Turning 50 Series: 8 Pieces of Advice I Would Give my 20 Year-Old Self

By Audrey van Petegem, Senior Editor

My husband surprised me with a 50th birthday party this summer. He invited all my friends throughout my many stages of life to come and share pictures of me when they knew-me-back-when. It was really fun to watch the slide show and reminisce about the good times with old friends.

There was one of me on my father's sailboat that my sister must have included. I have no idea who took the photo and only know that I was about twenty at the time. What I do remember is her! I love the fresh-face, carefree, braless, naive woman I used to be. Oh, how I wish I could give her some advice now.

I would tell her to:

  1. Be present in every moment – don't waste time wanting school to be over or to be older than what you are. Take the time to enjoy yourself instead of waiting to start something new or go somewhere else. Embrace the now!
  2. Journal every day – You did journal all the way through University. You wrote down your dreams, poetry you wrote and “dear diary” excerpts. When I read them now it is such a joy to see your thoughts and attitudes. I wish you had continued and wrote more consistently because they mean so much to me now.
  3. Keep your friends – Friends are there for a reason, season or lifetime. There is something wonderful having friends when you are older that you knew when you were younger. Plus, friends become far more important to you as you age and surprisingly you will find that you have more than one best friend! Who knew!
  4. Get over those embarrassing moments – Oh, dear Audrey, you have had so many. But guess what? When you get older those are the stories you will remember the most – with fondness.
  5. Know that you are beautiful and your body is perfect – Stop obsessing about your weight, your body and your looks! Stop skipping meals and putting yourself down! You will look back at old photos and say “Hey, I look pretty good! What was I complaining about?”
  6. Start looking after your health, skin and body now – This attitude of not having to worry about it now is not going to do you any justice when you get older. Start now because it is harder to kick start something new in your 50's and you can't reverse the damage done when you were younger.
  7. Start a financial plan earlier – Start a savings scheme earlier and save your money!! Take more of an interest in my personal finances, start a pension earlier, and for goodness sakes, forego short term treats for long term gain!

And lastly I would say to her;

You done good girl!!! – You continued to live your life as a carefree, spontaneous person. Although you no longer go braless (just way too painful) your fresh face shows the beautiful lines of someone who has lived life – with every laugh line, worry line and battle scar.

And thank you 20 year-old self. You reminded me the importance to live in the moment, to journal and to continue to look after myself. All lessons I needed to hear at age fifty.


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28 Responses to Turning 50 Series: 8 Pieces of Advice I Would Give my 20 Year-Old Self

  1. Sharon Siqueiros says:

    I love being 50

  2. Ginger Kay says:

    I love your list! It’s great advice for any age.

  3. Anne Parris says:

    Great advice at any age. It’s not too late to start now!
    I love this picture. Your face is wide open with joy.

  4. I do miss going braless. Otherwise, 50 is great!

  5. Love this post. Great tips for anyone and everyone!!! Sure wish I hadn’t spent so many 11-2 days slathered in baby oil at the beach!!!

  6. Be present in every moment. Such important advice.

  7. Aci says:

    I just got a wonderful book to leave for my daughter later, it’s called:

    The things I want my daughters to know

    ; )

  8. Jill Thomas says:

    I love it!! Well done! I will give it to my daughter now!

  9. Lois says:

    How great if we could learn those important lessons at 20? Hey, how great if we can learn them at 50?!

  10. Haralee says:

    You made your list sounds fun and carefree!
    I love that you mention the importance of friends! Husbands, boyfriends or partners can come and go but some girlfriends are forever, and they know you!

  11. Karen Taylor says:

    This is a beautiful list of great advice.

  12. Fabulous advice! I love it. Concise, clear and pragmatic

  13. Lib Aubuchon says:

    Agree with Anne Parrish: your face is so wide open with love and possibility! If only all of us could have known how beautiful we all were. Lovely stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Chloe says:

    Excellent advice! I also wish I’d saved earlier. It’s hard to catch up now especially with this tanked economy. We’re having to make tough choices now so that we can retire later with a level of comfort.

    I also wish I’d been kinder to my young body. I was so hypercritical and I looked pretty good.

    And isn’t it funny about those embarrassing moments? Heck those were the blog fodder of your future! We should thank our younger selves for thinking ahead.

  15. Jo says:

    I love how you listed the good and a few reminders as well! I think your 20 year old self musta done pretty well, nothing you can’t live with now! Good enough, eh?

  16. Barbara says:

    Eight slices of wisdom! These are great.

  17. Love your list, Audrey! I have also held my longtime friends close, and it is such a blessing to have them in my life still.

  18. Karen says:

    An excellent list of advice for anyone to follow! So important for people to realize that life is here, life is now.

  19. Lovely list, lovely girl, lovely woman.

  20. sheryl says:

    Love this post. I often tell my kids
    (who are in their 20s) , “If I only knew at your age what I know now…the world would’ve been mine!” I do wish many things..especially that I hadn’t taken everything so seriously and held myself back from doing things I was too fearful of doing.
    But…it’s these lessons that make us the (better) 50-something year old we are today.

  21. Love your post, your list. Getting over those embarrassing moments is so important. As a young ‘un, we spend far too much time being ashamed of silliness that, in the end, matters not one whit.

  22. Audrey, what a wonderful list and beautiful photograph on the sailboat. Obviously, you were a lovely young girl and lovely 50 year old, too. Happy birthday, belatedly!

  23. Great advice! I wish I would have known about sunscreen in those days. And learned to not be so obsessed with my looks too. Such a waste of time.

  24. I love how you take your own advice at the end. My 70-year-old self will appreciate it if I’m more consistent with my journal and if I take care of myself, now. Good points!

  25. Julie Danis says:

    Be present and get over your embarrassing moments. Our 20 year old selves must have been alike!

  26. Lana says:

    I am closing in on my 50th and my oldest daughter is turning 21 in a few days. I will have to forward this post to her; I feel like I could have written it:)
    I can still go braless ( a miracle at my age, I know), but I don’t as it is not becoming. I am not afraid of aging. It has to be with class and dignity, though:)

  27. Nancy/Nerthus says:

    Some very, very sage advice, for 20 somethings, or 50 somethings!

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