If I’m a Smart Person, Why am I Still Getting Sunburns in My Third Decade of Life?

Posted on April 24, 2011


I count myself in that impossible majority who humbly considers themselves above-average in intelligence.  But over time the laundry list of chinks in my intelligence armor grows as I make the same mistakes every year of my life.  Certain situations only come up once every year or two, and my mind uses the lesson learned from that situation so infrequently that eventually the lesson is moved to the recycle bin of my brain’s desktop.

1. Every year when the weather turns nice for the first time, I forget about sunburns.  After a long winter, and chilly spring, the weather suddenly turns sunny, and everybody rushes to the park to play Frisbee or have a picnic.  The sun shines down and I turn my face to the sky and smile.  Somehow during the winter when I forgot the sun even existed, I also forgot the sun will burn my skin after four hours of playing in the park without sunscreen.  It’s pretty embarrassing when I still haven’t learned this lesson in my third decade of life as I did once again yesterday at my kids’ Earth Day celebration in the park.  I’ve had plenty of time to learn how the sun works, and there should be no sunburn surprises at this point in my life.  I looked at my arms yesterday and they looked fine.  Why can’t I remember I can’t see the back of my neck?

You may have won the last thirty rounds, Cadbury Creme Egg, but wait until next year!

2. Every year I forget Easter candy is pretty average.  If Cadbury Creme Eggs and Peeps were good, they’d sell them all year long.  But every year I see that Cadbury Creme Egg on the supermarket shelf and remember the commercials of the clucking rabbit when I was a kid, and I take the bait, only to be disappointed again.  There’s plenty of better Cadbury chocolate for $1.25.  You’ve won this round, Cadbury Creme Egg, but I won’t make the same mistake next year!

3. Every year I watch five minutes of the Oscars broadcast before I remember I haven’t seen any of the nominated movies, nor will I likely see any of those movies, and the actual broadcast is very, very slow and very, very long.  At least that’s what I remember right now in April.  Maybe the show will be completely different by next February–you know the old show business adage, “The 83rd time is the charm!”

4. Once a year something inspires me to rededicate myself to an exercise program, and I hit the gym with gung-ho enthusiasm.  I lift as much weight as I can as many times as I can, and the next day I can’t get out of bed.  Twice in my twenties I overdid curls to such an extent that I literally could not extend my arms for a full week.  I couldn’t shake hands, and I couldn’t eat food without assistance.  My arms had to be folded across my chest all day, even when sleeping.  I pinned my folded arms against my chest by tying a towel around me.  Let me repeat, this happened to me twice.

5. I asked my wife for her contribution, and she said every year she gets excited to garden and picks a Saturday to plant flowers and seeds with the kids without remembering she’ll never water them again.  She loves the idea of gardening, but she frequently gets home after dark, and has no time to garden during the week.  Glad to hear she realizes this because every year I’m tempted to say something when she heads to the flower market to spend $100, but I’ve held my tongue.  That’s a lesson I don’t need to learn again.

6. Once every year or two my friend Andrew feels like going for a run.  He selects his music playlist, laces up his shoes, sprints for three blocks, then throws up.  He limps back home, everything hurts for a week, and he remembers he hates running.  He vows never to run again, a vow he remembers for a year or two.

What’s a lesson you have to relearn every year?
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Posted in: Columns