A few weeks ago, as the new year began, I complained that everyone was giving advice on what people should do to change their lives, and so offered 20 Things Boomers Should Never Do. Unfortunately, the temptation to give advice just became too much, so this week, I offer its counterpoint.
1. Subscribe online to your hometown newspaper. It’s the best way to keep up with what’s going on with friends, families, schools, and more.
2. Watch a movie you first saw when you were deeply in love as a teen-ager. Doesn’t matter whether you loved it or hated it. Chances are you were so smitten with your date that you didn’t pay attention to the movie, and it will be like seeing it for the first time.
3. Tackle a hobby you gave up when you were younger. You’ll either reconfirm that you really do hate it, or find a new pleasure.
4. Attend a high school reunion, even if you believe that reunions are periodic gatherings of people who have nothing in common to confirm they still have nothing in common. You will either reconnect with someone whose kinship you’ve missed, or with someone whose kinship you never knew you had.
5. Corollary: Consider planning a workplace reunion of a job you loved, even if it was a very long time ago. I’m organizing a 35-year reunion of the staff from the startup I joined right out of college. I’m delighted by how excited everyone is about the idea.
6. Plan which music and activities you want at your funeral. Don’t let your survivors guess. My spouse knows to schedule the reception during a 49ers game or, if that’s not possible, to play the DVD of any of the 49ers’ or John Elway’s Super Bowls.
7. Go somewhere you never thought you would, preferably on another continent, but even in the next county if necessary.
8. Get on Facebook. Keep your privacy settings high if you must, but it’s the best way to find out (1) what your relatives are doing and (2) who among your classmates has died.
9. Invest in a good magnifying glass. Maybe two.
10. Corollary: Buy cheap reading glasses and place them strategically in places where you’re likely to need them. This includes cars and any room that has plumbing.
11. Always have cheese, crackers and a nice bottle of wine on hand. You never know when someone you’ve known so long they don’t need to call ahead will drop by.
12. Read a book you always meant to read, but not something virtuous like Tristram Shandy or Robinson Crusoe. Make it a trashy book your parents hid from you, like Peyton Place or Valley of the Dolls. If you want to read literature, do that later.
13. Take a walk down memory lane by checking out the Old Time Candy web site. I don’t know how they do it, but they stock all the candy from our younger years, including things like Bonomo Turkish Taffy and Gold Rocks bubble gum. Ordering it or not is up to you; the taste may not be as good as you remember it.
14. Ask your older siblings or cousins about a mystifying family memory. Chances are you’ll hear a perspective or a clarification that you never considered.
15. Set aside a weekend to write down the names of every person in every photograph you have. Otherwise, when you die, your heirs will toss pictures of anyone they can’t identify.
16. Track down an old teacher and tell them how much you appreciate what they taught you.
17. Pick one child in your extended family, and instead of giving them birthday or holiday gifts, set up a 529 college account for them. If everyone is the family does this, tuition will be less of a nightmare for their parents, and the kids will never notice one less present.
18. Corollary: Set up a scholarship fund at the college of your choice. You don’t have to be a millionaire to do this, because we’re not talking about full tuition. It could be as little as $1,000 a year. For the students, it’s like a Christmas bonus.
19. Buy a present for your spouse or significant other so extravagant they’ll think you cheated on them. Smile inscrutably when they ask if you have.
20. Come up with something creative yourself and let me know what it is so I can have another list ready for next new year’s.