The 10 Greatest Profits from Living Half a Century
I’m in my last months as a “40 something”. As I approach that half century mark, I cringe just a little. I don’t feel almost 50! Well, ok, except when I go vertical in the a.m. and hobble until my body’s natural wd-40 slowly finds it way back down to my ankles and feet. But other than that, not so bad. In fact, pretty darn good!
The older you get the more you realize you don’t know. You’ve heard that before. The older you get the more you realize how stupid you used to be. Oh yeah.
I took a look back, then looked ahead, then looked back again, shook my hand in the air, and declared my next birthday a time to celebrate! Not because I’m over the hill but because I climbed it!
Even if you’re not yet my age, I’m willing to share some of my profits with you. After all, you’ve got your own bag to carry. Maybe knowing these things now will make your load up the hill a little lighter.
1. I now know the consequences of a whim.
Age taught me the difference between a goal and a whim. I recognize the language I use when I’m being impulsive before I’m in execution mode. If I didn’t profit from learning this distinction, I’d own 50 dogs, a house built with logs from Montana, and at least 5 businesses.
2. I now know there are fifty shades of gray (at least!)
No, I haven’t learned fifty different sex positions! (I need at least another decade for that! lol:). Learning that life, or the choices within, are not black and white. To do something is better than nothing. And to do something doesn’t mean everything. There’s all kinds of gray areas I never knew existed. I either turned my head right or left quickly. I was always either open or shut. Now I’m more a revolving door that opens to possibility as it goes around…and around….and around.
3. I now know the fairy tale is a just a tale.
When I have a vision of how something should play out, I used to expect a flawless result. Especially if I covered every base, dotted every “i”, and planned for every scenario. Now I expect kinks. Now it’s more of a game of how long can the perfect story last before a little bugger peers its head. Think video games where some unexpected torpedo comes out of nowhere and sets you back 3 levels. Now I look in my arsenal and deal with it and if I don’t have an effective counter attack, I click “reset” and move on.
4. I now know that starting over is not actually starting from scratch.
Second speed interval on the track. Easier. Second time skiing moguls. Fewer falls. Second set of stretches. Deeper stretch. Second day of eating no junk food. Fewer cravings! I now realize that the more you try, the faster it takes to get to where you left off the last time. (Remember this if you ever get injured. You will get back to full steam faster than you think.)
5. I now know that everything has a “culture.”
I used to find it so easy to get swept up by other people’s enthusiasm. Whether you like to play golf, scuba dive, or go to church, there are always people who’s main priority is that thing. Maybe you just wanted to learn to play guitar for the fun of it. Before you know it your teacher’s got you practicing 5 hours a day, buying the latest and greatest accessories, and has you signed up for a performance in 6 months! “This is no longer fun,” you’re thinkin’. And you’ve got no time left for your real priorities and your broke from buying stuff you don’t even know how to use yet.
I now define what roofs I spend time under and make sure I only take a visitor’s pass everywhere else.
6. I now know that time has bookends.
My older husband didn’t seem to retain this during his 50 year climb. Or should I say men in general? I now realize that to leave by 7 means I need to be ready to leave by 6:50 or 6:55. Especially with kids, it takes time just to enter and exit. There are seat belts to fasten, keys to find, lights to turn on…. you get the picture. “I’ll be home by 10:00″ does not mean leaving the party at 9:55! It takes at least 15 minutes to politely exit a gathering.
Estimating real time. Should be one of life’s mandates.
7. I now know that criticism is a request in disguise.
Thanks for Diane Sawyer for putting this realization into words. A request is considerate. Whether it’s said to ourselves or someone else. Pair it with anger, because the request isn’t already granted, and you have criticism. I frequently looked at myself in the past and said, “My gosh, your thighs look huge!” Now I say, “Do you think you could add another mile to your run tomorrow?”
8. I now know that most stuff isn’t personal.
Ahhhh, the endless swirl of expectations that never land at my feet. This is a lesson we learn from exhaustion. Taking things personally wears me out. It’s too great a burden to take on. Everyone has moods, dilemmas, distractions and opinions. This is a time to gamble. What are the odds you have anything to do with their current funk? I stopped entering other people’s funk bubbles.
9. I now know that life is a not a pie.
I think this is even worse for young people today than it was for my generation. There is this atmosphere of competition over cooperation. Who can get into the best college? Who can get the best job, make the most money? Parents are putting preschoolers into rigorous academic programs to give them a leg up when they just learned to stand up.
As I got older, I realized life is not a pie with only 8 slices. The more achievers launched into the world, the larger the pie gets. Creating new opportunities and new connections for all.
10. I now know that answers come and go but questions remain.
The most valuable lesson learned on my hill! What felt certain 20 years ago has been replaced by new certainties. What do I know for sure? That I know nothing for sure. Yet every day I’m certain that I’m certain about stuff. I now realize that’s human and part of the process of living life. As long as I keep asking myself questions that are important to me, I will keep evolving. I have accepted that the answers will change and that’s not only ok, but necessary to reach the top of any hill.
I’ll sign off today with a few important questions that have always remained during my journey up the hill. While the answers have changed over the years, it is the questions that will motivate me to start the next half century climb. And didn’t I say the second time is supposed to be easier?:-)
How can I contribute?
What am I excited about?
What am I most grateful for in my life now?
Who are the most important people I want to spend time with?
What are yours?