(It's the most important thing.)
  1. Grow up with a dad who had tastes just beyond his means.
    My father taught us how to appreciate the finer things in life, even if it sometimes meant we could be a bit house poor at times. It gave us a taste of something to strive for.
  2. Struggle with money in college.
    My friends at UC Santa Cruz were all children of well-to-do LA families. While I cooked in the cafeteria or down at the surf diner, they studied, hung out, and did a lot of drugs. I found cheaper ways to enjoy life, like surfing before class and cooking for dates.
  3. Spend a semester in France.
    With a working class family in a small southern city. Learn how to simple ingredients, an herb garden, and pastis and conversation before dinner can be a magical combination.
  4. Have a million different careers.
    When being a scientist didn't work out within three months of getting my bachelor's in biochemistry and molecular biology, I went back to cooking. And then I was a corporate trainer while working on my master's before becoming an elementary school teacher. Which led to being youth content editor for a newspaper, then publisher of a new media startup, PR flack, VP of marketing for a mobile commerce startup, and finally starting my own company and writing books on the side.
  5. Get divorced.
    Realize after some time that you'd been sleepwalking, learn to be grateful for something that wasn't your idea. Look back 12 years later and realize that guy back then wouldn't be able to comprehend how magical and ridiculous and absurd his life would become.
  6. Find your Virgil.
    Connect with a mentor, who will teach you how to dress, drink, and date. Go a little nuts for a few years, staying out late and hooking up and drinking a ton (when you're not parenting).
  7. Share custody.
    Enjoy your non-parenting time with complete abandon and limited guilt (takes awhile) so that you're extra focused and appreciative when you are with your child. Realize that you really have the best of both worlds.
  8. Start your own company.
    Mold it to fit the lifestyle you never even knew could exist for yourself. With a stellar office that you only use M-W-F, and #nopantsTuesdays (#snowpantsTuesdays in winter), only working with clients you like, building a self-sufficient team so you can travel at will and run off to school plays in the middle of the day.
  9. Have a precocious, quirky, well-traveled child.
    Learn through her eyes just how special your life has become. Take her everywhere and marvel at her charm and worldliness. Realize that you already have a favorite travel partner.
  10. Eat and drink the way you were always meant to.
    Stellar meals in your city and around the world. Cocktails made by professionals. First dates where the chef comes out to say hello and sends special off-menu dishes to try. Chronicle these joys on social media (especially Instagram and Twitter) to show your appreciation and gratitude.
  11. Be gracious.
    Learn the names of your bartenders, smile and say please to your servers. Be kind to everyone. Model that behavior for your child.
  12. Be generous.
    Donate to the causes that mean something to you. Invest in kickstarters because you like the audacity of the idea. Pledge and sponsor every run/walk/challenge your friends ask you to. Support public radio. Volunteer your time.
  13. Get your heart broken. A lot.
    Learn what you really want, but, more importantly, what you have to offer that one right girl. Stay open-hearted, lovey, warm, and vulnerable. It's worth the ache.
  14. Don't forget to write.
    That monthly column is just a start. You're sitting on a young adult novel that's been done for two years. You have more books in the series in your head, and maybe something fun to write for grownups, too. Get on it, dumbass. It's what you love most.
  15. Look for the magic in each day.
    It's there, I promise. Find something special and wonderful or weird and awesome about your life every single day.
  16. Meet the coolest, smartest people via social media.
    Thank you for this latest awesomeness, @bjnovak and @dev. I'm inspired by the brilliance, honesty, and hilarity of the new tribe I'm part of.