Esteemed Aussie author Nikki Gemmell shares her 50 thoughts on turning 50

Nikki Gemmell on turning 50

A 50th birthday party, I’m reliably informed, is much more fun than a 40th.

You no longer have to prove yourself, impress others, show off — you’ve become who you are. You’re more relaxed and loose with the world and your place in it; you’re no longer striving, angsting, about goals not reached and opportunities missed.

Bring on that strength, I say. And herewith, 50 snippets of thoughts on turning that glorious, grounded milestone:

  1. George Orwell famously observed that at 50, everyone has the face they deserve; so in tough times remember it’s never too late to soften your face, unfold it, to get the visage you’d like rather than that one you catch sight of in horror in a shop window.
  2. The only true failure is in doing nothing.
  3. Perseverance is key.
  4. Change is a gift. It moves us forward, always.
  5. Courage isn’t needed so much for the shattering blows in life but for the long, lonely cliffs we need to climb to then haul ourselves back into peace.
  6. Failure humbles us — no bad thing.
  7. We eventually learn to laugh at our failures, to recognise the lessons of them.
  8. Life’s a vast process of distilling — hopefully into those twin balms of simplicity and serenity.
  9. Overlive, don’t underlive.
  10. Recognise the courage in living differently.
  11. Cultivate your mates for what’s in their hearts, not for how they look or what they do — or what they can do for you.
  12. Arrive on time; it’s respectful.
  13. Be an appreciator.
  14. If you have one true friend, you can forgive all the rest.
  15. Don’t be sloppy with friendships — or eventually friends will become sloppy with you.
  16. A gentleman, and a lady, always does the kind thing.
  17. To be truly free, you have to forget what other people think of you.
  18. Attention’s a gift.
  19. Beware the piracy of indifference.
  20. Never underestimate the tonic of praise.
  21. Appreciate the courage in kindness.
  22. A light heart is a wonderful armoury for living.
  23. Accomplishment makes us happy.
  24. Don’t suppress a kind thought.
  25. Secrets sap us, stunt our growth.
  26. Grasp the relief in exposure, the dignity in risk.
  27. It’s amazing how much support you can get when telling the truth.
  28. Surrender requires just as much strength as resistance.
  29. Kids watch us — and do as we do.
  30. The question to always ask: is this the right thing to do?
  31. Goodness brings happiness.
  32. Doing something for someone else helps not only them but ourselves; it buoys us.
  33. Calm’s impossible if you want to control other people, for their will is like an eel, slipping from your grasp.
  34. Crack open your life to love by giving it.
  35. It’s impossible to seduce someone who’s content.
  36. Sharing vulnerability makes us realise how alike we all are.
  37. Strong people have the courage to show their vulnerability.
  38. The bad times dissolve, always.
  39. Beware that reducing little word, “dependent”, for it means letting ourselves be controlled by another.
  40. Thoughtful action is always better than impulsive behaviour.
  41. A life lived in fear is not fully lived.
  42. With sex, honesty’s the most shocking thing of all.
  43. Live with gratitude; it’s twinned with goodness.
  44. Listen to your inner voice — it’s always seeking happiness and peace for you.
  45. Live with joy. There’s so much wonder and beauty in this world — seek it.
  46. 46. When life is crushing, seek the solace of the land.
  47. A life driven by love is preferable to a life driven by greed or ambition.
  48. There’s not a person alive who doesn’t want to be told they’re loved.
  49. At the end of our lives the question should be not what we’ve done, but how well we’ve loved.
  50. Stop. Take a deep breath. Think of three things to be thankful for, let the gratitude flow through you and … smile.

Nikki Gemmell has a new book out in April

  • This column originally appeared in The Australian in 2014, and was reprinted with Nikki’s kind permission. Her eagerly-awaited new book, On Quiet (Melbourne University Press), is out in April.

About the author:

Nikki Gemmell

Nikki Gemmell is the best-selling author of thirteen novels and four works of non-fiction. Her books have been translated into 22 languages. She was born in Wollongong, New South Wales and lived in London for many years, but has now returned to Australia. Her distinctive writing has gained her critical acclaim in France, where she’s been described as a “female Jack Kerouac“. The French literary magazine Lire has included her in a list of what it called the fifty most important writers in the world – those it believes will have a significant influence on the literature of the 21st century.


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