In honor of turning the big 3-0, I've decided to make a few suggestions to my readers. This isn't advice, of course, because nobody likes advice, but it's a few lessons that have started to hit home for me. So here goes...
Never give advice about relationships.
Solicited or unsolicited, it will not matter. Case in point: my college roommate was in a relationship that made her unhappy, I suggested to her she should break up with the guy. All this did was create tension in our friendship, she was totally offended at my suggestion. Years later, very happily married to another guy, she pointed out that my advice to her back then had been absolutely on the mark. But she just couldn't handle hearing it at that time. It's always this way; friends of both genders still come to me for advice about their relationships, but they don't really want to hear anything wise or actually change their behaviors based on the advice I dispense. See, here's the truth about giving advice: NOBODY WANTS IT. They want affirmation, to be told that what they have done is right or at least, forgivable and forgettable. Confront anyone with the cold hard truth about their interpersonal actions and they will instantly shut down (myself included!).
Never play matchmaker.
This may work for some people, but it has NEVER worked for me. When I set people up, be they on opposite sides of the globe, or in the same town, they find they have nothing in common. I don't know what this says about my interpersonal intuition. I tend to be like Jane Austen's Emma, I set up totally wrong combinations, or I discover the guy has more interest in me than he does in the girl I send him on a date with (in spite of the fact that I'm not even available). The guys I set up inevitably end up engaged to the perfect girl a year later, someone they met in their daily life with no one's help. The girls I set up inevitably discover that being single is actually the most blessed state.
Never be ashamed of intelligence.
As Muriel Spark put it: "Never apologize. Never explain." Own your inner nerd. If you are smart, flaunt it. If small talk and celebrity gossip bore you, get up and walk away. Find people you can talk to about something intelligent. Because the truth is, intelligent people go further in life, are happier in the long run, and have more fulfilling experiences. Girls who feel the need to tamp down their intelligence in order to not intimidate males are only cheating themselves and setting up to marry a stupid guy who will never make them happy.
Never take the easy road.
The most difficult things I've done have given me the most joy: having babies, moving constantly (further and further from "home"), and changing my career path. The times I've wussed out are hugely regretful to me now. For instance, dropping out of graduate school because I was giving birth to my first child and my husband was deploying. I just didn't know that I really could go to school and raise a baby alone at the same time; but single moms are doing it all over the world. I regret every day not finishing that degree. Don't give up on your dreams just because the road to fulfilling them seems insurmountable.
Never underestimate the Universe.
A wise friend once told me that you can't escape the lessons you are destined to learn. He explained that whether or not you believe in God or organized religion, there seems to be some inescapable power at work, forcing us to learn and grow. He said that if you refuse to learn the lesson you are supposed to learn in your current difficulty, that exact lesson will come back to you later on, repackaged in a different situation with different people, and you will once again be forced to make choices, hopefully with different results. I nearly dismissed his theory as eastern hoodoo, since he had studied in India under some guru. However, life continually teaches me that I am its bitch, and the universe is in fact a boomerang. That feeling of "Oh no, not again!" is a legit one; you will be forced to grow up and respect others, or life will just be an endless purgatory of relational chaos.
Suck the F***ing Marrow Out of Life
This one's essential. Always give way to your lust for adventure, so long as it will not harm anyone else. There really is a whole different world on the other side of the ocean, and the only people who will have regrets are the ones who never stepped on the boat. This I know for certain.