There are some things we are too young for and other things we are too old for. But there are some clear demarcations of things we should have done by the time we hit 50. Here’s a list of nine of them. Please add your own in the comments section.
1. Owned a matching set of big fluffy towels.
While we all know that it isn’t our material possessions that define us, you need big fluffy towels for the same reason you need your morning barista fix: It’s a small luxury that packs a big feel-good punch. For $3, you get to treat yourself to a steaming hot cuppa Joe that someone else made for you, just you — and they even put your (misspelled) name on the cup. Same theory with the towels. When you step out of the shower and into the waiting arms of an oversized, high-quality towel, you no longer care about the leak under the sink or the boss who walked by without saying “hello.”
For those who doubt the magical powers of Egyptian cotton bath towels to make all the bad stuff go away, well, we can only assume that yours are threadbare and you save the good ones for company. Think about that for a minute, OK? Who’s worth more? You or your old college roommate when she passes through town twice a decade and wants a free place to crash?
For empty nesters who don’t have grandkids coming around very often, we want to encourage you to really go out on the ledge and buy white ones.
2. Burned your candles.
Candles, for most of our 20s, were our go-to dwelling decoration. They were relatively inexpensive, looked pretty, and we would no more think of burning them than we would set fire to any of our poster wall-hangings. Candles weren’t functional; they were decorative.
Candles need to be burned. They look pretty and generally smell good — but even more so when you burn them. They add ambience and set a mood. There’s another lesson here too: They, like everything and everyone, don’t last forever. They get dusty and can even melt when left in the sun too long. (How’s that for a metaphor for life?)
Candles, like pretty much everything else, have a purpose — a destiny, if you will. Let your candles fulfill their destiny: Use them.
3. Used your good china regularly.
When you inherited your grandma’s china, you knew it was because you were her favorite and she wanted you — not your cousin — to have it. In doing so, grandma may have launched the family’s Cold War, but she had her reasons. Now do her the honor of using those dainty cups and saucers already. Old china, certainly the unchipped variety, has value — but its monetary worth doesn’t hold an unburned candle (sorry, couldn’t resist) to the value of thinking of grandma every time you serve your family on the plates she so lovingly bestowed on you.
Keep the service in use, if not for every day, at least for every special occasion — and certainly more than just once a year when your cousin is in town.
4. Preserved the photo albums and scrapbooks of your youth.
Each time we move, we tend to toss out old stuff. The more moves, the more of our past goes in the dumpster. Sometimes, tales of our early lives benefit from a little documentation. We’d like to make the case for printed photos kept in albums and scrapbooks from our childhoods. You won’t believe how important these low-tech conveyances are to your high-tech kids and grandkids — especially when you sit down and tell them the stories behind that road trip in 1959 in the station wagon or show them photos of what you looked like in high school — big hair and all.
While digitalizing it all is certainly a good way to ensure its future, no need to willfully destroy the past.
5. Made peace with the past.
Not everyone had a happy childhood, we get it. But at some point, you will be happier to practice forgiveness and develop a more selective memory. Try remembering the happy times, however infrequent those moments were. Rehashing the past, blaming your unhappiness on it — it gets in the way of moving forward. Do yourself a favor and cross the bridge. Choose to let go of anger.
6. Found a best friend who you can call 24/7.
The rules for adult best friends are vastly different from the ones governing childhood best friends. For one, you can have more than one of them simultaneously without misusing the word “best.” You can have a hiking bestie, a shopping bestie, a bestie who you diet with, have spa days with, cry to when you feel like it and gchat for hours, both of you drinking wine. A best friend doesn’t need to live in the same state or even the same time zone as you. And you don’t actually have to see them on any fixed schedule. But the one thing they must be is there for you.
Some of us marry our best friends; others only wish they had.
7. Learned how to enjoy things by yourself.
The age at which we are most likely to find ourselves alone comes in our later years, but what’s the harm in preparing for it now? Women outlive men; children grow up and move to distant places. Sometimes, we find ourselves alone.
Rather than feel lonely, it behooves everyone to embrace occasional aloneness and learn how to handle it. Do you stay inside and binge watch TV series while chowing down leftovers still cold from the ‘frig, or do you walk yourself into the restaurant you’ve been wanting to try and say “table for one, please?” Will you take a yoga class if you have no one to do it with? Will you skip a movie rather than sit by yourself? Everyone has different comfort zone limits, but learning how to be alone successfully isn’t a bad idea for any of us.
“The ability to enjoy your own company is a great skill to have,” said Kathleen McCoy, psychotherapist and author of “Making Peace With Your Adult Children.” Too many people rely on their kids or friends for entertainment — even to go shopping, she said. “They end up not doing anything and become hermits.” It’s perfectly fine to practice doing some social things by yourself, she said. When the Huffington Post caught up with her, she had just returned from seeing a movie alone. Her husband didn’t want to see it, so she went by herself.
8. Been dazzled by a masterpiece.
Let’s just dispose of the Mona Lisa right here and now, shall we? As anyone who has ever seen the painting of the mysterious smile will tell you, it’s way smaller than you imagined and that alone leaves a lot of people feeling disappointed. Personally, we will never forget being at Stonehenge mystified and feeling the undeniable presence of something greater than man. We feel that way at each sunrise too.
9. Made a difference.
The good news? You still have time.
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