I turn 55 this week.
I'd never considered the possibility of the palindrome or, if I had, I attached the word "Freedom" before the numbers. When I was 55, I'd be grey-haired and sitting on a dock with my handsome husband in his khaki Dockers and boat shoes. We'd be retired and there'd be adorable grandchildren to visit when we returned from our latest adventure, which would involve hiking or visiting an exotic country or doing something else hearty and not at all typical of senior citizens.
I have a handsome husband, although, thank the lord, he doesn't wear baggy khakis. My hair is not grey, but the red has gradually faded to blond. We don't have a dock or grandchildren. The heartiest thing I do is walk the dog, who is not the well-behaved golden retriever I imagined. My husband and I both work and likely will for a few more years.
Here's what I've learned in 55 years.
- You will never remember the $5,000 you saved, tucked into RRSPS or used to buy new triple-pane windows. You will never forget the trip you took instead.
- Life is often hard and sometimes unfair. Your character is determined by what you do about it.
- The first time someone calls you "ma'am" is the hardest.
- You can choose to be insulted when the teenager at the movie theatre automatically gives you a seniors' ticket or you can be delighted you saved a couple of bucks.
- No one wants to listen to you complain about what hurts. Start now and you'll be alone at 80.
- Spanx are good.
- But gravity wins.
- Sometimes, it's OK to eat fries.
- Don't buy anything you can't pay for. Debt can make your tummy hurt. If it doesn't, you're not taking it seriously enough.
- Your mother was right: Wear sunscreen. And a hat.
- Try not to glance at yourself in a mirror unexpectedly after 50. The shock might kill you.
- Hang on to your friends. It's lovely having someone who remembers me when I was 18 and who shared the adventures.
- If you want to experience pure, unconditional love, have a baby.
- Ditto if you want to experience colic and broken curfews.
- Be kind. Regret is usually for saps, but you will regret your unkindness.
- Very few of the "life-changing" decisions I made actually changed my life. They just led me down different paths.
- Apologizing is good. Meaning it is better.
- Decide what you really want and how to get it. Don't talk about luck.
- As my mother says, "You don't know how young you really are." Pictures taken a decade ago prove it.
- Red wine isn't the answer to anything. Unless the question is: "What can I do to give myself a fat headache and regrets?"
- If you have siblings, stay close. They can back up your childhood memories.
- When you pick a partner, always go for the one whose eyes light up when you enter the room, not the smooth talker.
- If you wouldn't want your grandmother to see the photo, don't let someone take it.
- Get excited. Get excited about the colour of the sky and the neighbour's baby and the book you're reading. People like enthusiasm.
- Laugh. I like that my wrinkles come from grinning and that I smile like a hinge-jawed Muppet when I'm really happy.
- Be thankful. You're better off than the majority of people. Remember that when your taxes go up a little, the mosquitos are bad or you're stuck in traffic.
- No one wants to listen to you whine, especially if they've already heard you whine about something repeatedly. Trust me on this one.
- Chocolate cake is the best kind.