“Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!” ~George Bernard Shaw
I’m rapidly approaching my 48th birthday. It boggles my mind that in just over two years, I’ll be 50-years-old. My outlook is still youthful. My lower back . . . not so much. I’m of the age where hot flashes are a daily occurrence, and losing weight is no longer just about cutting back on the sweets. I’ve never been embarrassed to reveal my age because the alternative is death, so I don’t complain.
Aging often involves reviewing personal history, and as I inch my way toward spending half a century on this earth, I look back at some of the things I’ve thought about, worried about and agonized over and realize I wasted a lot of precious time.
I’ve always enjoyed hearing personal stories and sincere advice from older people. Their pearls of wisdom linger in my mind when I find myself struggling through difficult times.
Initially I was going to comprise my own list of “wisdoms” for this post, but I realized that would only involve my point of view. I have five thousand Facebook friends and almost nine thousand followers, and they would surely provide a variety of valuable insights to share. I posed this question on my page and selected 30 of my favorite answers in no particular order. (Hundreds of folks chimed in, see all their replies HERE):
People over 45-yrs-old: Name one or two things that you wish you had known or understood when you were 25.
- Rhonda: Politics. At the time, I didn’t care because I didn’t understand.
- Joy: 1) The importance of voting and making my voice heard. 2) The importance of taking good care of my health earlier.
- Jeannie: Wish I had understood that just because someone wants me does not mean they value me. And, that my desire to reproduce (major baby desire) had not edged me out of Med. school.
- Jay: 1.) It is not the end of the world if you make mistakes. Even very big mistakes are usually survivable. Try to lessen their impact if you can, and do your best not to repeat them. 2.) Your priorities will change over time. That is a good thing. Don’t sweat it.
- Mary: I wish I had learned to trust myself sooner.
- Nancy: The value of continuing education. Looking towards the future instead of just living in the moment.
- Andy: Issues I had with women were my own damned fault.
- Alan: Age 62 here. I wish I had paid more attention to politics, and history.
- Melanie: 1. That I COULD make an adequate living and support myself without getting married. 2. That I needed to plan finances and ensure that me and my partner shared values. Love isn’t enough.
- Lance: If you aren’t smiling when you go to work, change careers
- Adrienne: Stay in school and don’t waste your time on men that don’t love you.
- Rick: 1. Do what you love and figure out how to make money at it. So basically, I wish I had started my business earlier. Although I was having a lot of fun at the time, running a punk rock club. Which sort of leads to….2. Being all coked up is not as cool as you think it is.
- Amy: I wish I’d known how messed up my parents were and that it’s okay to get angry.
- Barbara: I’m not responsible for other people’s happiness.
- David: 1. Don’t surround yourself only with people who think the same as you do while shutting out those who disagree with you. If you do that, you will end up with an unrealistic view of the world. 2. If a politician (or anyone) had the intelligence and guts to listen and change their mind to agree with you today, DO NOT punish them for disagreeing with you in the past. If you do, they will stop listening to you because, believe it or not, when you call them a flip-flopper, you are punishing them for being willing to listen to you and being open to adopting your ideas.
- Beverly: I wish I’d known how truly worthy I am. And, to take chances even [if]I failed because that is how learning happens. I am 46.
- Fred: The value of having a mentor.
- Beth: I wish I had known how intelligent I was (and am) and that my mother’s abuse was not my fault.
- Tom: I thought 54 was long past the age of doing anything amazing, or even interesting. I never knew I would still feel like I was 25 most of the time.
- Solarzar: It’s about connection and relationships, not accomplishments or credentials.
- Andy: That the expectations put on me by my devoutly religious family were going to be the basis for several decades of angst and unhappy relationships that I tolerated.
- Peter: That I was being conned by the Republican Party.
- Erika: I wish I had known how good I looked back then and not listened to my mother telling me how fat and ugly I was. Would have changed a lot of things.
- Curt: Infatuation is often mistaken for true love.
- George: Use sunscreen and floss regularly
- Sarah: Don’t be afraid to take more risks – travel to the places that seem a little frightening, risk more professionally, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Not only is that where a lot of good things happen, but if you can develop a healthy tolerance for risk when you’re a young adult you will become more skilled with taking calculated risks as you age and you will hence continue to grow.
- Jeff: It is better to collect experiences and relationships than stuff.
- Jane: I wish I’d known how to stand up for myself better. Being a “nice girl” all of the time is not good for any woman.
- Eileen: I’ve learned to listen to your inner voice and do the right thing, without apology or permission. Also health is beauty, especially as you age. so pursue healthy habits, beauty will follow. Also re calibrate what you think IS beauty. Beauty is contentment, energy, healthy eating, enough sleep, a healthy relationship with self and family and a sense of purpose
- Georgina: Don’t trust other people above yourself, if your inner voice is saying no listen to it, even if it means risking losing someone.
And here’s one of mine:
I wish I had known that my value as a human being would increase – not decrease – with time. My body, my looks and ability to procreate never defined my value. When I was 38, single and childless by choice, a 51-year-old man I’d previously dated warned me that “women over 40 lose their value.” I’ve learned that men (people) who believe this nonsense are to be pitied because they are slaves to the idea that a woman’s worth is between her legs.
I’ve learned that my value has increased as I’ve aged. I became an author at 41, and when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut in 2012, I became a political activist with a strong focus on women’s rights. No other time in my life has been more satisfying, exciting or valuable.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” – David Mamet