50 things I’ve learned in my first fifty years.

I’m turning fifty this week – thank you – and it occurs to me that I’ve acquired some knowledge and insight in that time. I thought it might be interesting to sit with myself and figure out what some of that is.

As you travel through life, you pick up bits and pieces of information and form ideas about this, that, and the other. In the interest of symmetry, I’ve decided to share fifty of mine. Some of the lessons are deep, some less so.

In no particular order, because I’m writing things down as they occur to me, I present the list (which, now that I’m finished, seems long, so apologies for that):

  1. You can’t buy your way happy.
    • You can absolutely try but I’m living proof that there aren’t enough books, magazines, candy, alcohol, clothes, and knick-knacks to keep the worries and concerns at bay.
  2. Make sure you get enough fibre.
    • Never underestimate the impact a malfunctioning digestive system can have on your health and well-being.
  3. Drink enough water.
    • Dehydration is a negative in terms of health and good body functioning. I make poor decisions when I’m dehydrated (“I absolutely need to eat a pound of gummies“). Dehydration also has a negative effect on my depression and anxiety. Buy a cute glass. Use it. Repeatedly.
  4. Get enough sleep.
    • Insomnia is a bitch. Choosing it voluntarily (“Let’s check Facebook for a second before I go to sleep.”) doesn’t change the effects. If your sleep is poor, work on your sleep hygiene first. Sometimes people are resistant to making the effort. My son swears that none of the things I suggest will work for him because, reasons. Nevertheless, most people respond well to a sleep hygiene regimen.
  5. Perfection is over-rated. Honestly, perfect is a little boring.
    • Perfection is an unachievable goal. Sometimes, mood disorders push you towards perfectionism – eating disorder and anxiety, I’m looking at you. You can’t make things perfect and trying will only lead to stress and disappointment. Good enough is good enough.
  6. Time passes faster than you think it will.
    • I’m fifty now and I find that amazing. Everything in my life feels like it just happened, notwithstanding the fact that high school was decades ago and my baby is nearing twenty. Time passes and if you aren’t careful, you’ll waste it.
  7. People rarely judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.
    • Most of the time, people like us. Other times, they are utterly indifferent. In either case, their judgments are rarely negative. On the other hand, we point out our own flaws with frequency and alacrity. Stop doing that.
  8. Always make time for your children.
    • Related to “time passes faster than you think it will.” Children grow up and grow away. You stop being their whole world. They stop coming to you with every random thought. They stop wanting you to look at this and listen to that. You’ll miss it. Pay attention to the moments that you sometimes wish you didn’t have to because you’ll miss them when they’re gone, I promise.
  9. It’s okay to admit you’re wrong.
    • I’m pretty sure that none of us is God. That being the case, none of us is perfect. If we aren’t perfect, we’ll make mistakes. I make them all the time, though I do try to make new ones. When you’ve made a mistake, own it. It doesn’t make you worthless. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person. It means you’re human, and you make mistakes.
  10. It’s okay to apologize. Even to your children.
    • When you make a mistake, apologize. Mean it. When you make a parenting mistake, apologize for that too. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you’re showing weakness. You’re showing your kids that everyone, even perfect parents, commits blunders.
    • I once grounded my son for a month with no television or computer privileges because he lied to me. I can’t remember what it was about now. After I calmed down, I realized I’d over-reacted. I apologized and came up with a more appropriate consequence. I still had my son’s respect and it was a win for me because I didn’t have to enforce a ridiculous punishment.
  11. Your parents aren’t perfect. They tried their best (excluding those parents who were abusive assholes).
    • After a certain age – and it’s younger than a lot of people think – your life is on you. You make your choices and it’s no longer appropriate to blame your upbringing. Yeah, perhaps your parents were shitty with money so you didn’t learn good financial skills, but once you’re a grown-up, the responsibility is on you. Own your stuff. Your parents weren’t perfect (See number five – nobody’s perfect).
  12. Your family and friends are your most important assets.
    • I really like my iPhone and my computer, and I have a Coach bag hanging in my closet that I adore. That being said, if there was a fire, I’d wake my family and make sure they were safe before attending to any of that. Your friends and family are priorities. Make sure you treat them that way. Make sure they know they’re important to you – it’s okay to be overt and say it out loud. I have a tendency to take my circle for granted. I’m trying to be more vocal and let them know explicitly that they’re important to me and I value them.
  13. Walk lightly on the planet.
    • We have one planet and if we wreck it, we have nowhere to go. Whether you believe in climate change science or not, we should all be able to agree that it’s a universal good to use less plastic, pollute less, conserve water, preserve species, and do as little damage to our home as possible.
  14. Nature really does feed the soul.
    • My anxiety makes me want to stay in the house; as days become weeks and months, I forget about the outside world. I forget about walks in the forest or time spent by a creek. I recently went to Mazatlán and the days by the ocean were soothing and calming. I forgot that I like the wild and untamed. Get outside into the natural world at least once a week.
  15. Never spend money on uncomfortable shoes, no matter how cute they are.
    • Foot pain is an exhausting bitch. You don’t have to give up on all things fashionable and embrace flat and ugly, but there’s a happy medium. Bin all shoes with heels higher than three inches, however. They’re never worth it.
  16. You don’t have to justify your choices and decisions to anyone.
    • Period. As long as you are willing to own your choices and your consequences, what you do is nobody’s business and they don’t get a say. You’re can solicit opinions if you want, but it’s not required.
  17. Make taking care of your mental health a priority.
    • Things are getting better in this regard. Mental illness is becoming less stigmatized in some areas. People are recognizing that staying mentally well is important. There’s more information available than ever before. Take advantage of it. Protect your mental health. Live a life that enhances it.
  18. Taking care of your physical health should also be a priority. Go for the annual physical. Go to the dentist. Get your eyes checked.
    • Be a grownup.
  19. Not getting the oil changed in your car is a false economy and it will bite you in the ass later.
    • This is totally true. Corollary: pay attention to the small things to avoid a lot of the big things.
  20. Earworms will always be songs you can’t stand (“Baby Shark”).
  21. Moisturize. I wish I’d spent a lot more time moisturizing in my twenties and thirties. I tell that to everyone I see who falls into that age group. It’s become a religion.
  22. Wear sunscreen, even if you think it feels icky.
    • Again, be a grownup.
  23. Small jobs are easier than big ones, so break down tasks into bite-sized chunks.
    • Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. It leads to inertia and then nothing gets done. Besides, when you break a task down, there are more things to tick off, which is more good feedback and more opportunities to clap oneself on the back.
  24. Procrastination never fixes anything.
    • Tasks don’t magically disappear and problems don’t magically improve when you avoid them. You’re going to deal with stuff eventually, be it mowing the lawn or dealing with that self-esteem problem. When I procrastinate, I still end up having to deal with stuff, only now I have guilt and wasted time (see number six).
  25. Don’t lie.
    • Yes, the occasional white lie is fine.
  26. Don’t cheat.
  27. Don’t steal.
  28. You are more than the reflection in the mirror and it’s absolutely okay to not look like celebrities and social media influencers.
    • My eating disorder is a result of a variety of factors but media influences definitely had an effect. I had scrapbooks filled with bodies and body parts I sought to emulate in an effort to make myself “okay”. I knew the images were manipulated and enhanced and I still spent years striving to achieve the photo-shopped bodies. I thought the only value I brought to the world was a perfect appearance. I thought a perfect body was an obligation. I thought it was possible because magazines told me it was. It isn’t. Comparisons are odious anyhow. We’re more than our faces and bodies.
  29. Have a savings account and put money into it every month. Don’t spend it. Having savings is better than having stuff.
    • My parents didn’t give us a financial education and I made a lot of mistakes. I only got better after the birth of my son. Having a dependent smartened me up. I wish I’d saved when I was earning big money in my late teens and twenties. I’d have a nice pile of cash by now. That expensive make-up I absolutely had to have has long vanished into the ether. A supply of money is a cushion in lean times and gives you opportunities that otherwise might not be available, like travel.
    • Corollary: avoid debt.
  30. Thrift stores are a good thing.
    • Good for your wallet and good for the environment. Though I sometimes wonder what would happen if everyone gave up first-run purchases.
  31. Never apologize for your passions.
    • I love to read and I love to own the books I’ve read. I don’t utilize the library as much as I could because some books I want the book to have and hold forever. I also collect stuffed animals. For a long time, I either hid my passions or shared them in a self-deprecating way. No more. It doesn’t matter what you love, and it’s really nobody’s business anyhow, so if other people think your passions are weird or odd, what does it matter? Own what you love. Embrace it.
  32. Don’t let other people make you feel bad.
    • Variations of this life lesson abound. It’s important. You really can choose how you feel about something. Emotions and thoughts float into your consciousness, but you decide if you’ll attend or let go. Let negative judgments drift away. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s worth the effort.
  33. Don’t judge other people.
    • You don’t know enough about other people to judge them. And you don’t like it when they judge you, so don’t be hypocritical.
    • I suck at this. Areas to work on.
  34. Be kind.
  35. Eat your vegetables.
  36. It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.
    • I spent a great deal of my life putting myself last and being a martyr. Part of me expected a reward of some kind, props for being self-sacrificing. It never happened. You don’t want to never consider others, but it’s okay to put yourself first some of the time. In fact, it’s necessary.
  37. Be the change you want to see. One person is the only thing that ever makes a difference.
    • We all have things that irritate us. People who litter. People who are intolerant. Racism. Bigotry. You can’t change other people, even if you have a hundred discussions with them unless they want to change. Model the behaviours you want people to adopt. It has more influence than nagging and haranguing.
  38. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you “less than”, any more than having diabetes makes you less than.
    • I’ve struggled with this one a lot and I’m coming to acceptance. My brain is a little different and it may not ever be “normal” and that’s okay. If I have to do things differently to accommodate my challenges, that’s okay. The trick is figuring out how to live with the way you’re made.
  39. Always have your siblings’ backs.
    • Unless they’re awful.
  40. Don’t assume. Not everyone thinks about things the way you do.
    • Ask questions. So many people don’t.
    • Other people are always less like you than you suppose.
  41. Be organized. It staves off angst.
    • I’m not sure this is a universal. Some people are fine with chaos. Still, to me chaos is illogical. I’m predisposed to obsessive organization. It’s a feature of anxiety and eating disorders. I have to work not to let it get out of hand, but knowing where things are and having them organized and in good repair is nice.
  42. Use the perfume, the good plates, the formal cutlery, and the nice clothes.
    • Again, time passes. Use stuff. It’s what it’s there for. You can’t use any of it when you’re dead and we’ll all be dead at some point. This brings me to:
  43. You’re finite and you’ll die so stop living like that’s not a thing.
    • I read a quote once that went along the lines of “we’re all dying from the second we’re born.” Dark, but also accurate. The clock is ticking down and none of us knows how much time we have so carpe diem.
  44. Treat your pets well.
  45. Be polite to children and don’t patronize them. They don’t like it.
  46. Vote.
    • Be political. Get involved. Politics and government affect almost every aspect of your life. You have an obligation to be involved. People sacrificed to make sure you had the right to vote. Take advantage of the opportunity.
  47. Read. Read a lot. Read about a great many things. Expose yourself to alternate points of view.
    • Knowing stuff is cool. Knowing a lot of things is even cooler. Use actual books – there are a great many interesting ones. Look up things when you have questions. Be curious.
  48. Be open-minded.
    • And tolerant.
  49. Be tolerant.
    • And open-minded.
  50. Love.
    • Love whole-heartedly, enthusiastically, and honestly. Tell people. Never assume people know how you feel about them. We often get it wrong. Be passionate about things. Embrace all that life has to offer. Live large (see number twelve).

21 thoughts on “50 things I’ve learned in my first fifty years.

  1. This is absolutely freaking wonderful! What a beautiful post! Happy Birthday week to you and I hope you celebrate yours 50th in the most grand and fabulous way possible! I’m 31 and this really got me thinking about some things. Thank you for sharing and I would have kept reading if it had 102! 🙂 and again Happy Birthday. I hope you don’t mind but I am going to reblog this because I deff think it is something that needs to be shared. Much love!


    1. Wow. Thank you so much for the comments and the birthday wishes. I wasn’t sure people would like it because of the length, but I’m glad there were some bits and pieces that resonated. 🙂


  2. Incredible post and I’ve really enjoyed what you’ve learned over the years.

    Wishing you a happy birthday my fellow gemini, and wishing you peace, love and joy. It’s my birthday on Thursday.

    Liked by 1 person

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