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Monday, June 10, 2024

Before You Go: Suddenly Sixty

CRL columnist John Gray shares six pieces of life advice in time for his big birthday.

Somewhere between trips to Hoffman’s Playland, bus rides to school, college, love, loss, licorice snaps, marriage, divorce, marriage again, kids and colonoscopies; I turned 60. Yeah, I can’t believe it either. 

It seems like only last week I was rummaging through the weeds in South Troy looking for discarded RC Cola bottles to wash in a nearby stream and bring into Kay’s candy store to redeem for nickels, which I’d trade for Atomic FireBall candy. 

If the goal is to live to be 80, then I’ve just started the fourth and last quarter of my life. I can’t know what’s lurking around the next corner, but I can look back at the mileage on the tires and glean some wisdom from what my grandpa would have called lessons hard learned.

Since I don’t have a souped-up DeLorean with a flux capacitor that can take me back in time, and this is the Besties issue, I thought I’d mark this auspicious occasion by sharing a few of the best lessons that have been branded into me as permanently as the big Y in TV’s Yellowstone.

Six decades equals six pieces of free advice, which I offer up in no order of importance. What worked for me might not work for you, but I have a feeling this is a pretty solid blueprint for how to keep your soul and sanity in check.

Don’t do things you have to be talked into. You have a right to say “no,” and you owe no one an excuse other than, “’Cause I just don’t feel like it.” This served me well when it came to saying no to drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd or avoiding a party when I just wanted to stay in and relax on the couch. Remember: If you have to talk yourself into it, it’s probably a bad idea.

The world owes you nothing but a sunrise and a sunset; what happens in between those two remarkable events is on you, amigo. Life is rarely fair or easy, and the sooner you realize persistence beats whining six days a week and twice on Sunday, the better off you’ll be. That said, if you’re doing the work and it’s not appreciated, move on. 

If you’re feeling down on yourself or just awful in general, help someone else. I don’t know why, but taking that misery and redirecting it into kindness toward others is the Amoxicillin for the soul. The good you push out somehow heals within. 

Call your mother. Or father. Or whomever you love. Life is busy, but not too busy to surprise your grandparents with a dish of their favorite ice cream or to sit and talk to your dad. Trust me, one day you’ll wake up and realize they’re gone and wish you had those moments back.

Don’t try to fix people. Frank Kafka said, “In man’s struggle against the world, bet on the world.” If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. It’s our nature to always want to help and fix, but don’t trade your happiness in the bargain. 

And last but not least…

Forgive. Carrying around anger like a bag of bile is corrosive to you, not them. That doesn’t mean someone who wronged you gets a free pass; it just means you recognize the mistake, forgive them and move on. A wise man once said, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 

Sounds like a smart way to go. Now, does anyone have an Atomic FireBall?        

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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