Half A Century – 50 Things I have learnt!

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1274731_10151896090569434_1398277147_o-1I turned twenty in my college town, Durham, in NE England—I was curious, naive, unsettled and insecure. The one thing of which I was certain was that I had a lifetime of experiencing other cultures ahead of me. We partied, as students do, on pints of IPA and cheese ‘n’ onion crisps in the underground St John’s college bar.

I turned thirty in Lome, Togo (West Africa). A somber season—I had my heart broken and my spirit crushed—A long, thorny path still lay ahead for me to become truly authentic and whole.

I turned forty in the snowbound southern Alps above my home in Nice (France)—quietly confident, I was surrounded by my likeminded nature and life-loving friends from different nations. We ate hearty mountain-fare, drank (far) too much wine, danced the salsa and spent the weekend snowshoeing beneath azure skies that only Provence can offer (yes, I am biased.)

Today, I turn fifty! Wow! Another continent, a new location (New York City), more fabulous friends and, I hope, a whole new panorama before me as an author and adventurer. I wanted to share with you just some of the things my first half century has taught me.

  1. I have not regretted following my intuition/dreams and taking risks. New adventures help me stay young. “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket.
  2. Don’t close yourself off to new encounters. Some of my closest and most kindred-spirited friends I have made in the last few years.
  3. Old friends who have stuck with you through all your trials are priceless.
  4. Hugs are healing.
  5. When you have a kind thought about someone, share it with them. This applies equally to friends and strangers.
  6. We generally get treated in life the way we treat others. Karma kicks butt!
  7. I am the life and soul of the party until 10:30PM, so deal with it!
  8. Whether you are traveling for a week, a month or a year, don’t pack more than you can carry without help. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this tip one day!
  9. Stop waiting. Life is more about the journey than the destination – learn to be present in the moment. There’s no point waiting for graduation, a partner, promotion, a birth, that book deal…. find your happiness in the now.
  10. Being a sappy romantic, who cries at just the mention of Lassie, is not wrong, it’s just different.
  11. People-watching is far more interesting than reality TV!
  12. One of the best ways I know to learn gentleness, kindness and compassion is through interaction with animals.
  13. People deserve a second chance.
  14. I am OK with not being OK all the time. Some days are simply lemon-days. Tangerine-sunsets are around the corner.
  15. Pursuing your Masters degree later in life feels damn good.
  16. The secret ingredient to many great recipes is gobs of cream, lashings of real butter or oodles of olive oil. Don’t be hating on the fat!
  17. I can do most things I set my mind to. No, really! Running marathons taught me this.
  18. Your point of view is personal to you. It is your version of the truth. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not what someone says to you. Try not to take things so personally.
  19. If I could only afford one magazine subscription for life, it would be National Geographic.
  20. Adopting an animal from a shelter may offer one of life’s greatest rewards.
  21. Learning to downhill ski in your forties is downright scary!
  22. A home has little to do with structure, bricks and mortar or the furnishings of bookshelves, armchairs, etc. It has everything to do with the spirit which fills it.
  23. A good night’s sleep is often underrated. Buy that expensive mattress!
  24. I had to learn to become less obsessed with good health. In my case concern can tip to addiction too easily.
  25. Don’t forget to play and laugh!
  26. A mentor is a great gift. Find someone whom you respect with more experience than you, who believes in you! And you’ll probably also win a friend for life.
  27. Be a mentor. Seek to empower those around you to be the best they can.
  28. Courage isn’t the absence of fear! I have at times been paralyzed by fears, but I do try and face them rather than flee them.
  29. Food is more than food, it is a plateway to getting to know others. Make the time to eat together.
  30. Loneliness is different from solitude. I have learnt to enjoy my own company.
  31. The more we express our gratitude the more we have things for which to be thankful.
  32. No culture or person has all truth. Seek out people with different beliefs and views of the world to yours and get to know their stories. Try to be open-minded—the western world view isn’t the only one.
  33. Don’t make assumptions. Never dismiss someone as having it easy when you don’t know her/his entire story. Empathy is important.
  34. You can make friends with people whom you have never met. Writing has opened me up to an amazing online community.
  35. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry” (especially to kids). I realize this is easier for some cultures than others.
  36. I have learnt to be content with very little (the contents of one rucksack) and with (relative) abundance. Many of the best things in life, like kicking back with friends, are free.
  37. We don’t need half the things we think we need. Hold everything you have loosely and give with a joyful and generous heart.
  38. Embrace change. Roll with it. Don’t resist it.
  39. Almost everyone can learn a second or third language. If you get the opportunity, do so. It opens your mind to other worlds. Language is probably the greatest innovation in the history of mankind!
  40. It’s easy to take good health for granted when we are young! So, floss!
  41. Possibly the world’s best pizzeria is Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples. I recommend the Sette Formagi – Seven Cheeses (unless you are lactose intolerant!)
  42. None of us has it all figured out. Many people are winging it a lot of the time.
  43. Learn to actively listen to people.
  44. It’s okay not to finish a book you aren’t enjoying.
  45. Everyone should spend time by the ocean at least once in her/his lifetime.
  46. Sometimes you just need a good cry (and chocolate).
  47. John Keats wrote, “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” Spending time in nature is so important for our bodies and souls.
  48. Caring for our world should be a given. We don’t want the next generation to be asking, “What is a polar bear?”
  49. I may have the best friends in the world! Good friends are one of life’s most precious gifts. Make sure yours know how much you love them.
  50. Life is short. For f**** sake do what makes you happy!

life_quote_4 Feel free to shout me down in the comments or add your own variations, and bravo for reading through all fifty! I’m off to skip through the park and feed the ducks!

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73 Responses to Half A Century – 50 Things I have learnt!

  1. CHEERS and HAPPY, HAPPY 50th, Joanna! What a splendid array of lessons learned, feelings felt, dreams followed, surprises revealed, adventures undertaken — and with so very much more to come. Wishing you only the very best as you continue on your path. I for one am so pleased to be able to share some of the journey with you! Much love, Emma

  2. Joanna says:

    Thank you so much, Emma. You and A are some of my most recent and dearest blessings!

    PS I keep forgetting it is learned in the US not learnt! 🙂

  3. Nicole says:

    Joyeux anniversaire !
    Quand on descend la pente de l’autre côté des 50 ans…. waouh ! cela va super vite !
    Je te souhaite encore 50 belles années… sans problèmes aux dents ! 😉

  4. Juliana Lee says:

    I’ll only add one more. Your fifties will be great… trust me!

  5. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
    Cheers Joanna!

  6. Well thought, well said, well lived. Happy birthday!

  7. Happy, happy birthday, Joanna! What a wonderful, thoughtful, heartfelt, resonating list! Emma, Lori-Ann and Michelle have already said it much better than I, but I am grateful to have gotten to know you, to have had the pleasure of meeting you in real life, and for this beautiful list of reminders that everyone should tape to their wall 🙂

  8. Joanna your joy for life and caring about others shows…make that shines in this post. I hope I someday have the honor of meeting you. I turned 60 just recently…and some of my life’s best moments happened from 50 on….may you have that same opportunity. I am printing out your list for reference…some of your observations like #7, 16 and 29 are vital to a happy family and my sanity. Also love your quotes by Keats Frost and Snicket. Many blessings to you!

  9. Happy Birthday Joanna. It’s a sign of great generosity that, on your own birthday, we’re the ones getting the gift. Everyone who knows you feels it’s a gift. Thanks for all of that, and have a lovely day.

  10. Genevieve says:

    Happy birthday! I remember being 50…. *sigh* I have learned a ton since then, so batten down the hatches! The things you learned so far show tons of wisdom and some are hilarious. 25 and 30 are two of my favorites.

  11. Wendy Greelney says:

    I count myself among your #34. I know that your post will put a smile on my face or make me think – both good things. Happy birthday.

  12. Darshana says:

    Happy 50th Birthday!!
    Loved your list. You have a beautiful soul which shines through in your words. 🙂

  13. Roberta Rivera says:

    Happy Birthday, Joanna Continue to live your life abundantly! May many blessing continue to come your way. 🙂 You go Girl!

  14. Happy, happy birthday, my friend! Thank you for the insights in your list of 50 learnings. May the learnings continue (as I know they will). I found 50 to be a portal to new life and new thoughts. It sounds as though you are swinging that portal wide, ready for what lies beyond. Joy to you on this special Joanna day!

  15. Happy Birthday, Joanna! I love the recap of your journey at each age milestone. You truly lived life and I love it! The lessons you’ve learned are priceless. 50 is a wonderful age and I am sure there are more great things to come. You should publish this list as a plaque or a pin on Pinterest or something. I would love to keep this as a reminder when I turn 50.

  16. Sylvia Liu says:

    Thank you, Joanna, for this wonderful list. May you have a wonderful birthday, and many many years of adventure, love, and discovery. So glad we have connected through cyberspace.

  17. Rosanne says:

    An inspiring list that we can all learn from. What an adventurous and exciting life you’ve led. Thanks for sharing your insights and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  18. Great list

    I count myself as one of those lucky on-line friends. So glad we connected through this awesome KIdLit community. Happy Birthday!

  19. Sarah Laurenson says:

    Happy Birthday! What a great list. Loved them all. Okay maybe not the thought of learning to ski at this point in my life. 😉

  20. Oh what a beautiful, endearing and heartfelt post. Susanna has said it all, I can not improve on what she said. Only that I agree with all your learnings, and am so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet you. You are the sweetest friend, and I hope someday we meet again. SOON! 🙂
    I know there will be many more wonderful adventures ahead for you. Happy Birthday my dear friend.

  21. Lorin O. says:

    Beautiful and inspiring post, Joanna! Happiest of birthdays to you! Big hugs, and cheers!

  22. Happiest Birthday my friend! What a fantastic list! I wish you all great things for the next 50! xoxo

  23. Hurrah for you, Joanna – for never being too wise to learn new lessons and for following your most excellent drummer. Heartfelt wishes for the BEST birthday!

  24. Those are wonderful sets of lessons learned. Happy 50th, Joanna! I hope that when I turn 50 in a couple of months, I will pass through this milestone with as much grace as you. Big hugs!

  25. Thanks for sharing these, Joanna! I can resonate with 26-28 in particular. Hope you are having a splendid day.

  26. Great advice! I will keep them in mind (especially to learn downhill skiing in my fifties! 😉 )! 😀 Happy Birthday! 😀

  27. jan streiff says:

    brava, joanna. happy bday, to a kindred spirit. these truths will be just as relevant at 70 as they are at 50. believe me.

  28. Darshana said what I feel, that you shine through your words. Never heard your voice but when I imagine, it’s so real. I don’t hope to meet you, I know I will! Thanks for this post. Sure wish I could remember my birthdays better. I suppose that’s a good reason to always celebrate fiercely! So much love!

    • Joanna says:

      I don’t remember the in between birthdays well at all! Be prepared for when we meet, people are surprised by my accent!

  29. Lauri Meyers says:

    Happy birthday Joanna! What a great list, and a life well lived.

  30. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday dear friend. Your life has been fascinating with much wisdom to share. Enjoyed your list and like #9. It will be interesting to see what you will be doint and what continent you choose as your new home in your 6th decade.

  31. Yvonne Mes says:

    What a great way to reflect on the things you have learned on the road to becoming 50! Looking forward to reading your 100th birthday post!

  32. Amber says:

    Perfectly put, as always, Miss Marple. I cannot tell you how timely this list is for me. I’m so thankful for you and your trip-trop to this Brooklyn-dream. Have a marvelous time celebrating!

  33. Krista says:

    Beautiful post, Joanna. Happy Birthday!

  34. So many of these lessons speak to me! Especially number 14 and those tangerine sunsets. Wishing you a happy year,Joanna! 🙂

  35. Joanna Marple says:

    It makes me smile that you relate to this one, Coleen! 🙂

  36. Wonderful and altogether inspiring Joanna! I truly admire your courage (because it does take quite a bit of it to be strong and vulnerable at the same time). One day I hope to see a memoir you’ve written so your bits of wisdom can be passed on. Actually, this post makes for a nice little book already!

    I have yet to trek down to the city and meet you in person but if it never happens, I’m still blessed for having known you virtually! Have a magical year ahead, Joanna!

    • Joanna says:

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I am certain we shall yet meet in real life and I look forward to that very much, Monette!

  37. Rhythm says:

    Well, a HAPPY, HAPPY Day to you Ms Marple!!! And many more to come! Keep the tail wagging!!

  38. Pingback: Miss Marple’s Musings’ Favorite Posts of 2014 | Miss Marple's Musings

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