10 life lessons we learn too late

For this column, I am borrowing boldly from an online article I just read on my currently favorite web link, www.nextavenue.org. Their tagline is, “Where grown-ups keep growing.”

They wrote an article about 10 things you already know but may not think about enough. These are life lessons. No worries, there will not be a quiz. But reading and reflecting on what follows may prompt better aging, and even better living. A few of these lessons may seem a little harsh, but importantly so.

1. Time passes much more quickly than you realize.

2. If you don’t take of your body early, then it won’t take care of you later. Your world becomes smaller each day as you lose mobility, continence and sight.

3. Sex and beauty may fade, but intimacy and friendship only grow.

4. People are far more important than any other thing in your life. No hobby, interest, book, work is going to be as important to you as the people you spend time with as you get older.

5. Money talks. It says, "Goodbye." If you don’t plan your finances for later in life, you’ll wish you had.

6. Any seeds you planted in the past, whether good or bad, will begin to bear fruit and affect your life as you get older — for better or worse.

7. Jealousy is a wasted emotion. People you hate are going to succeed. People you like are sometimes going to do better than you did. Kids are going to be smarter and quicker than you are. Accept it with grace.

8. The big house you had to have becomes a bigger and bigger burden even as the mortgage gets smaller. The cleaning, the maintenance, the stairs — all of it. Don’t let your possessions own you.

9. You will badly regret the things you didn’t do far more than the things you did that were "wrong" — the girl you didn’t kiss , the trip you didn’t take, the project you kept putting off, the time you could have helped someone. If you get the chance, do it. You may never have the chance again.

10. Every day you wake up is a victory.

The life-lesson on this list I resonated with the most was No. 9. It speaks to the sometimes dormant sense of outside-the-box purpose or the need for adventure in all of us. It reasons that even in a later stage of your life, you can become what you want to be — or more of who you really are.

I am wondering whether — in this time of the year and in this kind of political climate — we all need to look at ourselves closely and do the things that matter most.

My children used to blanch when I said, “Be your best self,” and now I hear them saying that to their children. If we all worked at being our “best selves,” it would be a collective victory for the community.

— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.

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