50 Things At 50

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cakeI’m turning 50 this week. I woke up and suddenly have been around for half a century. And that feels old.

This birthday is a tough one. All birthdays are, since I lost my parents, who (as an only child without any close extended family) were not only my best friends, but the keepers of my history and the validation of my memories. But the older you are—especially on “landmark” birthdays—the more those memories of where you’ve been and who you were become faded … and there is no magical Photoshop filter to recolor them.

The thing is, you’re supposed to become wiser with age—that’s the plus side. As a child and a teen, I was always told that I was “older than my years” … now, of course, I want to be told that I’m “younger than my years”. Hopefully my preternatural wisdom has now not only chronologically caught up with but has actually been enhanced by this half century of life experience. Herewith, then, are 50 observations, bon mots, precepts and aphorisms … certainly not the sum total of what I’ve learned at 50, but a few pointers along the way.

  1. Character is built on the edge of despair. (My father’s favorite maxim.)
  2. You may regret what you don’t do, not what you do … so do it. (One of my mother’s favorites.)
  3. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Tap it.
  4. Honesty is not always the best policy, but it’s the only way you can maintain your own integrity.
  5. Being hated by certain people is a compliment.
  6. We are all part of the fabric of nature—sew and mend, don’t rip.
  7. Be kind to all animals—including people.
  8. Star Trek (original series, of course!) is the blueprint for our future.Star-Trek1
  9. Communicate by whatever means necessary, but always communicate.
  10. Most business books contain one good point summed up in a pithy sentence, then spend 300 pages in embroidery.
  11. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
  12. No one, including the people who love you best, can read your mind.
  13. Death is as difficult a process as life. Honor it.
  14. Don’t strive to be perfect. Strive to be the best you can be.
  15. Opinions are like anuses. Everyone has one.
  16. Expand your tribe.
  17. Every generation thinks succeeding ones are spoiled, soft and witless.
  18. Lean on your friends and prop them up when they need you.
  19. Pop your head outside of your customized box and discover something new.
  20. Know your generation’s faults and vulnerabilities.
  21. Set your boundaries and defend them.
  22. Re-read the “Desiderata” regularly.Desiderata
  23. In fact, read more poetry in general.
  24. Try not to judge too much—remember that other people may be having a rotten day, too.
  25. Trust your instincts in any situation where you feel danger.
  26. Tell your children that you believe in them, and show them that you trust them.
  27. Don’t let any relationship become a habit.
  28. Look up once in a while.
  29. Always travel—it grows your brain and your heart.
  30. If you can’t travel, read about other places, cultures and times.
  31. Talk to elders and treasure their memories.
  32. Life is not just. Understand that, but keep fighting to make it so.
  33. Don’t live your life for someone else’s approval.
  34. Hug a tree, and marvel at the wonders of nature.redwood
  35. There are some absolutes in life. Recognize them.
  36. If you’re stuck in traffic, make the most of it—play an audio book or learn a new language.
  37. Be thankful.
  38. Be proud.
  39. If you spend too much time preparing for the worst, you’ve lost some of the best.
  40. Leadership is not a macho catchphrase. It’s responsibility.
  41. Vote.
  42. War is never a good option, but sometimes is the only option.
  43. Always respect a uniform, but always question authority.
  44. Listen to music without words.
  45. Fear is always lurking behind us.
  46. Crying is not a sign of weakness.
  47. Don’t stereotype genders.
  48. The generous-minded appreciate satire.
  49. Philanthropy can be a smile.
  50. Share.