After writing a humorous post about the benefits of being age 50, I was asked to appear on CNN to talk about my experiences at this age in light of Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. The host, Brooke Baldwin, asked me “What would you tell your 30-year-old self?” In the video, you can see me hesitate because what I wanted to say was “Grab a bottle of vodka and some Xanax then run because shit is about to go down.
My thirties were the most difficult decade of my life. I was hit almost non-stop with one terrible thing after another which I came to call “The Five D’s of the Apocalypse”:
Disease: I developed an ovarian tumor resulting in a complete hysterectomy.
Disability: My youngest child was diagnosed with autism.
Divorce: The unholy union between me and The Spawn of Satan finally collapsed.
Death: Several family members passed away and I had a miscarriage.
Depression: See above.
I survived and, at age 50, know I learned valuable lessons through the pain. Given the chance, however, I would much rather have read a self-help book and saved thousands of dollars on therapy.
If I could, I would give my 30-year-old self the following advice:
Collect adventures instead of things: Living a little beneath your means allows you to have money left over to create great memories by having adventures. No one ever says “I’m so glad we bought that big house and expensive car! Now we all have rickets because we can’t afford fruit.”
Treasure your friendships: Don’t get so wrapped up in your problems that you ignore your friends. You are going to need them more than you know. Besides, if they get really pissed at you for ignoring them they may tell everyone you threw up in a plant in the lobby of The Ritz Carlton during last year’s New Year’s Eve party. Nothing holds a friendship together like all the shit you can embarrass each other with.
Go dancing: Get out much as possible and dance now because, as a 50-year-old, you will inspire comments like “Aw! Isn’t that cute? I love seeing old people having fun” or “Ew! What is she doing here?” from the younger crowd. Watch the video “Coachella Rave Dad” and you’ll understand what I mean.
Invest in Apple: Since insider trading laws don’t cover time travel, I’m going to throw this in and maybe I will be writing this from my villa in Italy instead of East Nowhere, Virginia.
Cultivate Your Inner Beauty: You know how good you look in those tight jeans? Well, there’s an expiration date for that awesomeness stamped right on your ass. Don’t rely on looks for your self-esteem. Spend time on your mind and spirit to create inner beauty which is timeless and immune to the eventual degradation our bodies experience. And for heaven’s sake, don’t spend a shit-ton of money of wrinkle creams. You are going to get them anyway and I could really use that money right now for a trip to Vegas.
Be Unique You: Resist the urge to change who you really are in order to fit in with what you perceive to be the “in crowd”. I did this when I agreed to become the Vice-President of the “cool” garden club even though I had never had a garden and successfully killed every plant that made its unfortunate way into my hands. Conformity is for people who do not honor the unique gifts only they can offer the world.
There will always be another fire to put out: I spent the bulk of my 3rd decade waiting for everything to be easy and trouble-free. I put off being happy until one problem or another was settled. It never happened. The difference at age 50 is these trials and tribulations do not phase me anymore. I can put out a fire with one hand while sipping a lovely Cabernet with the other. Face life’s problems with courage, learn from them, then go forward knowing you will survive and flourish no matter what is thrown at you.
Don’t base your identity on your children: Having children is an amazing experience and can teach you much about being a better person and the wonders of the world. Don’t, however, wrap yourself so tightly in their world that you lose yours. If you do, they will be off living their awesome lives one day and you will left with nothing to talk about with your peers. No one really wants to hear about Little Johnny’s miraculous potty performances, anyway. Get a grip. Everyone poops. Unless he shits a brick of gold, it isn’t that special.
There’s more I could write but I think it would take the fun out of being 30. Sometimes, being naive and relatively clueless to certain realities of life can be a good thing. Mistakes are made but, then again, new and exciting innovations spring from youthful dreams.
What would you tell your 30-year-old self?