This was taken well before I had the wisdom I have now.
9/23/2020: Today I am 50 years old. You know what they call women who have entered elderhood? Crones! You know what Crones do? They impart wisdom! Take a seat, kiddies. Today I have 50 bits of wisdom for you. It’s my birthday but you get the prezzies!
1. There’s a big difference between being childlike and childish. Embrace the former. The latter? Grow up already!
2. Seriously though, knowing your inner child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you along. When are you most in your creative flow? What makes you throw a fit? Personally, I think I’m at my creative best when my inner 10- to 12-year-old is in charge. (Let’s not talk about my inner 3-year-old takes over.)
3. Get comfortable with chores because you’ll be doing dishes and laundry until the end of (your) time. (I suggest investing in a decent vacuum. I have a Miele.)
4. The best part about being an artist is seeing the potential in everything and everyone. It’s also the worst part.
5. Question authority, rules, and traditions. We’re all just winging it and no one knows everything.
6. That being said, some processes are tried and true. No need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes putting your own flair on systems that are already in place is the way to go.
7. Be aware of the messages your inner critic is automatically feeding you. Ask that jerk to be kinder and more constructive!
8. Speaking of jerks, don’t be one and don’t defend any. And certainly don’t vote for any.
9. Some fonts are forever spoiled and should be avoided. These include Comic Sans, Papyrus, and Bradley Hand ITC (aka the “Live Laugh Love” font).
10. Boundaries are the best. The sooner you learn how to set and hold them, the better!
11. “Spa days” are not for everyone. The best “self care” I’ve found has been identifying abusive people in my life and putting them on a permanent “dead to me” list. No contact, no excuses, no power over me. Three strikes, you’re out. (Seriously, a game changer.)
12. Aim for progress over perfection. Welcome failure. It will teach you the best lessons.
13. If you’re a natural giver (raises hand), be aware that takers love to take from you. Question everyone’s motives. What do they really want from you? And are you willing to give it?
14. Stop trying to do everything yourself (is something I hear myself say a lot). Ask for help when you need it.
And… this is the part where I asked some of my badass cronies (most are 50+) to assist with this list!
15. Rosie: “Stop coloring your hair. Let all that silver wisdom shine through! My hair has never been healthier, and I’ve always wanted to be a platinum blonde!”
15 1/2. Speaking of hair, if you have the urge to do something extreme, do it. Hair is pretty forgiving.
16. Jenny: “Never be afraid to negotiate. It can be done positively, respectfully, and productively for both sides.”
17: Jessica: “I decided when I turned fifty that I shouldn’t have to wait to be ‘older’ in order to say inappropriate things so my motto has been, in response to that is ‘Fuck filters! I’m fifty!’ Or simply ‘Fuck it! I’m fifty!'”
17 1/2. On that note, when asked what advice she’d give to her younger self, Helen Mirren said, “Say ‘Fuck off’ more and stop being so ‘bloody polite.'”
18. Veek: “Identifying as a woman means being socialized to make nice and serve others, at the cost of self development, creativity, and self care. Do the opposite, and enjoy your power and contentment. Let the world benefit from your best passion and brilliance. Ignore others who say you’re being unfeminine – historically that hasn’t helped most women lead full, autonomous lives.”
19. Sadira: “When asking for advice, seek out those who have been through what you’re going through – the wounded healers.”
20. Leslie: “Love your body. Thank it for getting you through the past decades and help it take care of you for the upcoming ones. Now is the time. Cherish it.”
21. Lynn: “I don’t think it’s all that important to be a grandmother.”
22. Jewelz: ” Safety pins, chapstick, hanky = Swiss Army purse.”
23. Lea: “Pause often, look deep within, and do the weird beautiful scary things in your heart that may or may not resonate with the rest of the world. Trust your gut. Trust the experiment. Trust your ability to respond with integrity, grace, and creativity as the unknown slowly unfolds… Trust that it’s too soon to already know what you’re truly making.”
24. Joyce offers a beauty tip, “take off your glasses. Everyone looks great. Including you, in the mirror!”
25. Susan: “Eat edibles.”
(Ok, I’m back.)
26. Whether it be saving money, buying life insurance, or just stocking the fridge with decent food, make sure your now-self is thinking of your future-self. Your future-self will thank you.
27. Making your own luck is really a terrific way to find success. Jumping on opportunities that others have overlooked, paired with tenacity, will get you far. Networking is for everyone, no matter how that looks for you. It will be the Rotary Club for some, and others, it will be in a hot tub on a chosen-family camping trip.
28. If your word is your bond, your name will become your currency. I know this more than most (for those who don’t know me well, I was not born “Rusty Blazenhoff.”). Patti Smith said this better, “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.”
29. Many people have had their family help them along in some way, usually with money, or connections. That’s cool, but if you didn’t have a leg up, you can still make it on your own, I promise (even if it doesn’t feel fair).
30. If someone crosses a big line with you, warn the others.
31. Meet your heroes. Remember that they are human too. If you get the chance, tell them why they mean so much to you, how they inspire you. Make their day.
32. Be aware of your impulses. What’s driving them? What’s their motive? Are they serving you and your future?
33. Wear sunscreen. (My father died of skin cancer at the age of 36, so this really means something to me.)
34. Practice gratitude. I’ll start: “I’m grateful for all the screwed up experiences I’ve had, esp. the ones in my childhood, because it’s made me who I am.”
35. You’ll never be able to really see yourself as others do. And people aren’t thinking of you as much as you think they are, so who cares? Though, it is good to explore who you are, so you can know yourself better.
36. Thrift stores, free piles, and estate sales are the best! I take pride in knowing how little I paid for some of the coolest things I own.
37. Buy less overall though, and take care of your things you’ve already got. Get rid of stuff that’s weighing you down.
38. Be careful what you tell people you are into. My mom likes cats and that’s what she’s gifted, things with cats on them. This is sort of a “you attract what you put energy into” kind of thing. I mean, I jokingly sent a letter to the Fluff company back in the 1990s, got a funny response, and now I’m a noted Fluff superfan.
39. Milk is pretty gross if you really think about it. But, if you still must have it, the expensive grassfed stuff is the way to go.
40. Cats make great confidantes. (Shout out to Missy!)
41. Owning your mistakes, learning their lessons, and moving on is the best way to get through failure. Don’t beat yourself up for years over something stupid you did (like I often do).
42. Believe in yourself. (I’m still working on this.)
43. Voting is important. For major elections, yes, but also pay better attention to local ones. Please vote that jerk out this November.
44. For the most part, you are in control of how much you suffer. And suffering is definitely part of the human experience. I know this to be a fundamental truth.
45. Speaking of control, in the bigger picture, you have less control than you think (and that’s just how it is!). You’ll be ok if every-little-thing doesn’t go your way, or the way you think it should go.
46. I’m pretty sure the “free” in freelancer is short for “freedom,” not “my knowledge and skills are to be given away for nothing.” Know your value, esp. if you work for yourself.
47. There’s no reason why you can’t make up your own holidays to celebrate. I’ve bought several domain names just for this purpose.
48. Want a clean house? Invite people over for a party. There’s nothing like a deadline, or imagining some fresh eyes judging your mess, to get something done.
49. Keep learning new skills and having new experiences. Your brain needs it!
50. Ideas really are cheap. I keep mine on index cards as they come to me and sort them later. I sometimes give the better ideas away because the clock is ticking and I won’t be able to get to everything that pops into my brain. Ideas aren’t as precious as you think they are. (Advice is even cheaper. You gotta do the work.)
50 1/2. BUY ART. Preferably from the artist who made it.
— Rusty Blazenhoff
P.S. This list was supposed to go in my inbox zine only but it started getting way too long. But, since you’re here, maybe you’d enjoy a free subscription to Rusty’s Electric Dreams.