I have a habit of randomly entering bizarre questions into Google to see what results appear. I have Googled questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” and “When will the world end?” just to see if the internet can provide any fresh insights. Many of my friends are turning 50, and I am not far behind them. This proximity to the milestone birthday caused me to Google, “What should you do before you turn 50?” The results were less than satisfying. Jumping out of an airplane, traveling around the world, and learning to speak a foreign language were some of the items that made the lists. I’m not intrinsically opposed to those activities, but I don’t think they are accessible to all people. Can you imagine how many people would be dropping from the sky if everyone had to go skydiving at least once before they turned 50?
What are regular people who don’t have endless amounts of time and money supposed to do before they turn 50? Traveling around the world is nice if you can do it, but not everyone is going to have the airfare to Singapore. Keeping this in mind, I developed my own list of the top 10 things everyone should try to do before they turn 50.
- Learn to bake a cake – Learn how to make a cake from scratch, and then learn how to make a simple buttercream frosting for your cake. Anyone can learn how to make a good cake at home. The ingredients are cheap, and YouTube is full of videos that can take you through the process. Once you know how to make and frost a cake, you will never be dependent upon anyone to provide you with a birthday cake. You will also be able to make a cake for your friends, and everyone needs the kind of friend that will bring them cake.
- Forgive and let go of bad things that happened to you – If you are approaching 50, you’ve had some bad stuff happen to you. How do I know? Because it happens to everyone. Forgive. Let it go. A few years ago, I was watching my German Shepherd, Forte, play in the yard. He started rolling in the grass and jumping around more than usual. Forte had disturbed a nest of ground hornets, and the stinging insects were working their way into his fur. I grabbed the garden hose to wet him down and deter the hornets, but that just caused the hornets to leave Forte and take off after me. The hornets chased us inside the house, but not before one made its way down my shirt and stung me too. Forte was traumatized and wouldn’t come out from under the dining room table. The next day, after the hornets had been eradicated, he approached the spot in the yard where the nest had been. Forte proceeded to urinate on the hole. Our other dog Carmen in a show of solidarity came behind and urinated on the hole. The two dogs then proceeded to play in the yard as they always have. Sometimes you just must piss on the bad stuff that happened to you and move on with your life.
- Get rid of 1/3 of your stuff – This may sound extreme, but I did it. You don’t have to do it all at once but get your “stuff” under control. Having free space in your house is liberating because while you are getting rid of stuff you are also getting rid of the emotional baggage that goes with it. Nobody in your family wants all that stuff you are hoarding.
- Read books other people pick for you – If you only read books that you select, you will get into a reading rut. I’m a member of a book club. The ladies are a wonderfully supportive group that provide friendship along with book suggestions. Some of the best books I have read are books that other people suggested to me. One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “What is the best book you have ever read?” Then I go and read that book.
- Examine your religious beliefs and world view – Every world view should answer the questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die? I’m a Christian and hold a Christian world view. I am a follower of Christ not because that is what my parents believed but because it is what I examined as an adult and decided that I believe too. I am astounded at how many people never stop to ponder life’s larger questions and decide for themselves what they believe.
- Get a physical – You must accept the fact that if people love you, your body really isn’t your own. Get a physical. Try to stay healthy and do what you can to prevent sickness and injury.
- Make a plan for your hair – If you are approaching 50, your hair is either falling out or turning gray or both. Are you going to color your hair? Men, are you going to shave it off before you lose it? Are you going to wear a wig? Use the spray on hair that was popular in the 80s? Wear a hat? Embrace the natural look? The options are endless but plan now because it looks weird when your hair is gray one day and jet black the next. (If my hair stylist is reading this now, I love you very much!)
- Learn new music – I’m a member of Generation X, and one of the well know features of Generation X is that we believe our music is better than all other music. I agree that this is true, which is why for a very long time I stopped listening to new music and only listened to music from the 80s. (If you do not think the 80s had the best music, then I have one word for you: Prince.) Thanks to all the streaming music services you can narrowly tailor your listening experience. I thought all new music was crap. However, I began to rethink my position when “my music” started appearing on the Oldies Music station that I remember loathing as a teenager. How did “my music” get moved into the oldies category? I have made a conscious effort to listen to new music from new artists. I don’t like it all, but I like quite a bit of it. I’m excited to be going to concerts again and talking to people about music again.
- Volunteer – Find something that you care deeply about and volunteer your time on a regular basis. You will build a sense of community with other people and live out your values. Writing a check for a cause is not the same thing as volunteering your time and working shoulder to shoulder with other people. Deliver meals to seniors. Walk dogs in the shelter. Clean up trash in a park. Read with a child. The opportunities are endless.
- Build a tribe – People all over the world are dying from loneliness. Humans are not designed to live our lives alone. You need a group of people around you to share joys, share problems, and share grief. For some people, their tribe is their biological family. However, you don’t have to be bound to your biology, and you don’t have to be without a tribe just because your parents weren’t prolific procreators. Invest time in your friendships and relationships. Send a funny text. Meet for the cup of coffee. Make the check in phone call. Be the kind of friend you want to have, and I guarantee your tribe will start to form around you. Everyone needs friends that make them laugh so hard that they shoot coffee out their nose.
What would you add to the list? I turn 49 next month, so I have one year left. I intend to make the next year count.