolate milk stain out of the carpet. No, I don’t have a dog with a bladder problem. I just have kids who love Ovaltine and hate clean floors.
- How to throw away disposable contacts after two weeks. I can still technically see at the five-week mark, so pitching them prematurely seems like such a waste.
- The appropriate response to, “Please, Mom, just ONE more time!” We all know that ten minutes after this request I will be climbing up that slide to retrieve a squealing child while trying to keep a smile on my face so as not to scare the other mothers at the playground.
- How to keep a secret from my Mom and Sister. (I’m convinced this one is impossible.)
- How to put on mascara without looking like I have two giant tarantulas sitting above my eyelids.
- The hiding spot of all of my bobby pins. I know they are all in a corner somewhere, laughing at me as I tear through every drawer in the house.
- The actual lyrics for the chorus of “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crows.
- The courage to drink the milk after the expiration date, even if it passes the smell test.
- How to resist a trampoline. I know I’m a grown woman but they look so bouncy and fun and I can still land that front flip.
- The discipline to always use a coaster when placing an icy drink on my wooden table. (Note to self: buy a set of coasters)
- How to cut up a watermelon. Why is this such a complicated concept? (It’s probably not.)
- How to watch Caillou without clawing my eyes out.
- How to look at a teenager’s duck-face selfie on social media without thinking to myself, “Does her mother know she posted this?”
- How to not freak out whenever my foot touches seaweed while swimming in a lake. After all these years it is still so gross.
- The maturity to not laugh whenever someone uses the word “duty” in a sentence.
- The ability to find my way home when lost on a country road without calling my Dad for navigational assistance (wherein I use descriptive geographical markers such as, “I’m right by that one cornfield with the red barn where the road makes that big curve.”)
- How to turn on a propane grill without fearing for my life and my eyebrows.
- The actual use for hashtags.
- How to finish (or start) any of the projects I’ve tagged on Pinterest.
- How to touch a mushy banana without gagging.
- The patience to not scream out “What Else Could You Possibly Want?” after my child has said my name for the 54th time that morning.
- How to buy a shade of lipstick that doesn’t make me look like a 12 year old playing dress-up.
To be perfectly honest, at 35 I am still far from achieving Zen and miles away from Buddha inspired enlightenment. Most days I’m just learning as I go and making it up along the way. The good news is that I still have 11 months to figure all of this out. The bad news is that I probably won’t. But I choose to look on the bright side: I know how to pick out a perfectly ripe avocado and all three of my kids (usually) wear clean clothes when going out in public. Take that Oprah.