Tomorrow is my 31st birthday, and I’ve got big plans.

10 commandments for my 31st birthday

If you’ve been around here long enough, then you know that I’m big into self-improvement and making grand declarations for the type of person I’m going to be. (See Year of the Space Cadet and Be Intentional.) And along with this self-improvement kick, I’ve got some huge-ass plans that I’m going to be knocking out hard. I know exactly where I want to be this time next year, and I don’t plan on stopping until I get there.

But you can’t get where you’re going unless you have a map. (I used to have a boss who said that. He was the kitchen manager at a professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart. He had some good information.) So today I’ve laid out my 10 commandments of turning 31 to act as my map to get me where I want to be.

001: Self above all else.
Recently I’ve realized that I’ve spent way too much time being hard on myself. And honestly, it’s been the most self-defeating thing I’ve ever done. In the past month, I’ve taken better care of myself (mentally and physically) and I’ve seen a drastic change in my ability to accomplish tasks. Had I known that taking care of myself would enable me to do everything I wanted to do, I would’ve started taking care of myself a long time ago. For me, putting myself above everything else means cutting out tasks, people, food, material possessions, and energy that don’t serve me. It’s really a game changer.

002: All free time must be productive.
I’m not saying that I will use every waking moment to get work done. But what I am saying is that I need to be more productive with my downtime. When I’m done with my downtime, I should feel rested and ready to continue moving forward with whatever needs to be done. You know what’s not productive downtime for me? Social media, reading the internet for hours on end, texting, or watching TV. You know what has proven time and again to be incredibly productive downtime for me? Reading a book (and not on my iPad), walking Rosie, having coffee with a friend, and working out. 

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003: Remember that everyone is lying to you.
This commandment sounds more nefarious than it actually is. It’s not that I think a ton of people are actively trying to deceive me. (Though, I have 96 students who are capable of coming up with the most interesting reasons why they didn’t do their homework.) Whether or not they mean to, people generally give bad advice because they don’t have your best interests at heart. I say this as someone who NEVER crowdsources for opinions on what I should do, nor asks for the sort of advice that would guide a life decision. I’m insanely self-reliant in that way. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t offer up opinions about my choices anyway. And what someone else believes to be best for me is as good as a lie because I know in my own heart EXACTLY what I need to do.

Everyone is lying to you. Share on X

004: Put out the sort of energy that keeps you safe.
I wrote a little about how sometimes people can make me feel crazy when I reassured you that you’re supposed to be here. But it’s something I struggle with remembering myself. That’s why I need to put out energy that tells others to back off with their anxiety and negative thoughts. I need to create a protective bubble with my thoughts, actions, and words so that the self-doubt that’s planted by others can’t take root.

005: Contingency plans are for people who plan to lose.
Plan B is a birth control method. It’s not a way to envision the future. No more of my energy needs to go into contingencies. It’s full steam ahead toward goals.

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Plan B is a birth control method. It's not a way to envision the future. Share on X

006: For things to get done, you have to do them.
I think it’s really easy for me to just say I’ll do something later. Whether that’s the dishes, putting away my shoes when I get home, or working on a novel, I know that later translates to never. So, for those sorts of things to get done, I just have to do them. I have to make myself go to the sink and scrub the pots and pans. I have to walk myself the extra 20 or so steps to my closet where I can toss my shoes on the floor. I have to schedule an hour every day to just sit down and write. Because doing things is how they get done.

007: Be stingy with your time and money.
Neither of those are infinite resources, and the more of each I have, the easier it is for me to rest easy at night. I’ve written about the importance of saying no before, and it’s a constant practice for me. Now, I need to apply the same sort of discipline toward not spending money, and I’ll be golden.

008: You’re too damn old to talk shit.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. For too long gossip was my love language. Not any more.

009: Don’t make anxious decisions.
Anxiety is like the jealous best friend you had in middle school. It’s the friend that makes you doubt what you believe in. It’s the friend that tells you how you’re not good enough. It’s the friend that makes you regret so many things. It’s not really a friend at all, but just like that girl you knew in middle school, for some reason you can’t shake anxiety either. But I know I can recognize when anxiety is pushing me to make a bad decision. More often than not it’s a decision about spending money or eating junk food, but it has pushed me to some pretty terrible extremes. (I took the job from hell out of an anxiety-based decision.)

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010: Be relentless.
Everything takes time, and it’s an absolute waste to give yourself ultimatums. Far too many of my artistic friends say things like “If it doesn’t work out for me this time, I think I’m going to quit.” And I don’t think that’s fair. All I can do is relentlessly work. I can’t make others interpret what I do as marketable and therefore pay me for it. All I can do is be relentless. All I can do is sit down every single day and work. All I can do is continue up this hill. All I can do is do.

All I can do is sit down every single day and work. All I can do is continue up this hill. Share on X

What do you think? Any commandments I should add? What sort of plans do you like to make on your birthday?

10 Responses

  1. I love this!! And happy birthday of COURSE! Since I have a good 11 plus years on you (let’s warmly assume that age translates to wisdom ok? ok thanks), I want to calm you out of demanding quite so much of yourself. In recent times I have discovered a wealth of not just pleasure but also vitality in truly resting.
    Anyway. I would not have offered that but you asked. ; ))
    Welcome back to writing and thank you for sharing these cool commandments! I hope to see you this year xoox

    1. Thanks, Marie. And I definitely need the reminder to truly rest. I struggle with that a lot, but I’m working on it.

  2. First off, Happy birthday! And I love these commandments! Number 2 really spoke to me about my own down time. Reading books, and walking Buffy really are more productive for me than scrolling through Twitter and Facebook – which can put me in an angry mood. And number ten is great advice for all of us!

  3. Loving your “001” taking care of yourself. Who knew? I am on the same path of self discovery and loving the benefits of taking care of me so I can take care of others, and other things, in a better way. Happy birthday Marisa! (Apologies for too many commas)

  4. I just came upon this blog. Marisa you are inspiring. Tomorrow I am turning 31 and you just made my day. Thank you so much. Amazing.

  5. Today is my birthday. I just turned 31…. I googled “I just turned 31”. All day, despite the amazing gift, food, and drinks, I have been saying “I need a kick of some sort”…. I saw an island bar, took my spouse in there and had 2 kamikaze shots. It gave a nice kick. I am typing this 2 hours later. That kick is still missing. I dunno what it is but I am yet to write out my new year and new age rules.

  6. 🤜🤛love from Tanzania, keep writing, I’ve just read it -(7:09am) November 7.2020 and it’s just as fresh:)

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