My birthday post


It’s my birthday. I’m going to give a gift to myself today. I’m going to post five posts that make me happy. I hope you will like reading them. I hope you haven’t read all of them already.

Also, maybe in the comments section, you will post your favorite post back to me. And tell me why it makes you happy. That would be a good gift.

Top Ten Jobs to Have, April 2006
I like this one because it is one of the first posts I did. It reminds me that each time I’ve tried something new I have been tentative, and largely terrible at it. This is not really a post as much as a start of a post. But I like the last line.

My financial history, and stop whining about your job, March 2007
My personal finances have been sort of a wreck since about 2001. It’s very scary to have a messy financial life. It’s even scarier to be a career advisor in a financial mess. I was so scared, all the time, that people would find out and then hate me. So it was a huge relief to write this post and come clean about who I am, and how I got here. And there were absolutely no negative ramifications from writing this post. It taught me so much about the value of being who I am, and trusting that it will be okay to be me.

Gen X updates outdated work and family goals, September 2007
I don’t write a lot about gen X. Because I have a company that is an anthem to generation Y, but also because everyone who is not gen X hates hearing about gen X. We’re a generation that has nothing to lose, so we take huge risks all the time. In history, it is the marginal, overlooked, overshadowed generations that are revolutionary. That’s how I know that history will mark gen -X as the real revolutionaries of this era. And this post collects the data I have running through my head to support this conclusion.

Try to be funny, even if you’re not, March 2008
It took me so long to realize that I have Asperger Syndrome. It was a result of lots of tiny little pieces of information piling up. One of them was after this post. I lamented the fact that I was funny but men don’t like funny, they like hot. And my friend told me, “You’re not funny. I mean, you are, but you don’t know when you are.” At first I thought this was informative because now I could just focus on being hot. But really, it was informative because it’s true that I am never really sure when something’s funny.

Tips for coping when your startup is out of cash, May 2009
I remember this day so clearly. I thought I was going to die from the pressure I was under, and I felt so totally isolated in a room full of parents with overachiever violin students. I wondered if they could tell I was falling apart. I wondered if my son thought I looked like other parents. The only way to keep myself sane that day was to write the post as the post was happening. It makes me happy that I have a place to publish something like this.

People ask me all the time how they can get more readers to their blog. The answer is that you have to be learning on your blog. If you’re not learning, no one else is learning. You can’t fake it. It’s safe to talk about what you know, but it’s not that interesting; no one likes a know-it-all. My favorite posts are the one’s when I was doing something scary, but doing it with grace. In fact, I actually think those are my favorite times of life.

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  1. funnylawyer
    funnylawyer says:

    Happy Birthday!!
    my birthday was two days ago and I hope that your day is wonderful.
    do something to celebrate yourself.

  2. Gil
    Gil says:

    Happy Birthday! i wish you a healthy and cheerful life
    I got here while randomly searching google`s.. and really liked some of your posts.
    My name is Gil, nice to meet you.

  3. Gil
    Gil says:

    oh.. my favorite post – try to be funny
    You said “My gut tells me that most funny women are gay”, well, I sure hope not!
    And I dont think that men are funnier. The joke needs to be understood by the woman, wich means that she has the “funny” part of the brain working perfectly well. The difference is that she doesnt need to expend time and energy creating some clever comment to pleasure someon else`s ears, she can put that energy into other things, wich would get her to the top fastest.

    sorry for any english mistakes, im talking from Brasil.

  4. Sheryl
    Sheryl says:

    I read your blog on my inbox feed and rarely comment, but I am educated and entertained by every one of your posts. Thank you, and Happy Birthday.

  5. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Happy Birthday!
    All your posts make me happy, except for the last one, which made me sad.
    I hope you have yummy cake, or whatever it is that will make you happy.

  6. pete
    pete says:

    Happy birthday Penelope

    My favourite post of yours was the line you said “..I’m a lot more weird in person..” – I nearly fell off my chair at that one.

    In case you have still given up on trying to be funny in favour of trying to be hot remember that women only really start getting to their best in their 40’s.

    Your writing is elegantly sparse and I think you are very pretty

    All the best

    Pete from NZ

  7. ScottS
    ScottS says:

    Happy Birthday!! And even though I know how %$#@% cold it is in Madison today (it’s where I am as well), I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy your favorite fermented beverage at your watering hole of choice tonight.

    Oh, and the post about hating Tim Ferriss should be on anyone’s top 10 list!

  8. barchbo
    barchbo says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope! I hope your day is really rewarding and wonderful.

    I love all of your posts about Asperger’s but especially this:

    Not only did it make laugh (not because it was funny – it’s because I worked with Asperger’s kids for years so it was rather a laugh of recognition) but it helped my co-workers see that a person we work with is the same way. Penelope Trunk: Bringing ASD co-workers together! Hurrah!
    And now, one of my other co-workers thinks you’re hot. So there’s that, too!

    Personally, I love the post about registering your car. A little self-recognition there. My husband thinks I married him just so I wouldn’t have to deal with my car or taxes. He’s only partly correct.

    Thanks for your writing. It’s honest, funny, and human. A gift for us, Birthday Girl!

  9. Jay
    Jay says:

    Happy Birthday, Pen! Wasn’t expecting so much content today. Will have to come back later and read it all. Promise to tell you my favorite “happy-making” post.


  10. Jacob
    Jacob says:

    Happy birthday Penelope!
    I can’t say I have read everything yet as I started only a couple of months ago, However, you have become favorite reading, which I look forward to every time I see a new post, and I struggle sorting out a few favorites. Your latest “Why I need a cick day to register my car” and “There’s no magic pill for being lost” was however very good as I think you presented your situation good with feelings and self insight. That being said I wait for positive updates and pray you are well.

  11. Mike CJ
    Mike CJ says:

    How about that – it’s my daughter’s birthday as well. Happy birthday to you. We made chocolate mocha fudge cake – I hope someone made you a cake.

  12. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope!

    I love all your posts and it’s so hard to choose a favorite. There are so many that make me smile. This post though is probably my all-time favorite:
    It is the one I always send to friends and coworkers when I tell them about your blog.
    It reminds me that there are such great lessons you can learn from even the strangest of experiences.

    I hope you have a great birthday!
    All the best,

  13. Alison
    Alison says:

    Happy Birthday! wishing you all the best! I’ve been reading your blog regularly for a month or two and I love it. One of my favorite posts is “your can’t manage your worklife if you can’t comment about it”

    I love that post because you are bold and honest and then went on TV and gave some people an education!

    The best quotes, in my opinion:

    “That we don't acknowledge this is absurd. That it is such a common occurrence and no one thinks it's okay to talk about is terrible for women.”

    “It is absolutely outrageous how difficult it was going to be for me to get an abortion, and it's outrageous that no one is outraged.”

    Thank you for all that!

  14. Jen Conner
    Jen Conner says:

    Happy birthday, Penelope!

    I’m not much of a commenter usually, but I had to tell you that I loved this post:

    As someone who was always convinced that being the hardest worker in the office was a good thing, and always feared being seen as a slacker, your thoughts changed the way I think about it. I’ve often quoted this as an interesting piece of workplace insight that really stuck with me.

    So, thanks for that. And happy birthday!

    Take care,
    Jen from the WBJ

  15. csts
    csts says:

    delurking to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Penelope! And I like your last paragraph in this uber-post even better than the 5 main posts (all of which are still rewarding in one way or another). In the uber-post, you point out (a) practical advice: how to increase blog readership, and (b) philosophical fundamentals: if you’re not learning, no one’s getting anywhere (and, by implication, “arriving”, wherever that is, still doesn’t mean you no longer have to learn!). WO-HOO!!


    P.S. One of my mentors used to say “anything worth doing is worth doing ‘badly’!”. It drove many of us crazy. Took me a while to realize what he meant. If you beat a baby for falling, it will never learn to walk. Not just accepting failure but actually engaging in it is the necessary precursor to success — and to experiencing life at its fullest, as well! If you aren’t willing to do something badly at first (until you get enough practice to become good at it), you can’t ever risk purposely trying anything new. What a waste of a good life.

    (…but it’s taken me a lot of birthdays to come to grips with this, and many of those who know me would say I haven’t really, even now!) :)

  16. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope!

    It is so hard to think of my favorite post because there are so many where I’ve said, “This is my favorite.” I learn so much from you. You’ve made me braver and kinder. And I loved your last post where you gave shout-outs to the comments because this is the only blog where I read the comments as closely as the blog posts. I even have favorite commenters (hello, Caitlin and Shefaly!).

    But the most memorable post for me is:

    That post is the essence of what you’re doing here: telling the truth. And revealing why secrets are so toxic. I lived with awful secrets for most of my life and I know those secrets–and not the bad things that happened to me–are what held me back in my life. Your bravery in the face of soul-shaking truth is a total inspiration. That post also made me tell you I love you because I do. I think you’re fantastic.

    Also a favorite of mine, is not a post but an interview, which I can’t find, where you and another blogger talk about how writers used to be something other than just writers and how that’s a good thing for your writing. And you mentioned Raymond Carver. Since I read that, I realized I didn’t have to sit around being scared of moving forward if I couldn’t write professionally. I could just have a life and write anyway. So, I’m thinking of going to nursing school, which I’ve mentioned here a few times because I hated editing and I want to help people, connect with people, provide for my family and certainly get some good stories out of it, written or not.

    Happy Birthday!!!

  17. Karl Staib - Work Happy Now
    Karl Staib - Work Happy Now says:

    Out of these 5 my favorite is Try to be funny, even if you’re not. This is the story of my life. I was a very serious boy in my early teens. I finally started lightening up when I went off to college. That’s when I began clicking with women. It took work to make myself into a guy that makes people laugh. There was a lot of lameness to push through.

    I just copied the funny people in my life and kept working at their way of cracking jokes until they molded into my personality. Now the jokes come much easier and there are still times that I’m the only one laughing, but that’s ok because it feels good. It just feels good to try.

  18. Erin A.
    Erin A. says:

    I like SO many of your posts its hard to narrow it down. I think I started reading your blog about 2 years ago. My husband used to call you my internet girl crush because I loved every post so much and would want to talk about them all the time. I also have recommended your blog to numerous friends with a little more fervor than they are comfortable.

    One of my favorite posts is :
    because I was *almost* at the same conclusion to bypass grad school and your post put the nail in the coffin. I always thought it was the next logical step and just a matter of timing. The more I thought about it the less it made sense. In the construction industry where I am and plan to remain employed, there is no direct correlation to salary or position based on post-graduate education. I believe there is another post that you basically commit yourself to paying back those enormous loans and potentially tethering yourself to a career or company because you have the mountain of debt. You posts helped me to be confident in my decision.

    Happy birthday!

  19. Natasha Fondren
    Natasha Fondren says:

    I love the one where you go to the DMV and get lost. I’m ADD, and I’m practically helpless at daily “minutiae.” I can get my job done, or I can get errands and stupid stuff done with big stress. Your post makes me feel less alone.

    I also love it whenever you talk about the challenges of Asperger’s. You spell social rules out, because you need to, but even some of us without Asperger’s are social idiots and like to have things spelled out. :-) It’s comforting.

    Happy Birthday, Penelope!

  20. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Happy Birthday!

    My favorite post goes back awhile. I can’t find a link online, but I have a copy on my hard drive. The first line is “The ‘brand of you’ is over.” The copy I have is from 2004. That article really stuck with me, and I have saved it, and still re-read it from time to time. I keep it in a file along with an article about detailing the 5 warning signs of job burnout.

  21. Julia
    Julia says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope.

    Every time I read your blog I feel like I am getting a gift, so I don’t know what to give You other than my gratefulness. I am learning so much from you. I enjoyed that Gen X post and I’m thankful for the validated feeling it gave me.

    Julia 32
    Nashville, TN

  22. Chickybeth
    Chickybeth says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope! Although I love all of your posts (I learn something from every one and they all make me a better worker) I must say I just about live for your Tweets! Most of the time they make me laugh and when they are serious, I am feeling for you. They are always interesting and I look for them especially.

    I must tell you my favorite post is this one:

    Even though I decided to stay at my job, just knowing the ideas you shared here has made me stick up for myself and feel better about being in the place I am in. Of course I would feel guilty leaving, but because of that post, I know I could do it if the right opportunity came along.

    Thank you for writing about all the things I always wondered about at work but no one ever talks about. Thank you for being a source of inspiration in a callous world. I hope you have the happiest birthday possible and know that things can only go up from here!

  23. Alison
    Alison says:

    These two, because they are nothing but straightshooting awesomeness:



    I like that #2’s point is: “we’re here to be kind to others.”

    It made me think about why people love your blog: being human around other humans is such a sorely lacking gift today, but you’re always ready to share, ingenuously, about your life.

    happy birthday:)

  24. Angel Vallejo
    Angel Vallejo says:

    Hi Penelope,

    My vote goes to TOP TEN JOBS. It is funny to see that it was written just three years ago, but according to the development of the work market, it seems that the post was written 20 years ago.

    If one observes the ranking position for jobs as “financial advisor” one can not help smiling. Some of the jobs would never be in that position nowadays.

    Happybirthday ¡

  25. Heather
    Heather says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope-I have 2 favourite posts. The one you mention above about Gen X -I find that hugely comforting because I gave up my career because I wanted to bring up my kids. It was hard and your post reminds me why I did it. I also love the one about materialism-where you put everything into storage and then realised you didn’t need it. I had a huge clean out around that time and I let a lot of stuff go- your words echoed in my head and I was way more ruthless than I would have been otherwise. I realised later that I processed alot of what you wrote in that post when I reread it later. It made me happy not to be held to ransom by things.

  26. Ann
    Ann says:

    Happy Birthday!
    Your blog has inspired me endlessly. You inspired to start a blog about aging, which will launch in about a week.
    I am 59 and I have stayed young in spirit by constantly learning something new. Thank you for keeping me on my path for new knowledge.

  27. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I graduated in 2005 with a BFA in painting. I have a day job, and I now make $67,000/year. But I also still paint, teach, and sell my art.

    I could have NEVER gotten to where I am without having read your book. So of course my favorite post is this:

    Because of #5, which made me cry: “You are not a better artist if you can do it full time.”

    Thank you for writing that. I grappled for 4 years with how to justify working a full-time corporate job when what I really want is to be a great painter. But that post made me feel proud for doing both.

    Thanks for everything. Happy birthday!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Number 5 makes me cry, too. Because sometimes, when I don’t write as much as I want to, I tell myself I need more time to write. And then I think back to number five on that post and I think, I don’t need more time to write. I need to be more self-confident and just sit down and write instead of doing time-wasting b.s. that is my preamble to writing.


  28. T. Scott
    T. Scott says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope!

    I’ve been a regular on this site, but I’ve never commented on anything until now. I guess there really is a first time for anything.

    This is probably kind of hokey, but this is the post that started my daily readership of your blog:

    You actually inspired me to blog, and I keep coming back to this post whenever I need a fresh outlook on the direction my blog is taking.

    I actually first started reading your blog about a year ago when I was playing with Google Reader on my iPhone. I stopped reading it for a while, actually up until about two months ago when I ran across a random post of yours that was still on my Reader. I read it, then I clicked on it, got here, then I read some more. Then I found the above post and started my own blog. Now, I read you daily. If not your latest post, than something from your archives.

    Thanks for inspiring me, Penelope!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for coming out of hiding to comment, T.

      When I first started blogging, I thought it was so weird when people told me it was their first comment on my blog. Now I think of it as a big moment. When someone is moved to say something back. I’m always curious about what moves them, and I always feel this hope that the person will like commenting so much that they will comment more.

      I think this is right: that if you comment on a blog you get more out of it. You have to think more. And we are all better thinkers if there are more of us commenting. So when someone like T. says it’s their first one, I feel a little urge to do a victory jig.


  29. RS
    RS says:

    Happy Birthday! The last one you listed is my favorite for this line – “Success does not come in a linear fashion.” I re-read it every time I want to cry about my company running out of money. It really helped me to see someone else make it through the same things.

  30. mj
    mj says:

    My favorite was “Asperger’s at work: 5 ways to be less annoying.” It was the first one I read, and the one which I passed on to others, too.

    The title made me chuckle, even before I read it, largely because I work with people who regard themselves as being highly skilled interpersonally, but they are not even introspective enough to consider how they treat others.

    Happy birthday.

  31. frugalapolis
    frugalapolis says:

    Its my moms b-day today too, so I’ll probably remember yours from now on too. Have a great day and keep on learning. I hope to have a blog as successful as yours some day. :)

  32. Vanna
    Vanna says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope!
    I subscribe via email but did not get one today so I went on the site. I can’t decide my favorite so I choose 3.
    The first because I can totally relate, and I’m still in a mess, financially.

    The second, because I can also relate, having been married 6 yrs (when I was 23) and I am now realizing that I am too broke for kids anyways, which brings me back to the first one! Also that you can have a great career or marriage but not both, because life is not fair. Amen to that, sister!

    Then the third one really hits home, because I first started reading you by a google search as I am just not happy, not where I live because I’ve been trying to GTFO of London for as long as I have been here, which is a catch 22 – cant afford to save up and move out of the country, if you cant afford to survive.

    Happy Birthday! I hope what remains of it, you can do something you enjoy and find a bit of happiness!
    xx Vanna

  33. Esther
    Esther says:

    I love so many of your blog posts, but “How to decide how much to reveal about yourself” stands out among my favorites. It speaks to the issues of privacy and honesty so powerfully, it’s cathartic, it’s freeing — and it’s one of the bravest and most moving pieces I’ve read anywhere. I’ll always remember it.

    Thank you for you, and happy birthday!!!!

  34. Michael L. Moore
    Michael L. Moore says:

    Happy Birthday! I just discovered you a few days ago, and am very impressed. You’re the second Asperger’s person I know who writes very well. (Although I’m not sure she knows she has Asperger’s!)

  35. neko
    neko says:

    Yo, P ! I’m new to the blog, so have much catching up to do. So far, my two fav posts:

    “My financial history, stop whining.” — I found this to be a clear, insightful expression of the need to take personal responsibility for my choices (in both career as well as in life in general). Folks (myself included) actually have much more flexibility than they think – or will admit to themselves. Gave me a new perspective on what I fundamentally need to be content.

    “Five steps to taming materialism, from an expert.” — This was utter genius … very Zen, in fact. Makes me want to sell my silk Persian rugs because, as you said, if I ever get the (financial/life) rug pulled out from under me, the rug wasnt so great anyway. Life really can be made more simple, if only I’m ever brave enough to take control & make the decision to do it.

    Stumbling across your blog in Oct was one of the highlights of late: and it’s not even my birthday : )

    P.S. Stay warm out there in snowy MadTown (the video of the 10ft snowball on University Ave is making me homesick) !

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