50 things I've figured out over 50 years


I know that lots of peeps- many of whom write far more eloquently than I – have made similar lists when approaching a milestone birthday but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a process worth doing. 

50 seems like it’s going to be a comfy place to be.  This milestone gives me an excellent opportunity to quote the old adage, “Turning 50 is infinitely superior to the alternative”. One of the main reasons in my opinion that 50 looks like it might work out OK is that life is less of a cloudy mystery these days because there are a few things I have figured out over the last half tonne of years. It’s still incredibly difficult at times and surprises still a regular part of the program but acceptance comes quicker and easier.

These 50 are in no particular order.  Normally I edit my creative writing in the same meticulous way I craft a business document, with a view to shepherding the reader through a carefully constructed pathway to the document’s conclusion. Not today.  My plan is to have no plan and allow you to wander through and get up close and personal with any points that might stand out for you.  Why?  Because of Number One (see below)

1.     We’re all completely different. We look different, we sound different, and different words, actions and events nurture us and drive us to action.  I’m not there yet but I am working so hard on tailoring how I communicate to make people happy, help them be their best and if I am to be perfectly honest, get them to do the stuff I need them to do- at work and at home.

2.     If you aren’t a fan of yourself, it’s practically impossible for others to love you.  I spent a lot of years pretty underwhelmed with the value I was adding  to the world (quite rightly, I was a miserable so and so that allowed a clunky and sad past as an excuse for not doing my best) and no matter how hard I searched for affection and meaning in those years, it didn’t rock up.  Until I uncovered one little thing I could be a tiny bit proud of, nothing changed.

3.     Being loved and loving other people is an unbeatable thing to do. Best feeling ever!

4.     Sing when you can.  If you can’t sing, turn the music up so you can belt out the tune without fear of being judged.  Science says it’s important and I call it essential for great mental health.

5.     Some friendships are perfect for the time they bloomed, they then run their course and fade away.  It just happens and it’s ok.  However if you believe that you have done something to damage the friendship, think about looking for ways to rebuild if you can.  If you can’t – make sure you learn from that experience so you and or others don’t get hurt next time.  And be ok with saying sorry first – even though sometimes, if the friendship has run its course – it may not be enough.

6.     You do not have to see certain friends often to know that they will always be right there when you need them and that every catch up will bring a bonkers amount of satisfaction.  Make sure they can rely on you to deliver the same!

7.     Don’t ever brand yourself as dumb, and for God’s sake don’t let anyone else convince you of that – especially those with their own agendas.

8.     Divorce isn’t failure.  If it makes sense to look to repair the relationship then by all means fight as hard as you can to make it work, but sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself, your partner and your children is to admit things aren’t working and move on – while treating everyone with as much respect as you can (BTW that’s more than you think you can, or want to). Being vindictive, greedy, mean or disrespectful won’t highlight to the world the flaws in your ex-partner – eventually it will just showcase yours, perhaps to those who matter the most – your kids!

9.     Kids are an insane amount of trouble, and no amount of warning can ever, ever prepare you for just how much of your freedom, fortune or free time you will need to sacrifice for them.  But similarly, no one can ever explain to you how incredibly potently you will love your small people and just what you would be prepared to do for them.

10.  On the occasions when you are insanely proud of your kids (and trust me – there will be many, many occasions - some associated with big wins and some for the most pedestrian of achievements) you feel a joy so visceral that all your senses go into overdrive.

11.  Always, always carry headache tablets in your handbag!

12.  Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.  Again – a work in progress from this end, but I try to find moments where I gain inspiration from my favourite line of my favourite prayer, and calm the hell down for a minute.

13.  My opinion only, but I reckon there is a God of some description and that whoever they are or whatever they look like, they have been keeping an eye out for me and have steered me out of a bucket load of trouble too many times to count.  Plus I reckon that this God person has had a big hand in all the great stuff that has happened to me. 

14.  People’s thoughts regarding their religion/spirituality are totally their business.  No one has the right to lecture or force feed their beliefs (or lack thereof) onto you.  My advice is to mind your own business

15.  I lost my mother in my early teens, father in my mid-teens and also ran a cancer charity for years so watched a lot of great people lose their lives.  If your body is telling you something is not quite right, listen to it and get it checked out pronto!  We live in a country where health care is affordable so don’t let silly old fear or laziness stop you from that check-up.  It might save your life and protect the people you love from the pain of losing you.

16.  Intuition is the unconscious processing of experience.  Don’t ignore it!

17.  Look after your teeth.  Great teeth make you look healthy, full-on tooth pain is repulsive and root canals are completely vile.  All the reasons you need are right there.

18.  Touch is so important.  The value of skin on skin contact has been proven for newborn babies, but the power of touch is just as important for older kids and adults as well.  A gentle touch on the arm, a back scratch for an over tired child, a massage for a stressed partner, a smooch for a loved one or a hug for a much loved friend all say more than words ever could.  Make sure you respect people’s personal space and be conscious of over stepping boundaries though.

19.  Sitting down with a real book is better than any Kindle type thingie.

20.  No-one ever had “and he was a lifetime platinum frequent flyer” as their epitaph.  If you have people who need you at home, try and find a way to be there for them. No job, no business, no FF status is worth risking the things you love the most.

21.  Everybody likes an old jumper! Change is scary and people usually gravitate to the old and familiar.  If you find change confronting, you’re not alone – but try and remember that sometimes old jumpers just don’t fit anymore and a new outfit can be great fun.  Change is an essential part of life so it’s worth trying to find a way to grit your teeth, jump aboard and look for the opportunities that exist due to the change.

22.  “You never can tell the depth of a well by the length of a handle on a pump!” is a saying my Dad used all the time.  We try so hard to be fancy and have the “right” car, “right” clothes etc., but it’s what’s inside that really matters. Many of the people I hold closest to my heart didn’t attend a swanky school and don’t have a flashy car, nor are they sporting the latest “it” watch.  But their adorable soul and heart make them priceless and beautiful beyond compare.

23.  Popcorn is not as delicious as people make it out to be.  In fact, it is a dental drag.

24.  There is a special joy associated with pulling off acts of effective co-parenting.  It’s an extreme sport, so every time you and the other party pull off a successful “black run” you should take the time to enjoy the adrenaline and congratulate yourself on what you just achieved.  Don’t forget to give the other party credit too!

25.  It’s dumb to constantly pull out and use hand sanitiser.

26.  Finding peace in your life is worth the struggle.

27.  Build strong networks and communities by being generous with your time, talents and cordiality.  You don’t need to have a million friends, but having a wide ranging group of people you and those you love can call on for advice and support is true wealth. Plus the feeling you get from helping others is pretty darn nice also. 

28.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I have made some rippers and some of those hurt people.  But I feel comfortable in saying that those mistakes don’t define me.  They say that the definition of stupidity is making the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different outcome so my advice is to just try and learn from your screw ups and keep striving to be the best person you can be.

29.  Tomatoes and salt is one of the best flavour combos on the planet.

30.   A lot has been said over the years about how my parents brought myself and my siblings up.  90s Brisbane band Savage Garden (I told you I was almost 50) in the song Affirmation said “Your parents did the best job they knew how to do”. Sure they screwed up, but they both worked hard, were strong providers, doled out a lot of love and tried to teach us right from wrong. My own parenting has shown me just how ridiculously hard that all is and I salute them for what they did for us.

31.  Romantic love can become great friendship, or at least respect and great friendship can become extraordinary romantic love.  I have experienced both of these transitions in my lifetime and am insanely grateful for both. 

32.  Every adult should actively work toward or maintain the ability to support themselves.  Never rely completely on someone else for your financial security or emotional wellbeing.

33.  Nail Polish is too complicated for me.

34.  Oysters are worth getting used to.  Persevere!

35.  If people tell you that you are clumsy often enough – you will be.

36.  Things happen for a reason.  I know those of you who have suffered unimaginable pain and horror won’t agree. I don’t know how to explain it and never intend to trivialise your suffering, but in my life I have gained enormous comfort in terrible times by believing in this.

37.  You are definitely braver than you ever imagined you could be!

38.  Dogs can be an incredible source of comfort and a great pooch instinctively knows when you need them the most.  Thanks Jakie!  You are still missed but I will never forget what you did.

39.  Family is hugely important and if you are lucky enough to have one, treasure and nurture that relationship if possible.  But if things go sour beyond repair, don’t keep flogging a dead horse. That is often to the detriment of yourself and those who do deserve your love, care and time.  Concentrate on those who value you for who you are, not what you can do for them.

40.  Sometimes friends are the very best kind of family. 

41.  Spend time with smart people when you can.  That gear really does rub off on you.

42.  A massive night on the drink doesn’t solve or lessen your problems.  It just nudges them into the next day and your behaviour while on a crazy night out might well end up delivering you another problem to add to your collection.  Take it easy, Tiger! (Still learning this one but am kind enough to myself these days to be ok with a few slip ups along the way – after all – Champagne is just delicious!)

43.  Leading people is an honour and a privilege.  Treat those in your care at home or at work with respect and use your power to inspire performance to get the outcomes you need.

44.  There must be a God of some sort because well – WINE!  Hello! Where else could have that wonderful nectar come from?

45.  Never underestimate the healing power of a sneaky thirty minutes on the couch inhaling some 80s or 90s sitcoms.

46.  Cheese corn chips and sour cream would be my death row last meal request.  I know that’s a lot trashy, but I’m at peace with that.  The combo of yellow MSG and the cool soured cream is magnificent.

47.  You don’t have to knock anyone off their game to win yours.  There’s plenty of room for everyone.

48.  Be kind.

49.  The day you figure out just how much you enjoy your children’s company is even more of a landmark day than the day they were born.

50.  As  for the s*&$-tonne of stuff I haven’t got my head around yet, one of the things that I have figured out is that that’s OK as well. Who says we need to know it all!  Ask questions of the universe and those around you, lean on those you love for support, take advantage of those networks you have curated and be open to the unexpected benefits that come from being vulnerable and admitting you don’t know it all!

This piece was more of an exercise for myself than anything else, but if you get something out of it, I’m so glad.

Happy 50th Birthday Me!