I recently celebrated my birthday in Northern Oklahoma, and even though it happens every year, it hits differently at a certain age. While it felt strange, my older sisters and friends reassured me it was normal.

You'll notice it too one day, as you grow older, casual conversations start to change within your group of peers. It happened to us about five years ago. I realized one day that the lunchroom conversation suddenly wasn't about motorcycles and hot rods as much as it had become homeowner projects and lawn care.

It felt like a corner that had been turned in my own life, and out of everything, here are five things we all wish we had learned earlier in life.

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    Your Emotions Make You Human

    Some call it "toxic masculinity," others call it "machismo," but for whatever reason, young men are taught early that emotions are weak. The simple truth is they're not.

    I attended a wedding recently. The groom was the child of my best friend. A boy I've known since he was in grade school, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that he was all grown up, past the phase of being an idiot, and standing before us all as a man. In a moment of an uncle's pride, I got a little choked up.

    Naturally, our other much younger two bro-friends that were sitting there almost instantly started giving me the business. Even I had to give up the laughs with some of the stuff they were saying and in hindsight, I recognized a younger me in both of them. They just haven't learned this simple truth. Your emotions make you human, and as you grow, you'll get more comfortable sharing them with others.

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    Never Trust The Drive-Thru

    Think of it as a metaphor. It's not if something is missing from what you expected... it's when. It's going to happen eventually. How we respond to moments like this defines who we are.

    I'm not sure why we put so much pressure on ourselves to not be a bother to the strangers around us, but I can remember wanting to get through these aspects of life as quickly as possible so the anonymous people behind me wouldn't think I was holding up the line.

    Take the extra ten seconds and make sure things are in order. If there's a problem, politely address it with kindness. Odds are, whoever it is will remedy the issue lickity-split.

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    Being Cool Is A Choice

    Even as I roll down a path away from being considered a "young adult," the things I heard over and over in my youth have started to make sense. For example, in my teens and twenties, my father occasionally dropped this on me...

    You can either be right or you can be happy, but not both.

    In my youth, I always told myself "Being right makes me happy" not understanding what he meant. What he was actually talking about was maintaining relationships with friends and lovers.

    How many times have you let one or many arguments eventually lead to a break-up of a relationship? Maybe it's a million conversations where you score the technical win over a small detail, or perhaps it's one huge debate that ends in a stalemate like modern-day politics...

    I think most people start out with this gentle egotistical belief that people are either with you or against you, as if there's no middle or common ground, but there is.

    How many times have you heard someone say "I don't need that negativity in my life" over something petty? Add in that social media has conditioned us to treat others as disposable, and it occasionally traps some people who end up lonely and bitter.

    Instead, abandon that need to be "right" and just accept that people have different beliefs even if they are wrong. Remember that one opinion doesn't negate another. You'll be a happier and more respected person because of it.

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    Silent Contempt Is Still Contempt

    I'd stake cash money on the bet that you work with someone that's always complaining about one thing or another, and that person is probably harking on the same old stuff day in and day out. Maybe you are that person. Let me tell you when some brilliant mind came up with "Misery loves company," they weren't talking about your little first-world problems.

    Believe me, I get it. We all have problems, some bigger than others. In the same way that attitude is everything, being the complainer will eventually poison everyone else and you'll look up to find yourself alone.

    By now, you're probably thinking I'm talking about stuffing those feelings deep down inside for your therapist to find fifteen years from now in therapy, but it's not.

    By all means, speak your mind. Clear your conscience. Let your feelings be known... but after you've gotten something off your chest, drop it. Never hold onto feelings when it comes to things that are out of your control.

    It doesn't matter if it's a family matter, a work issue, or a private relationship thing... if you let it fester, it will consume you and cost you whatever you think all that complaining will change for you.

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    Kill Your Enemies With Kindness

    I cannot tell you how many times my mother said this to me the year I spent more time suspended from school for fighting than I did in regular classes. I'm surprised I wasn't expelled. I'd always tell my mom "Well they started it..." and she'd lay this on me every time.

    Convinced it was some sort of hippie/love one another BS, it didn't sink in.

    As I grew into my twenties, my list of sworn enemies grew too. I eventually became Russia... I had far more enemies than I did allies.

    I can remember the moment when it all finally clicked. The first moment I chose to react with common courtesy and almost-friendliness rather than my trademark "saying something clever and devastating" tendency. My sworn enemy at that moment became a problem-free acquaintance.

    While I can't say that will happen to you too, you'll at least lead by example in being the bigger person... you just have to not let it grow your ego.

    Is it hard to react with kindness? Yes. It really is. We're conditioned in our youth to fight fire with fire. It's not until we mature that we realize you'll have better results fighting fire with water.

    Attitudes are contagious. Give kindness, get kindness. Give someone a reason to have a problem with you, they'll continue doing that too.

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