Belfast Republican Journal reader Mj Crowe sent me a really nice note sharing that, though not perfect, she still wanted to support us with a subscription renewal. At the bottom of the note was a Mary Oliver quote that provides the perfect lead-in to this week’s column. Thank you, Mj.


There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled

Like, telling someone you love them.

Or, giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?

You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong may save a life,

even, possibly, your own.

My nephew Dan and his Aunt Martha have a nice ritual going; they send handwritten decorated post cards back and forth to each other through the mail; the last one from Daniel had geometric designs, penned in ink, and was worthy of a frame, an artistic flare he gets from his mother.

Since the card wasn’t addressed to me, I did not read the message, but Martha told me of Daniel’s request of her, “Would you please share 1 to 5 things you wish you knew at my age (33) that you know now?”

What a great question! It’s one that comes from the best place of all, curiosity with openness to learn.

My 2 cents’ worth follows. Sorry this isn’t in handwritten form, but hope you find it artistic in its own way.

Daniel, when I was 33, I was deep into the throes of work and beginning a family — a struggling business and the father of two boys 15 months apart, both under the age of 2, with a third in my then-pregnant wife.

At 33, a person doesn’t know what they don’t know; your question is amazing because of its simplicity, and because of its depth.

Here are my Top Five:

1) Open yourself to a mentor. Spouses, parents, family members are great to have on your team as guides and cheerleaders, but older men outside your family can provide you with honesty that doesn’t come from a family member who thinks you’re the bomb (which of course you are).

2) Be present. When I was 33, Daniel, I was in what Martha and I now laughingly refer to as Reade’s “lost decade." But it wasn’t funny. Your aunt always told me, “Be here now,” and that is what I’m sharing with you. Even when I was with my family during that decade, often I wasn’t present during that time frame. On my one day off (I only worked until 2 p.m. on Sundays), I might spend the afternoon at the park with the kids, with coffee and newspaper, then on the couch with Scotch and television. Not that a person doesn’t need downtime, but I wish I had grabbed the moments I was granted, not only to make time for the ones I loved, but more importantly, to connect with them. I would not learn that until almost 40 with those six years in between pretty much lost.

3) Balance. This is something my mother always told me — everything in moderation. Every day do something for yourself; for me it might be running, for others it might be time alone reading a novel, for others sewing, the gym, music or art. Also, every day do something for someone else. If we take care of ourselves, we are better-positioned to take care of others. Taking care of others is how we live a rich life.

4) Be fearless. This is something I had learned by 33. Marching to someone else’s drum creates a road to nowhere. It’s safe, yes. Satisfying, probably not. If we aren’t afraid to fail, we learn quickly that getting up, dusting off and going back into the war we call life is exciting and rich, and makes us a more inspiring spouse and parent — that’s what I want for you, Daniel. Think for yourself; don’t follow all the birdies in your ear. Bet on your truth, find and follow your moral compass — and trust it with your heart.

5) Learning and curiosity must always lead; at 33 many think they have more answers than they do. I wish I had known that. Counseling saved me more than once in my life (one time when I was single and thought I was going crazy, and another time when I wasn’t paying enough attention to my marriage — both times were because I wasn’t following the first three things I’ve written to you about above); having friends and family to talk to is not the same as a trusted professional.

That’s my 2 cents' worth, Daniel; you’re a very sweet man with a good heart. I know you will live a rich life, shared with others. Take life seriously, but not yourself.

Time is a blessing; I didn’t realize that at 33. You get 24 hours a day; use them wisely and, as the song says, “When you get the chance to dance … dance.”

With love,

Uncle Reade


“Curiosity is a lust of the mind.” — Thomas Hobbes, philosopher (1588-1679)