Things I’ve learned in 57 trips around the sun

by | May 26, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: May 23, 2018 at 10:57 am

It’s happened AGAIN. For the 27th year in a row, I’ve not been asked to deliver a graduation speech. Shocking, y’all.
Just kidding; I’m terrible at public speaking. I once gave a speech at a senior center banquet, and I was HORRIBLE. And by horrible, I mean dry-mouthed, sweaty and about as funny as a three-car wreck. Ten years later I spoke extemporaneously at my mother’s funeral, and to this day have no idea what I said. So, not your best choice for speeches — but I’ve learned some things in 57 trips around the sun.
Such as…
• Develop self-discipline. Get up instead of hitting the snooze button. Exercise when you don’t feel like it. Pass up the pie that screams your name.
• Be nice to mean people. It evens out the universe.
• Enjoy life. Yes, you need to have a job and act like an adult, which means you can’t play Fortnight for a living. You’ll have responsibilities, but don’t forget to have fun.
• Don’t have a green thumb? Buy fake plants. Nobody will know.
• Realize that alcohol will never be as much fun as it was in college. Margaritas on a girls’ weekend? Yes, please. Mommy wine time every night? No. (As for pot, there’s nothing sadder than an old stoner, unless you’re Tommy Chong.)
• Buy the best mattress you can afford. It matters.
• Try not to owe any favors, but help others if you can.
• A gentleman stands when a woman enters the room.
• A lady gives a man every opportunity to be a gentleman, then thanks him.
• Live below your means and invest the excess.
• If a perfect world, you could dye your hair lime green and rock on. In the real world, lime green hair means you won’t work in finance or law. Or as a funeral director.
• Don’t be afraid to change your mind. It means you’re learning.
• Try to make everyone you meet crack a smile. And the corollary to that is, don’t ruin anyone’s day. No matter how mad or frustrated you are, don’t. You’ll be glad later.
• At work, speak up if you deserve credit. It’s not tooting your own horn (which is a ridiculous saying — who else’s horn would you toot?) It’s simply claiming what’s yours.
• Need therapy? Get some. There’s no shame in it.
• Ramen+Doritos is not a balanced diet. Figure out how to eat more vegetables; refried beans from Taco Bell don’t count.
• Women: A string of pearls, black tailored pants and a good haircut will take you far.
• Men: You can’t go wrong in khakis, navy blazer and loafers. There’s a reason it’s called the Southern tuxedo.
• Don’t be jealous of what others seem to have. You don’t know what problems they keep hidden.
• When you’re just starting out, look around and find a mentor. When you’re established, look around and be a mentor.
• Never, never, never be late. It’s not as rude as burping in someone’s face, but it’s close.
• Marry up, and I don’t mean money. I mean marry someone who’s a better human being than you are, because s/he will help you become a better person, which means the world becomes a better place. See how that works?
• Call or text your mom back. She taught you how to use utensils — you can spare her a couple of emojis.
• I read this in Forbes magazine: “You can have anything you want, but not everything you want.” Let that sink in, then figure out your priorities.

(Julie R. Smith, who still has a lot to learn, can be reached at


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