Today is the last day of my 30s. Insofar as 40 is the new 30, is it perhaps equally accurate to say this is the last day of my 20s? Of that, I have my doubts, and, anyway, I’m very happy to (finally?) be older. And I wouldn’t want to go back even a week, let along a decade or two. I’ve learned so much and travelled so far along this winding road, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So here, as a reminder to myself, first, and to celebrate, commemorate, and in hopes that I might remember and implement them as I move towards my 50s, are 40 things I learned before I turned 40… 

In no particular order…

  1. لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا ٱلله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱلله There is nothing worthy of worship except for Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
  2. Life’s better when I watch less television and eat less processed food.
  3. I’m extraordinarily fortunate.
  4. We’re all just people, fallen far short of the grace of God. I’m a person. Mom and Dad are people. That disgustingly fat, old cracker that glared at my darling, adorable wife and looked away when I smiled at him real friendly like and said “Hi How are ya? Nice day, innit?” is a person. Muslims are people. Christians are people. Atheists and Anarchists are people. Allah is One and He is Perfect. We are the creation and we’re all just trying to get through the day as best we can, even disgustingly fat, old crackers at the fucking Irving mall.
  5. I’m not trying as hard as I can to be better than I am.
  6. Things that God made are better than things we make, and the closer we hew to the God-made, the better we do.
  7. As an analogue, physical > digital.
  8. Just to keep the thread going for a minute: books > blogs, even this one (lulz).
  9. My parents did the best they could.
  10. Tomatoes, fresh from the garden, are much better than ones from the store.
  11. Blue Bell makes the best store-bought ice cream. My dad used to make an even better ice cream, and that lady that runs the ice cream shop out the front of her house down in Heredia, Costa Rica makes one almost as good as he used to, and both are way better than Blue Bell’s, though I can’t get either with any regularity, so Blue Bell it is, and I probably shouldn’t eat much ice cream anyway.
  12. Use it or lose it. Rust never sleeps.
  13. It’s probably really not as bad as all that.
  14. Sleep is vital: so much is so much easier when I’m well rested.
  15. You can get away with almost anything as long as you look like you’re supposed to be doing whatever it is you’re doing… and provided that you’re white, not obviously Muslim, and male. If you’re black, forget about it. If you’re brown, make sure you have some proof of citizenship on you and be prepared to be harassed. If you’re obviously Muslim, it depends where you are, but probably best to just leave it lest someone call the FBI or decide to take matters into their own hands. If you’re female, expect harassment, lascivious stares, groping, and the like. We humans have such great capacity for ignorance, suspicion, and evil… Astaghfirullah.
  16. Cognitive dissonance is real and not a huge problem.
  17. The Matt Damon character in True Grit is a more accurate portrayal of Texans and Native Texan attitudes than this Native Texan would like to admit.
  18. No amount of stuff—comic books, drugs, books, booze, mp3s, junk food, cameras, whatever—will ever fill that void.
  19. Everything comes from Allah. In order for it to come, we have to put in effort.
  20. Riding a bicycle really is just like riding a bicycle, and it’s as much fun at 40 (or 39 and 99/100ths) as it was at 4.
  21. After about 15 minutes, and for hours after, exercise feels good.
  22. After about a hour, and for hours after, candy and junk food feel bad.
  23. Prayer, the Muslim varieties, for sure, but others too, is just about the best way to get centered and remember the important things.
  24. Worship comes in many forms, and it’s easier than I think.
  25. Patience is sometimes very hard, but it’s worth it, and practice makes perfect.
  26. Multitasking is not really something most humans are capable of, me included.
  27. Helping the self is good and necessary, but helping others is often far better.
  28. Working in groups is hard and sometimes not worth it. If I’m going to work as part of a group, I better be fully, unshakably committed to the project and willing to put up with—nay, enjoy—unbelievable amounts of silliness from my brothers and sisters in humanity, and if I’m not fully committed and ready to accept obfuscation, obstruction, time wasting, huge and fragile egos, and all sorts of human foibles and failings, both from myself and from others, I shouldn’t even start.
  29. Truth comes from Allah. Islam is the best, but all faiths contain truth and we Muslims don’t have all the answers. We can all benefit from the experience, understanding, knowledge, and culture of others. لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.
  30. Fried human skin smells something like burned bacon (ouch).
  31. And related: the heating elements on electric stoves remain hot long after the color changes from red to light grey.
  32. I take myself way too seriously most of the time.
  33. I don’t take some things seriously enough. I’m not always sure what those are.
  34. Time is valuable, and sometimes you must spend it on things you’d rather not. I’m not talking about work, which is near mandatory. Sometimes, you must give your time in charity, and it’s best to think of it as charity and be cheerful, expecting your reward form Allah, rather than grumbling about it and just making yourself miserable.
  35. Too much free time equals too much wasted time; some downtime is necessary, but for productivity, creativity, activity of any sort, constraints are vital.
  36. And this, too, shall pass.
  37. Anticipation is great, but satisfaction is better (and see #18).
  38. Attention is a finite resource, best deployed in a unified fashion. Multitasking may be possible, but leave that to your work life. At home, with friends, family, heck, even with coworkers, undivided attention is the only way to go. It shows respect, love, and helps form a connection.
  39. Ideas, beliefs, plans, intentions are all well and good, indeed, in most cases they’re primary, but action, follow through, is what matters most.
  40.  لَّا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ  There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.

Any truth or benefit comes from Allah, alone, and any falsehood or harm comes from me and the whisperings of the devil, and may Allah forgive me and guide me to better, Ameen.

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