50 Thoughts: 15 Things you Should Do Before You Turn 50

Originally published September 7, 2018

First things first — I tempted fate with last night’s post and still woke up this morning. Not even death would keep me from the date with destiny that was speaking to strangers this morning.

I persevered, people. No, really — nerves probably kept me from offering up a flawless performance, but my coworker and I made our points quickly and efficiently. I avoided having to pronounce “anonymous.” I even cracked a joke about not being able to operate the mic. The irony of being utterly incapable of operating tech at a tech company.

So, news update aside, I’ve spent some time thinking about all the things people should do before they turn 50. I’ve knocked a few off this list, but remain woefully inadequate in some areas. I suppose it’s always good to have room to grow, right? This is what I am thinking:

  1. Establish a solid repertoire of recipes you can pull off without a cookbook. Be patient, though, for the appreciation. Your kids won’t be impressed by your efforts until they hit their 20s and are trying to think of something besides spaghetti to make for dinner.
  2. Attend a political rally. I knocked this one off early when my dad took me to a John Anderson event way back in 1980. I was also able to cover one of the President Bush / Governor Clinton / Ross Perot debates in 1992. That was absolutely fascinating.
  3. If you a are parent, volunteer for one of your kid’s sports. Getting your hands dirty by volunteering, either as a team parent, a coach, a ref or in fundraising is a great way to spend some time with said child, and offers the benefit of perspective for when the eventuality of complaining about volunteer-run clubs arises. When you invest in the blood, sweat and tears that keep these programs running, your appreciation for what others do for your child runs deeper.
  4. If you are not a parent, you can still mentor a kid. Check out Junior Achievement or Big Brothers/Big Sisters. These kids need you. And you’re going to need someone to come visit you in the nursing home.
  5. Visit a foreign country. Again, perspective. And while technically, a visit to Toronto means I can cross this off my list, I feel like I am cheating. One of my biggest regrets by far is not having a passport with a stamp in it. (The day is coming, I’m sure, just not yet.) Not because I want to be spoiled by international travel, but because I think our eyes are so much wider and perspective quite literally so much more global with what you absorb when visiting different cultures.
  6. Take a class after high school or college. Learning doesn’t stop when someone hands you a degree.
  7. Run, swim or bike at least 1,000 miles. This is NOT hard to do. Just walking your dog one mile a day for four years will get you to that goal. Just stay active.
  8. Wear something on a dare. I love sparkly stuff, but never wear it. Because, attention. I bit the bullet a couple of years ago and picked up a pair of sparkle-covered Steve Madden tennies that I’ve labeled my concert shoes. And they’re fantastic.
  9. Speaking of concerts, try to go to some that aren’t typically your cup of tea. I’m lucky to be married to someone who really, really digs music, and have been rewarded with symphony orchestras, jazz trumpets, alt rock, oldies, 80s hits, folk, blues, megastars, zydeco and more. The people watching is always amazing, the music is always top notch and it’s another opportunity to expand your horizons.
  10. Do your own taxes. Again, not one I can say I’ve technically achieved, but I do team up with my husband to go over them. It’s a “What if you were hit by a bus?” kind of thing for me.
  11. If your parents are still around, make sure you have a solid grasp on their critical financial arrangements. We’re headed into that sandwich time, where we are still ushering our kids into young adulthood but we also face the prospect of having to start to make decisions for our parents.
  12. Visit one of the Seven Wonders. Just do it.
  13. Learn how to change a tire. This, actually, is something you should learn before you have a driver’s license, but I’d like to think I’m not the only one that is likely to completely freak out on the side of a highway when the day comes. I often joke about how we should all marry either a pediatrician, appliance repair person or a car mechanic. But I’m only half-joking.
  14. Appoint a fashion wingman. The day is coming when you’ll start wandering into the “contemporary” apparel section at the store, or begin to admire flowing caftans at craft fairs. My daughter has been under strict instructions for more than a year now, if she sees any of this happening, she’s to grab me by the shoulders and pull me away.
  15. Last but not least, pick a year where you promise to read a book a week. It’s an accomplishment you can crow about, you’ll be certain to read some great stuff and your world will be richer for it.

Today’s recommendation: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J.Jacobs. What a fun read when it comes to tackling a challenge — in his case, trying a wide variety of health and exercise advice. It’s all about goal setting!

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