As of today, I have been on this planet for twenty-five  whole, entire years. However, I am no priest, rabbi, or Dalai Lama. I make no attempt to present 25 sage lessons, wise quotes, or life-altering, exemplary anecdotes.
I do things. Some of them are fun, enjoyable things. Some of them are necessary things. Some of them are regular things. I have compiled 25 of my favorite things to do- one for each year. These are things that I think everyone should do at some point in time.
In no particular order, here they are!
1. Give more hugs. Psychology tells us we need 8-10 meaningful touches a day to stay emotionally healthy. Hugs count.
2. Drink coffee or tea. Sure, there are antioxidants, and all kinds of other good health benefits, associated with moderate amounts of tea or coffee. But the most important thing is sharing it with friends. And the caffeine doesn’t hurt, either. [Whenever possible, drink fair trade.]
3. Go on road trips. My suggestions for a successful road trip: pick someone you mesh well with, find a good way to split responsibility and cost, and bring an audiobook. You will learn a ton about the other person, and about the perils of the average American truck stop.
4. Tell your friends you are thankful for them. Don’t wait for a birthday, major holiday, or an argument to try to get things on the table. If it is hard for you to talk about feelings, thank your friend(s) for a specific thing(s) that has been done for you. A good way to do that is “Thank you for [thing you did for me]. I really appreciate you.” It is simple, but can make a world of difference for the person, and for your friendship.
5. Buy clothes and shoes consignment. I started doing this a couple years ago, because I realized how much cheaper it is than buying new. But it can also be fun to look for finds with friends, or to create your own ensembles. Keep at it if you don’t find something right away. There is something out there for everyone. Also: no one has ever ‘spotted’ anything I own as being secondhand, so you can go ahead and dispense of worrying about what others think.
6. Pet dogs. They are cute. They are awesome. They are always happy to see you. They rule. They make you smile. Of course, avoid the ones that are snarling and foaming at the mouth. Otherwise, acknowledging someone has a cute dog and asking to greet it can often be a great conversation starter. And you are making a puppy happy. Win-win.
7. Watch classic movies. There are so many great movies out there that do not star Miley Cyrus or Johnny Knoxville. It is amazing to see what actors, producers, and directors were capable of before CG, insane special effects, and auto-tune. AMC is a great channel for good movies, if you are unsure where to start.
8. Have the donuts at the Patterson House. Because deep-frying bread and covering it with an inch-deep layer of cinnamon sugar is way underrated.
9. Bank and pay bills online. Very easy; saves a tree; makes one feel like a marginally more responsible adult.
10. Be friends with someone who isn’t like you. Not trying to sound like an after-school special. This is a great way to broaden your horizons, and to learn how to communicate better. Some of my most rewarding friendships are with people I appear to have nothing in common with. In a world where people are so quick to make judgements, this is a sure-fire way to make sure we keep our prejudices in check.
11. Find out the story behind an interesting tattoo. Obviously, tact is in order here. The reason behind their tattoos may be a sensitive subject for some people. But it is a great conversation to have when you feel comfortable doing so. It gives you insight into something another person finds beautiful or meaningful, whether you’re a needlephobe or not.
12. Read at least one new book a year. Good books abound. They have been around for millenia. And there are plenty of used bookstores where you can get a bundle of them for super cheap. Let those brain cells do some jumping jacks. And remember: reading makes you better looking.
13. Exchange letters. With stamps and everything. Engaging in the lost art of letter-writing gives you something to look forward to. . . not to mention it is a handy way to encourage creativity, and to boost your vocabulary. A good way to get yourself inspired to write letters is to pick out some neat cards or stationary, and decide on a friend to send them to. . . nothing compares to the simple joy of opening a piece of mail that isn’t an ad. . . or a bill.
14. Travel abroad. This is something that requires some advance planning and money saving, but it is well worth it. Recommendations are the same as for the road trip entry. Just replace “bring an audiobook” with “watch the occasional in-flight movie”. A good way to start is finding out what kind of discounts you might be eligible for, and by looking for package deals.
15. Watch a movie, listen to an artist, or read a book, based on the recommendation of a friend. This has introduced me to the vast majority of musicians I love, and to a host of favorite books as well. It is another interesting way to connect with another human being, and a way to try something new that doesn’t involve eating bugs or being on a bizarre Japanese stunt show.
16. See at least one of your favorite bands or artists in concert. Seeing a live performance of an artist you admire is a sure way to make you smile. Almost all the time, a live performance is better than a record, in that you get to make a living, human connection with a person; rather than just identifying with a song, a beat, or an idea. And you never know: you may get a hug out of it.
17. Go camping. I suggest going to a campground, with people who have been camping before. It is a blast. But make sure you bring pre-cooked food, just in case your homemade breakfast is sub-par, hypothetically speaking.
18. Pray for others. This is a must to remind me of the blessings I have been given, and of how I can serve someone else, even if I cannot “fix” their problem or situation directly. And if you’re not the praying kind, just listen, or ask if there is anything you can do to help.
19. Stay up all night talking with a friend. This doesn’t have to be an every day practice. But there is no other catharsis quite like talking the ears right off one another every once and a while. Just make sure you don’t have anything planned the next day but a pot of coffee and a big brunch.
20. Take photos. Losing my camera was a big pain. It made me realize just how precious photographs can be. Not that it is as-good-as-the-real thing. But taking photos is great for those of us with the most terrible short term memories of all time.
21. Buy yourself a present every now and again. This year, I got myself a robot bracelet. It’s not about being selfish. It’s about reminding yourself that you are special and loved and worth investing in. . .
22. Keep at least one box of “kid cereal” around. Just make sure you don’t contract a case of Count Choculitis.
23. Own a Beatles album. Seriously. Pick one. They have influenced so much music after them. And in them, you can hear bits of the music that shaped who they are. I can honestly say that owning one of their discs had a profound effect on my life. They helped me to love music, and to find little bits of happiness and optimism all over the place.
24. Be still from time to time. A couple of years ago, I spent 2 days in silence at a retreat. It was such an inspiring and challenging time for my spirit. I don’t go on talking strikes or anything, but it is good for me to remember that if I give the opportunity for G*d to speak, he usually finds a creative way to do so.
25. Support a local writer. Congratulations. One thing-to-do down. Only 24 more to go! Hope this has sparked some ideas for happy-inducing activities. Thanks for the gift of your support. You’ve all made it a wonderful birthday!