Take the Stairs: A Letter from my 80-year-old Self
For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s more than a book, it’s a guide to creativity. And it’s not just for artists, but writers, actors, entrepreneurs….anyone really. Each week, you read a chapter and complete a series of exercises as you work through the process of more fully revealing your creative self. One of the exercises was to imagine what you might be like at age 80, and then write yourself a letter from your 80 year old perspective. This is mine. I hope you feel inspired to imagine what wisdom your 80 year old self might impart.
My dear, darling, glorious, beautiful child,
I say child because you are a child. The child version of me.
You might be thinking “I’m no child. I’m 34 years old. That’s old enough to have applied for a passport, graduated from college, traveled to Europe, bought a condo and a house, gotten married, gotten jobs, gotten fired from jobs, contributed to a 401k, filed taxes, started a Blog. Made friends, lost friends. Watched people that I used to babysit for have kids of their own.”
That may be so, but none the less, still a child you are. When you get to be my age everyone is a child. Except for the 90 year olds. And you’re still a child to them.
This is what I want for you as you go through the rest of your life: Stop wasting energy on things that do no matter. Seriously.
One day, you’ll wonder why you wasted so much time caring about so many things that did not matter at all. Stop that. Care only about things that matter most.
Stand by your principles, but kick them to the curb if they cause you to hurt or alienate another person.
Take the stairs every chance you get. When you get to be my age, taking the stairs is a privilege but you have to earn it by taking the stairs a lot throughout your life.
Only wear clothes that you love. You might die in what you’re wearing so you should want it to be fabulous.
Only eat food that you love. That sad sad limp lettuce and mealy tomato with a little ball of tuna salad covered in plastic wrap? Throw that stuff at the wall. Eat macaroons. And pie crust. Drink beautiful green juice and sometimes wine.
Be only with people you love. Love everyone you’re with, always.
Make every person you’re with feel like they’re the only person in the world that matters in that moment.
Smile at people who frown at you.
Don’t get mad when your husband spills an entire drink in the console of your car. You won’t remember that one day.
Don’t get mad when he doesn’t load the dishwasher right or doesn’t unload it in a prompt manner.
Don’t get mad when the meal you spent hours preparing and thought was going to be wonderful turns out to be gross. Life is all about practicing and cooking is one of those things you get to practice over and over.
Try to spend time with people who aren’t going to live as long as you. One day you will miss having people around who have known you since before you were born.
Make friends of all ages so there will be lots of young people around you when you’re old. Don’t limit your friendships to people you have everything in common with or who are the same age as you. Diversify your portfolio.
Travel as much as you can. See as many things and places as you can. And then come home and love every minute of that too.
Nobody cares how big your house is. Nobody cares what kind of car you drive. Correction, there are people who care about these things. Don’t waste your precious limited time on them. Bless their hearts.
Love what you love and surround yourselves with things that bring you real Joy. Figure out what those things are. Figure out what real Joy is.
Don’t limit yourself to just one dog. It will die and break your heart and you’ll need another one to come into your life. And when that one dies (because it will), get another one. And then another one. And then another one. And know that all your furry friends will be waiting for you one day and they’ll have had time to get to know each other so that when you finally arrive it’ll be like one big party.
Value your time, your abilities and what you bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to say this doesn’t work for me. Don’t be afraid to say I want more of this.
Know your limitations and push yourself beyond them.
Learn what helps you when you’re feeling sad and make sure to keep some of that on hand.
When you’re feeling happy (I mean really happy), stop in the moment and say to yourself “Let’s remember this feeling. This feeling of being completely and utterly happy.”
Don’t look at people you don’t understand with a look of disdain or judgement. Don’t have disdain or judgment for people you don’t understand.
Believe that in the end, everything will work out. It will.
Gaze at your unwrinkled face in the mirror, and know that it is neither something you earned nor something you get to keep.
Don’t roll your eyes when there’s a slow walking older person in front of you somewhere. One day that will be you and it’s no fun when some young person is behind you huffing and rolling his eyes.
Promise me that for the rest of your life, not another bite of that fake butter/margarine crap will ever touch your lips. Same for the fake sugar substitutes. Never again.
Floss a lot more than you do now.
Do more yoga.
Drink more water.
Don’t get upset when you scratch your glasses, or mess up your perfect manicure. These little things, while annoying, will never make it into our memoir.
Know that the most difficult people are usually the ones who feel the most misunderstood. This is not an excuse for their bad behavior, but it’s a good reminder that the way they act isn’t who they are. On the flip side, don’t feel pressure to spend time with difficult people. You don’t owe them anything.
In the beginning, you think life is going to be so long. And with each passing year, the weeks seem to fly faster and faster. In the end, even if you live to be 100 or older, it’s all just a few mere seconds my dear.
You’ll have moments when you feel like you’ve finally figured it all out. Don’t get too comfortable in these moments, as they are usually followed by days, or even weeks (and sometimes years) of feeling like everything is topsy turvy.
Take each day as it comes, with the new challenges and joys that it presents. Keep on loving. Yourself. Your people. Your community. That’s why you were put here. The rest is just extra.