Ana Veciana-Suarez

11 things I’ve learned in 60 years of living

"Are you feeling any older?" The Hubby asks me on my big, watershed birthday.

"Not really."

"Any wiser?"

I pause. Now that I’ve entered another decade of life — one which ushers in retirement, Medicare and the so-called golden years — I think some soul-searching might be required. Surely the trials and triumphs of existence have shaped me. Surely living this long has taught me something. But what, exactly?

By the time we hit the big six-oh, most of us have made peace — or at least called a truce — with whomever we’ve turned out to be. We’ve carved out a place for ourselves, an identity that feels as comfortable as well-worn slippers. And we’ve accepted, for better or worse, the ordinariness of our lives. After all, few of us have the charisma to fill a stadium or the talent to win a Nobel or an Oscar.

Yet, there is a certain charm in the common and the small. The small gestures. The small moments. The common rituals. The perspective of time has helped me recognize that what has brought me the most happiness and satisfaction invariably boils down to two very conventional things: my writing and my family. Both have also taught me invaluable lessons.

I’ve learned — am learning still, actually— that I can’t control everything, and this applies in particular to my grown children. They are their own people. I must allow them to make mistakes and (hopefully) recognize the moral in those missteps.

I’ve learned that you must balance work with play and that sometimes the two converge, happily. Pounding away at the keyboard has never been an occupational slog for me, but I also understand that my best work draws from the messy business of living.

I’ve learned that, for me at least, having money is less about showing it off with objects and more about providing me the material security I didn’t have in childhood. Truly there are few things I want, and those that I do, I can buy.

I’ve learned that I must be kinder to myself and others. Forgiveness is one of the best gifts we can offer ourselves. It frees us from the burden of resentment and anger.

I’ve learned that to take a leap you can’t wait for the perfect moment because ideal conditions rarely come together when, where and how you want them.

I’ve learned that life isn’t fair. Some people will always have more or better, but I have a choice to let myself be consumed with jealousy or shuck it off and focus on my own blessings.

I’ve learned to trust my gut. No matter how unscientific the idea of intuition sounds, I’ve discovered time and again that there’s usually a reason why something doesn’t feel right.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to put up with toxic people. The narcissist. The bully. The snob. And if forced into the same room with one of them, I can always tune into my internal playlist of happy songs and stare blankly into the distance.

I’ve learned that good health should never be taken for granted. A handful of medical scares have helped me appreciate the immeasurable value of physical well-being.

I’ve learned that past performance doesn’t always predict the future. It’s never too late to become better, to learn new skills, to change careers and widen an established circle of friends.

I’ve learned that life is forever improved by chocolate and coffee.