Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Thirty years ago this coming Sunday, Cathie gave birth to a screaming ten-pound baby. The story has been exaggerated so much over the last three decades that nobody really knows what happened anymore. But if you listen to her tell it, blood was pouring down the halls of the hospital and a homeless man from the street ultimately delivered me using a spatula and rusty whisk.

Here I am now, thirty years later. And it's so so strange to me that thirty years have gone by. THIRTY. That's the age Danny Tanner turned on that episode of Full House when he couldn't say the word "thirty" without stuttering ("I'm turning th-th-thirty"). And you guys. Danny Tanner was SUPER old.

I'm not super old. I'm just this young dumb kid who still doesn't own anything and has to call his dad every time he uses insurance because CONFUSING.

In some ways, I feel like a teenager. But one who has somehow crammed three decades of experiences into much less than three decades of being alive.

And I think back now on my twenties. And it's odd to me that they are over. They ticked away, day by day, laugh by laugh, heartache by heartache, and now, they're gone.

I spent my twenties in a way that I'm pretty proud of now, even though I did some wretchedly stupid things along the way. Eh. You learn the most from the wretchedly stupid.

I began my twenties in Ukraine. And I spent chunks of the decade living and traveling in different parts of the world. A stint in Moscow. Some wandering through Europe and the Middle East and Central America and Asia. And, toward the end, a life-defining year in the Equatorial Pacific.

I didn't get married and I didn't have babies, but I spent more than a third of my twenties outside of the U.S., trying to understand the world and my place in it. And that was right for me.

I worked hard and accomplished some big goals. I experienced what felt like devastating setbacks from time to time.

I learned some stuff in that process. There are some things I wish I had done differently.

I wish I had played more, for example. But not at the expense of work; at the expense of leisure.

I wish I had taken a few more risks. Not the kind that could have killed me, but the kind that might have made me look like a big idiot if they didn't work out.

I wish I had dared to spend more time doing the things that actually make me happy. I'm not talking about pleasure. I'm talking about fulfillment.

Ultimately, my twenties taught me some lessons that I hope to never have to discover again.

I found out that you never learn from your experiences if you aren't totally honest about what your experiences are.

It's foolish to trust your heart to someone who doesn't seem to care about their own.

It's a waste of time to explain yourself. Because your friends don't need an explanation and the rest don't care to listen.

Everybody is fighting a hard battle and refusing to acknowledge that is a burden to others.

Talent is meaningless without discipline.

You will never regret being kind. Too trusting? Maybe. But not kind.

Honesty is key to mental stability.

It is amazing how far you can get in life by just being dependable.

Immediately forgiving is a habit worth obtaining and it should include choosing to forgive those who never apologized.

Everybody deserves a second chance. But you aren't personally obligated to provide that to all people.

And most importantly, all of the noise in the world cannot undermine this simple truth: selflessness directly correlates with true happiness.

I'm heading off to Ukraine tomorrow morning and I'll turn thirty in just a few days. Thank you dear Strangers, as always, for joining me on my expedition through delayed adolescence, where we continue to "come of age" through a series of hard-earned lessons and strange stories that evidently continue to happen, even when you're turning thirty.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Great post Eli! Many many things most of us do not learn until we are much, much older then 30. You have done more then you think in your 30 lives.
    You have no doubt enriched the lives of Bob and Cathie, your sisters, friends and I am sure also teachers, church leaders and those you enlightened while on your mission.
    You have brightened the day of many with your antics and blog posts about said antics.

    Give yourself some credit. Pretty awesome for the first 30 if you ask me :)

    1. Well said, Anon, thank you.

      I am in no way religious, but I read your posts Eli, because they are humble, genuine, funny and can appeal to anyone. And despite not being religious, I even love the photos of the Mormon church and the humor with which you talk about your religion, but especially that you don't alienate your readers who have different beliefs. Your appeal is because of your 'human-ness'. Keep up the good work.

  2. Happy Birthday! I hope you have a safe journey. Here's to another great decade!

  3. I feel I just got a life lesson from an old, but wise, man. ;) Let me know what happens after 30. It's sneaking up on me in a year. Should I punch it in the face when I see it or run screaming like a Bieber fan?

    1. Wait, we still have those? Dang it, I thought 1D got rid of all of them...

  4. I just turned 28 and don't feel it at all so I have decided that I'm 24... I'm an adult and can decide how old I am!!

  5. Happy 2nd Annual 29th!

  6. Ew you're going to be 30?!? I visit this post everyday so I can see what the "young, hip kids" are doing these days. Not to hear about how "youre out of Metamucil", or the osteoporosis that's coming your way soon. ;) have a totes great birthday old man:)

  7. I hope the next 30 years are as strange as the last. Happy Birthday!

  8. Happy Birthday (pre-emptively).

    May the candles on your cake burn like cities in your wake!

  9. I'm way, way older than 30. Like, I WISH I was 30 right now. But--I'm not. I'm at the stage of: "OMG someday I could be 50 and no one will even remember who Cyndi Lauper was..." but I don't feel that old, and thank God I don't look that old...yet.

    I'm getting a late start seeing the world, but a couple of (albeit WAY younger) bloggers out there, yourself included, have inspired me to just book the dang flight already, and go see Europe for real, instead of viewing it through a tour guide on TV. Because hello--we're not getting any younger.

    You've done and seen some really cool stuff for your age, and that's inspiring in itself. Happy and SAFE travels!

    1. LOL Cindy Lauper, you must be around my age. Love the 80s.

    2. :) Yeah. It's so not awesome... this getting older stuff.

    3. Getting older is better than the alternative. :) Just remember - being 30 means you can tell kids you were alive BEFORE the world wide web was invented, but slightly after the first personal computers. And that you remember what it was like to NOT have electronics rule your life. You can remind them what it was like to actually see the sun instead of a screen! :P

  10. Are Bob and Cath loaded?

    1. Because Eli traveled and lived abroad? He's a workaholic and a lot of the traveling and living abroad was because of work. I get the impression that he's done these things through his own efforts.

    2. That is absolutely correct. Bob

  11. I think I love this one the most:
    "Everybody deserves a second chance. But you aren't personally obligated to provide that to all people."

    Happy Birthday and safe travels, Eli!

  12. Since no one else has mentioned it yet, THANK YOU to Cathie for the blood in the halls & dirty spatula & stuff, because ELI! No 30 years, no Stranger without Cathie, so thank you!

  13. Happy soon to be Birthday, Eli! 30 isn't too bad, it's just another number. Safe travels and we want to see pictures.

  14. Happy birthday Eli! When you come back, regale us with tales of being 30, so I know what terror awaits me in a few months!

    Also, try not to die in Ukraine! You still need to practice not dying for the Ironman, after all!

  15. Eli, I do so love your silly antics, and your fabulous hair -- it looks AMAZING today -- but this is some genuine wisdom here. Priceless. Thank you.