Let’s stick to twelve! A satirical look at purpose, growing older,
I love birthdays.
Not the growing older part, but the blowing out of candles.
Do you have any idea about the amount of heat generated by sixty candles? Our granddaughter took a step back the other day, hollering at the top of her little voice, “Oupa, there’s a fire!” By the time I managed to blow out the last candle, the icing on the cake was partially liquefied—it had turned into running lava, the colors of the rainbow.
I share the sympathies of Woody Allen when he turned sixty, a while ago: “Practically a third of my life is over.”
Many cynics will quip, “60 things to do before you die.” I say, “No, the first third was but a warm-up. The best is yet to come!”
If you’re thirty, still do it. And, if you’re heading for forty or fifty—hurry, hurry, hurry! Can you hear the sand pouring down the neck of the hourglass?
This is no bucket list—it’s a to-do list, irrespective of your age.
Twelve things to do before you turn sixty.
- Master the art of STORYTELLING. Storytelling changes lives. Here’s the thing—everybody has a story. Can storytelling even be taught? Much of it is art, but lots of it can be learned. Francine Prose opines it is a gift that can hardly be taught. Others, like Jeff Goins, teaches you’re not born an artist, but becomes one, following an apprenticeship and learning from the masters.
- Build your LEGACY. (Doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 65.) What is your legacy? Don’t confuse possessions, prestige, and status with legacy. Congratulations if you made your first million before thirty. What do people say when they talk about you? Wow, did you see their mansion, their cars? Or, did you see how he treats the CEO, the waitress, and the homeless man with equal amounts of respect and dignity? Those who can’t advance his career. He cares.
- Write your BOOK. Don’t wait until you have to blow out sixty candles! Write the best book possible and publish it. Dust your manuscript and get it to the beta-readers. Have it copyedited and get it published. You can pitch literary agents, and follow the traditional publishing route, or, you can indie (self-) publish. A quality cover matters.
- Get FIT—get in shape. Forget about age. Nothing to do with being an athlete. Take care of yourself. You’ve only got the one body. Your body is a temple—look after it. Don’t be fooled by Botox and nipping and tucking. Build muscle. Yes, you can still build muscle at age ninety-three! Walking is mightily fine, but it is crucial to do resistance exercises. Women included. Learn about body-weight exercises. You won’t look like Arnie when he won Mr. Olympus. Lifelong fitness is for ordinary people, like you and me.
- Invest in EXPERIENCES—not in accruing stuff. Travel—local & internationally. Not heedlessly to get another “fix” but to experience places and cultures and peoples, immersing in its richness and color and vibrancy. Learn. Be humble. Minimalize. Become less tied down by grandiose possessions. You will experience a new-found freedom. Go places—you have much to learn and much to give.
- Master your RELATIONSHIPS. (Yes, it’s okay if you make this # 1.) Build healthy bonds with people. (Virtual and online friends are important, but we’re talking about the in-person ones.) Learn compassion. Learn to forgive. Learn to listen. Be present. No, you’re not always right. Make peace with people—family, friends and colleagues. Also with the assholes who harmed you. Life is short.
- Learn a second LANGUAGE. And if you are bilingual, tackle number three. Another tongue opens minds’ eyes. It unlocks cultures and worlds—similar to reading. It’s mental aerobics and yoga.
- Learn to read at least ONE book a month. Why? Books are intimate friends, close companions. Books unlock secret worlds, open vistas. Read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoirs. Read History. Books broaden your horizon, enrich your life. Books will make you write stronger prose.
- Take up DANCING. Preferably ballroom or Latin dancing—the more complex the steps, the better. Learn a new dance every week. It’s good for your cerebellum—the bottom part at the back of your brain involved in balance and coordination. It’s push-ups for your brain and builds it through neuroplasticity.
- Master a NEW SKILL. Learn a new fact every day. Master a new skill every month. An uncommon one even. Outlandish. For example, learn how to land paddle. What’s that? Google it. Challenge yourself. Stop being a wimp. Or, learn to drive a manual/shift transmission car. Combine a shift stick with driving on the other side of the road!
- Volunteering has the potential to exploit the kindheartedness of people, but it can also teach you valuable lessons in compassion. Accept challenging opportunities—drop in once a month at the local soup kitchen or Salvation Army shelter. See how people live when life deals them a bad hand. Help build houses with Habitat for Humanity. It will teach you humility. And hopefully, gratitude.
- Clarify the WHY in your life. What drives you? What is the purpose of your life? It is sad if you reach sixty and wonder, “What have I been doing with my life?” I have all this stuff but it’s hollow inside.” If you can clarify this sooner, so much the better!
I still love birthdays . . . But I hate icing.
It’s about mastering new skills and enriching and touching other people’s lives and your own. It’s about filling it with experiences and people, focusing on meaningful relationships. It’s about giving, granting grace and forgiveness, rather than accruing possessions, and positions.
You will experience greater joy and satisfaction—and, find a deeper purpose.
Call to Action:
Pick THREE items from the list of twelve. Do them. Surprise yourself. Then the next three.
Stop bluffing yourself. It’s not about stuff—it’s about people. What is your legacy?
A longer version of this article has also appeared on Medium.
You can also find a FREE copy of my short story, Young Maxime here. (It is the prequel to my novel, Maxime.)
- Francine Prose—Reading Like a Writer.
- Jeff Goins—Real Artists Don’t Starve.
- Caroline DePalatis. Maybe the Mess is Really a Dance After All. Learning while traveling in another country.
- Nicole Akers from We Talk Healthy. How I answered the call to give up “stuff” and gained freedom in the process.
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