I always planned to live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse. Apparently, THAT’S not going to happen. At more than twice the age I ever thought I’d live until, there have been many life lessons that have been impressed upon me along the way. And I continue to learn. Here are 52 things I’ve figured out by the age of 52, in no particular order:
52. The things that used to cause me worry no longer do.
51. In combination with #52, I learned that I cannot control most things in the universe, though I tried my damnedest to do so for far too long. The sun always rises on a new day, whether I’ve worried about it or not. So I chose to no longer worry about things that simply do not matter.
50. I’ve definitely learned what matters most to me.
49. I have learned to recognize my own antics, and in that way avoid doing or saying things that cause me — and others — harm. Mostly me.
48. There are issues far more important to me than some of the petty dramas I see taking place all around. These issues are not necessarily large on a scale of “grandness,” but large in the scope of the number of people they affect.
47. Due to factors mentioned in #48, I no longer enjoy watching dramas on television, as they come across as inauthentic, and completely manufactured. Contrived is another good adjective. I feel this is pretty much the opposite of what many of my peers believe. I see many of them reverting to becoming full time television viewers, shutting themselves away from the reality that is happening all around them. This personal belief does not make me better, but definitely makes me different.
46. Throughout my life, I have been labeled “strange,” “quirky,” and a person who “does not think like anyone else.” I tried for so long to minimize and dismiss those labels, to behave in ways that made me fit in. Those efforts always ended disastrously. Now I embrace those remarkable qualities in myself, and revel in the differences that have manifested as I’ve aged.
45. My chronological age is 52, my inner age is somewhere nearer to 28. I think and act like a much younger man. I love that about myself.
44. I stay connected with what’s happening in the world around me, and therefore catch many people off guard with my ultra-current views and knowledge.
43. I have never wanted children. I pretty much raised my siblings, and feel I’ve already “been there done that.”
42. The 80s were my favorite decade so far.
41. Family is who you choose, NOT who you were born to.
40. At 52, someone mentioned that I’m finally playing with a full deck. Ha! I say. That’s making an awfully large assumption.
39. Someone, somewhere, at one time or another, had to actually sit down and think about what specific size and shape a toilet seat should be. I’m very glad I do not have that person’s job.
38. I despise politics now as much or more than I ever did. However, I’m more active now because I see how political systems are used by those in power to oppress those over whom they rule.
37. Life makes so much more sense to me now. Not easier to live, just easier to understand.
36. Learning how to say “no” is a trait everyone should learn to do. And I no longer feel guilty for standing up for my own time and my own space.
35. Guilt is the most useless thing ever acknowledged by humans. Do not allow anyone — including yourself — to make you feel bad about who you are, what you do, or what you say. If you’re a thoughtful, intelligent person, you’ll understand implicitly that we can be kind to one another without being a dick.
34. Don’t be a dick.
33. “Perfect” is in the eye of the beholder. Eventually, we have to acknowledge that things rarely, if ever, match our perception of “perfect.” So learn to embrace the things we cannot change or mold into our own desires.
32. I’m as photogenic now as I have ever been. This goes back to my younger days when I thought I had to be a “perfect” specimen of humanity in order for others to like me. I recently had a professional photo taken, and damn if I didn’t look like a handsome cuss in it! That single photo shows me just how far I’ve come in ridding myself of negative self-images. A dear friend of mine used to say, “You look a lot more like you do now than you did before.” That sums it up perfectly. I’m not a 25 year old any longer, and this is how my biology and genetics have played out. And I really like who I am now.
31. Finances used to worry the hell out of me. I was always afraid there wouldn’t be enough money to survive. What I’ve learned is that money is always there. If I’m smart, attentive, and curb any extravagant tendencies I might have, money goes a lot farther than I imagined it would.
30. The art of apologizing is something everyone should learn. We humans often stumble and make mistakes. Learning how to take ownership of them, correcting them, and moving on goes much further in life than harboring grudges or bitterness because we have slighted others in some way, or feel slighted ourselves.
29. Small kindnesses performed for complete strangers is a total rush. Learn how to recognize those opportunities.
28. I don’t take much seriously…or personally. Once we’re able to take out ego out of reactions and emotions, we realize that there’s not much that happens around us that actually pertains to us.
27. If you can’t spend the money you make in the here and now, what good is it?
26. I am not concerned with what a bathroom scale tells me. We have good days and bad days, and a piece of machinery is not going to be able to determine when or what that means to me.
25. I love to laugh, especially at my own foibles.
24. Grammar and spelling DO matter. Not learning how to communicate effectively causes more drama than not. You owe it to yourself to know how to spell, and how to properly use words in a sentence.
23. I’m not too focused on the answers. I’m okay with “I don’t know.” This simple statement brings exponential opportunity to learn something new, or relearn something we’ve forgotten.
22. I’d rather be authentic than popular. I’ve been both and know which is better for me.
21. I appreciate my perceived weaknesses, because they are often my strengths.
20. I say “thank you” more than “fuck you” now. It’s a tremendous accomplishment.
19. Attitude (and by extension, the way we approach the world) truly IS everything. If I perceive something in a negative way, that outlook is fulfilled. Likewise with a positive attitude. And I’d much rather be positive yet realistic than negative and look for the lead lining.
18. Take care of yourself. If you suspect you’re depressed, seek help. Don’t let others convince you that you don’t feel how you feel. It’s your life to nurture and care for, not theirs. Being self-aware is a giant step toward being healthier and happier.
17. Age does not mean it’s finally time to sit for days on our couches watching mindless television. Age is where the adventure begins. Go explore. Do something that you’ve never done before. Recently, I participated in a social protest against discrimination. It was incredibly scary, and even more liberating, than I had ever imagined it might be.
16. More wisdom.
15. Greater independence.
14. Simple things are truly joy-bringing. Spending five extra minutes with my dogs each day does amazing things to my self-esteem and my attitude.
13. I’ve lived through the advent of the first moon landing, space exploration, assassinations, the invention of the television, computers, internet, handheld devices, microwaves, blu-ray players…. The list is lengthy. I live in an absolutely amazing period in human history.
11. Who cares if Bob marries Bill or Janet marries Joanne? Marriage is a man-made ritual. Others should never get to dictate what’s right or better for other human beings based on selfishness and hate.
10. The Four Agreements should be required teaching for every person on earth. “Be impeccable with your word” first and foremost. If you are self-deprecating, then others will soon see you as someone who requires excuses for their behavior and actions. Act like the person you want to be perceived as and everything else falls into place. This was the hardest to learn for me. I’ve always been largely self-deprecating. I learned, though, that such words and actions influenced others’ views of my core identity. Once I learned what my core identity truly was, I stopped apologizing for it.
9. First, do no harm. I try not to cause harm. I take care of other beings. And I have learned to hold my tongue and most of my opinions unless they are used in standing up for others who have not yet learned how to speak up for themselves. I cannot save the world, but I can be kind.
8. I’m happy to have a few phenomenal friends. Furthermore, if I’m betrayed, I move on. There’s another wonderful person waiting in the future. I do not allow anyone to treat me in ways I do not wish to be treated. That’s for rookies.
7. I am vocal and clear about what I want, which took me years of self-empowerment and self-examination.
6. I know me. I know me quite well. I make no apologies for being me, for doing as I do. Transparency is a beautiful thing.
5. Dogs are a gift to humans. Anyone who neglects and/or abuses them (or any animal) deserves to receive the same treatment forced upon them, up to and including death.
4. My lack of belief in deities has not wavered. Ever.
3. Creativity is something we either cultivate or we don’t. There’s no such thing as “uncreative.” We’re born creative. Either we ignore others’ attempts to convince us otherwise, or we discover the joy of being creative and explore it whenever possible.
2. Freedom of choice is the last great frontier of humanity. Without it, we are nothing.
1. Introversion: Not just a mindset, it’s a lifestyle.