Harry Cook

27 Life Lessons Learned by My 27th Birthday

With today being my birthday, I found myself pondering what life has taught me in the previous 26 years through (sometimes bitter) experience. 


Today is my 27th birthday. Alongside the swirling experience of the previous 26, I feel I’ve learned a thing or two. Or 27.

In aid of today, I’ve decided to cobble together a list to remind myself next year.


1. Don’t Argue with Stupid People
You get nowhere. It’s like playing scrabble with a dog – no matter how well you play, the dog will end up shitting on the board and walking away like he won anyway.


2. Eat the Damn Cake
Yes, I know that eating right and exercise is important for your health, but if you are in the vicinity of a cake or delicious bite of something, just eat it.


3. Working Is a Part of Life, Not the Entirety of Life
Unless you adore what you do for a living and it is your passion and life’s mission, take a deep breath and don’t take it all so seriously. At the end of the day, a job is to pay the bills and have pocket money to go and enjoy yourself when you’re not working. Unless you are genuinely passionate about your career, don’t sweat it. Don’t break your back worrying about a job that would readily replace you.


4. Don’t Take Anything Seriously, Seriously
Unless you are performing open heart surgery or have the cure for cancer in your back pocket, lighten the fuck up. No matter what your job is, ask yourself if it will matter in 100 years? If not, giggle and let it go. The world won’t stop spinning if you miss a deadline or make a mistake. Breathe. It’s all good.


5. Ignorance Is a Choice
Yes. It’s 2018. There is no excuse for ignorance or stupidity when we have more information on our phones than a public library. If you don’t understand something, research it. Pick up a book, scan the Internet, question everything, especially the news. Be curious, ask questions, and, most of all, don’t be lazy. Educate yourself so the world can be full of kinder, more worldly individuals who know what they are talking about.


6. Throw Away Anything You Thought You Knew That Doesn’t Sit Well with Your Values
Boys are taught to be one way and girls are taught to be another. It’s a system that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years because society wants us to constantly keep the mold. Screw that. Break the mold and let people be who they want to be. Go after a job you want, not what society wants for you. Travel, see the world, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and go after the stuff that means something to you.


7. Laugh at Every Chance You Get
Nothing beats a good belly laugh. Giggle more. It works wonders for the soul.


8. Get a Hobby
I see your attempts to restart learning the piano and your attempts to learn Spanish and your goal of reading a book a fortnight and working out three times a week. Time slips quickly. Keep it.


9. Read the News, Then Read It Again, and Then Research Some More
Don’t take anything at face value. Just because the news tells you one thing, don’t take it as gospel. These news shows are run by multi-billionaire white men and corporations with agendas. Don’t take it at face value. Look into things. Read as much as you can and become your own private investigator for the truth. Just because a news show says something, doesn’t make it fact.


10. Read More
The excuse of not having enough time to read doesn’t cut it. Instead of watching an hour of Netflix, take an hour to open a book. Trust me.


11. Get a Pet
YASSSSSSS. Get a dog. Then get another dog. Then when you think you simply can’t handle the amount of snuggles you are getting, get another dog! In all seriousness, dogs are extremely good for your health. They reduce stress and anxiety, boost happiness and are wonderful snuggle buddies. Adopt, don’t shop.


12. Sometimes People Hurt You … It Sucks
Yes. Sometimes the people you never in a bazillion years thought could hurt you, will hurt you terribly. Some of the people you think you know are far from what you think. It sucks, yes, but once you acknowledge it, it slowly stops hurting. You can move on with your life, and that’s totally okay.


13. Log Off – Often
The age of social media is wonderful for so many reasons. But it can also be an information overload and I highly advise you switch off, leave your phone somewhere away from you for a few hours. Unplug. Those cute puppy pics will be there when you get back.


14. Exercise
I know, I know, yuck. I know you don’t enjoy it. Stop rolling your eyes. You’ve suffered from depression, anxiety, and addiction for years, do it for the belly full of endorphins. Do it for the feeling you get, not to achieve some unattainable body.


15. Napping Is Amazing
Yes. Napping is one of the best damn things to do. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. It’s bloody fantastic.


16. Journal
You’ve been journaling since 10. You still cherish those adventures, worries, achievements, and memories. Keep going.


17. Take Photos
Despite the social shame, it’s a lovely way to document your life with things to look back on. Even if it’s filtered.


18. Never Think You Know It All
It’s easy to be arrogant when we are conditioned all our lives with things we are expected to believe. “Boys should do this,” “girls should do that.” But just because we’ve been taught it by a society that has never been challenged to think differently, doesn’t make it right. Question everything. Stay curious. Look into things and don’t dismiss stuff you know nothing about. Not only is it a really ugly personality trait, it gets you nowhere in life. Opening your mind and heart is a surefire way of experiencing life in all its beauty.


19. Go after What You Want in Life
Jim Carrey did a graduation speech about his father who never went after his dreams because he wanted to do the “safe thing,” to have a “stable” career that would provide for his family. From memory, his father failed and lost everything in his “stable” career. The moral being that if you are going to fail at something, at least let it be something you love.


20. Travel, Travel, Travel
See the world. It’ll show you that we humans are all the same. Get out there.


21. “Someone Who Is Nice to You but Not Nice to the Waiter Is Not a Nice Person”
I love this quote because it’s so damn true. Don’t be a dick to service people. Don’t think you’re better than anyone because you’re not. End of story. Period.


22. Get Over Yourself
Sort of a continuation of the above, this is just a reminder to get over yourself, have a giggle, and realize that having a fancy car, a nice suit, or well-manicured hands means absolutely sweet FA. Just be a good person. It’s that simple.


23. Tell Your Loved Ones You Love Them and Don’t Go to Bed Angry
Pretty self-explanatory this one, but all the same, something to remember constantly. Life is far too short to go to bed angry at someone. Throw away those silly arguments and tell the people you care about how you feel.


24. Screw What People Think of You
I mean it. Who cares what someone else thinks of you? That’s their stuff. How they perceive you and how they feel about you is none of your business. Water off a duck’s back. Let it go.


25. Try Not to Worry So Much
I know, easier said than done, but sometimes it helps to take a step back, take a deep breath in, and ask a few key questions: Can I do anything to change the current situation? If yes, do it. If not, let it go. Breathe through it and remember all we ever have is right in this moment.


26. Meditate
YASSSSSSSSS times a million. Taking a moment to just sit and reflect and focus on the here and now is one of the most intensely wonderful ways of reconnecting to what matters. There are a million different apps you can use, or simply sit and count your breaths. It works wonders.


27. Life Is What You Make It, but Most of All It’s about Love
Love, family, friends, and making memories is the most important thing in life. Stop worrying about your material things. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy material stuff whatsoever, but it shouldn’t be what you go after in life. Nobody ever gets to the end of their life clutching on to their Chanel bag. The things that matter are the people you love and the memories you make.


So, go for a walk, take in the view, have a laugh, and breathe in every moment of every day. It’s all we ever have.


Harry Cook

Harry Cook is an award-winning actor, writer, LGBTQ activist, and three-time world champion boxer. Okay, everything except the champion boxer bit is true.

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