Here’s a list of 15 things to do before you turn 50
Unlike most of my friends who like to celebrate milestone birthdays with the mother of all parties (here’s looking at you Sam!) I tend to treat them a little differently. I tiptoe around them gingerly, backing off ever so slightly as they approach, and ignore them completely when they arrive, in the hope that everyone else will do the same (nope, never works!).
But there’s nothing like a big birthday to make you aware of the inexorable passage of time, and how it is time to start working seriously on that Bucket List.
So here’s my slightly-different version this Sunday: 15 things to do before you turn 50. You can accomplish them in any order you like.
1) Vocalize your feelings; don’t keep them dammed up for fear of giving offense. If you hate something, say so. If you are annoyed, explain why. If you are angry, don’t stick a smile on and pretend all is well. (And if you are happy, make sure everyone knows it.)
2) Acquire a new skill. Take piano lessons. Sign up for French language lessons. Learn to salsa or scuba dive. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as it is completely new.
3) Spend some alone time. Take a few days (or weeks) off and go on a solitary vacation. It will give you time to think, to clear your head, to decompress, and to prove to yourself that, actually, you are quite good company.
4) Do something that scares the bejesus out of you. Go paragliding. Try deep-sea diving. Or if you really want to get into the spirit of things, take a parachute jump out of a plane. There’s nothing like flirting with danger to make you feel truly alive.
5) Do one thing – well, at least, one thing – that changes someone else’s life for the better. Pay for the education of your domestic staff’s children; make sure the girls get the same chances as the boys. Contribute towards a night shelter that takes in the city’s homeless. Or, when winter sets in, just set out with a car full of blankets and distribute them to those living rough.
6) Take charge of your health. It doesn’t matter if you have never exercised in your life. Or if deep-fried is your favourite food group. Start making incremental changes to live healthy. Give up parathas for rotis. Ditch the butter for olive oil. Start walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift. Indulge in a little gentle yoga. And accelerate from there on. If you wait any longer, it may well be too late.
7) Look up an old school friend with whom you lost touch with over the decades. Catch up on her life, tell her about yours, see if things turned out the way you thought they would. Bring alive the memories of the days when you thought anything was possible.
8) Make new friends. I know it sounds hard. And you probably think you have all the friends you could possibly need. But infusion of new blood in your social circle can only do you good. So reach out to the colleague you’ve never paid attention to, the neighbour with whom you have only a nodding acquaintance, the solitary walker you see in the park every day. The connections you spark may end up breathing fresh blood into your life.
9) Learn to say no. Life is too short, and it is getting shorter every minute. So, don’t waste a minute of it doing something you don’t want to just because you feel pressured by friends and family. Never mind whom you end up offending; just say no.
10) Spend time with your kids, while they still want to spend time with you. Soon they will get busy with work, and acquire families of their own. And then you’ll be lucky if you see them once a year.
11) Cultivate your inner resources. It is a given that the older you get, the more the social isolation. Children will move away. Friends will pass on. And then you will be left to cope with your own solitude. So, make sure that you learn the art of enjoying living with yourself. Instead of constantly craving company learn to live with your books, your music, your inner thoughts. It is a skill that will come in useful in the twilight of your life.
12) That rock star you have worshipped all your life? Make sure you attend at least one of his/her concerts, no matter how far you have to travel. The experience will stay with you forever and keep you entertained for years to come.
13) Reconnect with your inner child. Re-read all those Enid Blytons that kept you entertained through the school holidays. Giggle endlessly while watching Tom and Jerry DVDs. Ditch jogging for skipping. Lunch on an ice-cream cone. Eat popcorn for dinner.
14) Take a hike. Yes, I mean that quite literally. Go on holidays that are physically challenging in one way or the other, while you still can. Climb up to Machu Picchu. Go skiing in Gulmarg. Try trekking in Ladakh.
15) And most important of all, take stock of your life. Take a good, hard look at all that you have accomplished; and all that you have failed to do. And then, start the journey of your life afresh.