Age. Aging. In the U.S., we seem to fear it, fight it, and sometimes fall apart when we realize we are squarely in it.
But age is a blessing, really. Sure, there are some aspects of it that suck—hello, GREY HAIRS, goodbye METABOLISM—but there’s also quite a lot that is pretty damn good. Plus, to achieve age (and perchance, wisdom), is better than the alternative, right?
Now that I’ve settled into my 40s, I feel like I have some decent perspective on the last few decades, and this is what I’ve come to understand…
1. Always own your age. You’ve earned it!
2. It’s better to look old than weird. If you’re going to have fillers or cosmetic surgery, get the best doc and take a conservative approach.
3. It’s easier to take care of your body along the way than try to play catch up when gravity kicks in. Eat clean, stay active. You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
4. Vote. It’s a privilege so many do not have.
5. Mentor a young professional, or give a newbie a chance. Hey, you were green once too. If you’ve become an expert in your field, pass on your knowledge to someone who is passionate about learning.
6. Take calculated risks. If you try and fail, at least you tried and can cross it off your list.
7. Educate yourself. Go to college or trade school. Read books. Stay curious. An education will always serve you well, and I don’t just mean in terms of a career or vocation. An education gives you more than knowledge; it gives you confidence and achievement that no one can ever take away from you.
8. Be an early-adopter of new technology. It’s just a must, these days. Even if it isn’t relevant to your job or life now, one day it may be. I see Baby Boomers like my parents suffer regularly as more companies choose to do business via email and online apps. They feel frustrated and trapped, and for my parents, without my intervention, they really would be.
9. Work with what you have. We’d all love to have a big, fancy house, with a ginormous closet full of designer duds, and a luxury vehicle parked in the driveway. Some of us will have that. Some of us won’t. The key to happiness is to work with what you have. Create the best life you can out of where you are, now. Sure, it could be better, but it could also be worse. And if you don’t like it, go back to school or come up with a plan to create the life you want.
10. Stop thinking the grass is greener. This is part and parcel of #9. Rich People Are Less Sad—But They Aren’t Any Happier Than The Rest of Us. Also, if you are chronically single and desperate to find a mate, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your thoughts about Mr./Ms. Right Now. Maybe Mr./Ms. Right Now really is your Mr./Ms. Right, but you’re measuring them against some “perfect” fantasy mate. That likely does not exist.
11. Opposites attract, but they don’t last. Trust me on this. It may seem like you “balance” each other out in the beginning, but after the honeymoon phase, those differences just widen the chasm. If you are fundamentally different in your spirituality, political views, or cultural background, be wary. Because if one of you doesn’t change for the other, the odds are really stacked against you.
12. Your health is your wealth. Rewind your mind back to the last time you were really sick. Imagine feeling like that every day. Nourish your body. I bet most people with a chronic or fatal disease would trade a limb just to have a healthy, able body.
13. Adults write in full sentences. Sending a text or email that reads “R u going 2 b l8” instead of “Are you going to be late?” makes you appear stupid and lazy. If you are not 15, write in proper sentences, please and thank you.
14. The only thing that limits you at a certain age is your mind. Think you’re old, and you will be.
15. Avoid out of the sun. And wear sunscreen. For the 18,000th time, repeated sun exposure wreaks havoc on your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer. For some reason, a lot of sun-worshippers—especially women—think the C-word won’t happen to them. It can. At any age.
16. Sometimes, it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. See #6. But note that this never applies to affairs of the heart.
17. Old school gestures really do have impact. Give up your seat for pregnant women, the frail, and the elderly. Write a snail-mail thank you note. Hold the door open. Send congratulatory flowers. Whether you’re a man or a woman. All these gestures of politesse will not go unnoticed.
18. Live like you were dying. To coin a phrase from Tim McGraw, live every day like it’s your last. Laugh. Enjoy the simple company of your loved ones, whether they are of the human kind, animal kind, or both. Tell them you love them. This may seem cliché, but it is so true. Sometimes that might even mean enjoying a bottle of wine with your love or your bestie on a day that you didn’t quite make it to the gym. That’s OK!
19. People really do come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Some relationships just run their course. You know when they have; you can feel it. Just let them go. Sometimes it hurts because you can’t understand what happened. But often years later, you can see why they featured in a few chapters of your life, then faded out.
20. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you see something wrong or dishonest at work, say something. If you see domestic, child, or animal abuse, say something. Be a voice for someone who doesn’t have one. Call the police. Call a hotline. Do something. Speaking up could save a life…and it could even be your own. On this subject, a friend shared this video on Facebook, which I tried (not so successfully) to share on Snapchat. It really, really resonated with me; maybe it will with you, too:
Check back in a couple days to read the rest of my list!