What I've Learned

I’ve had a lot of different magazine subscriptions over the years. The first were all fiction magazines: Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy. When I started gaming, I picked up Dragon Magazine. Near the end of my teenage years, it was all shit like Details, Maxim, and Stuff—you know, magazines that were basically the print equivalent to SPIKE. Then, of course, freshman year of college there was the nigh-obligatory subscription to Playboy.

None of those lasted more than a year, I think. And now print magazines are dying out like the newspaper. But there is one magazine I’ve kept a subscription too and probably will even when that means I can only read it online—Esquire.

Yes, they do waste paper and space on shit I’ll never be able to afford—like cars that cost twice as much money as I make in a year and jackets that start at a thousand dollars—and for some reason they keep voting Mila Kunis sexiest woman alive, but with the articles and essays and works of fiction “the good” far outweighs “the bad.” Beyond any of that, however, the single thing I look forward to every year is their Meaning of Life issue.

Every month Esquire runs a piece with a different actor, writer, politician, scientist, or everyday person called “What I’ve Learned.” It’s just a list. A simple list of what that person has figured out about life, about being human. The Meaning of Life issue compiles the best of the past year with several new ones and a couple of long interviews—standouts from this current issue are James Lee Burke (first novel rejected 111 times!) and Sean Penn. It’s always a thought-provoking and moving read.

So, here’s What I’ve Learned:
  • Be fully present in the moment. This applies to everything, even writing. When you’re not here now, you’re unhappy.
  • Being married is hard. Hell, having any sort of relationship with another human being is hard. I’ve been married 12 years, longer than anyone I know who isn’t twice my age. It’s constant work that requires complete honesty and total intimacy.
  • Loyalty is important. Everybody needs someone who has their six. (See above.)
  • You’ll always see someone else you think is attractive. There’s nothing wrong with that unless you act on it or undercut your partner. (See above.)
  • No one is prettier than my wife anyway.
  • Getting married is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love my wife more now than I did 12 years ago. 12 years ago I loved her more than I did when I first met her 4 years previous. And I know next year, I’ll love her more than I do now. It’s like that.
  • The real moment of intimacy, the real fucking test, will be when one of you is suffering. If you can pass that, you’re set.
  • We’ve passed.
  • Humans are tribal animals. That’s when we’re happiest and function best. We lost sight of that and instead paid lip-service to the idea with a bullshit notion of the “family.”
  • We want continuity. Some part of us recognizes that that’s impossible. So we seek some form of control. Tattoos, piercings, dying your hair, make-up, clothes, going to the gym, and running any part of your life on a strict regimen are all about exercising control.
  • You can’t control someone else’s behavior and you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true and you need to remember it.
  • I may not want you in my life and I may not want to get to know you, but that doesn’t mean I want you to be unhappy and suffer.
  • Laughter heard from the next room is sometimes the best. And sometimes the worst.
  • I eat healthier and live cleaner now, but sometimes I miss eating greasy diner food at 2:00 am, drinking twelve cups of coffee, and then smoking a pack of cigarettes.
  • It’s what Leonard Cohen said, “Love is the only engine to survival.”

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