This is what 50 looks like.

Today I turn 50, and life is pretty good. As I seem to be on an upward trend, I expect it to get even better. The older I get, the less I care what people think about what I’m doing, and the better life gets.

I figured this out by the time I turned forty. The decades before that were a lot of worry about if I was leading a worthwhile life. Here’s what I’ve learned since…

All life is worthwhile whether it’s spent staring at a flower, the TV or the cosmos. Bug or behemoth, by being here we are worthwhile. It’s a default thing. You are born. You are worthwhile.

Useful, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Staring at a flower, the TV or the cosmos don’t really have a lot of practical purpose unless the things learned are shared. If you discover the answer to the meaning of life, what good is it stuck in your head and not communicated? Now we all know the answer is 42, but that’s because someone took the time to communicate.

Communication, however, justifies staring at a flower, the TV or the cosmos. It doesn’t matter if your epiphany is big (I’m going to save the world!) or small (I’m going to save my next paycheck!), the epiphany validates the staring as long as it’s communicated. That’s why I am a writer. I love staring at things and communicating—and then have people applaud me for it.

Another thing I’ve learned in my first 50 years is not to stare at people. You can stare at a flower, the TV or the cosmos, but not a person. It makes people nervous to be stared at and is apparently rude. They often label you as creepy.

You have to observe. When you observe, people are flattered. They understand your rudeness is only to immortalize their every fascinating nuance of character. This only works when you are a writer or artist. If you are observing and you aren’t a writer or artist, you will probably still get labeled as creepy. Also, saying you want to wear someone’s skin is not flattering but saying you want to eat them up is.

Which brings me to another thing the first 50 years has taught me. People are confused. They want you to think outside of the box but not color outside of the lines. They want you to follow your dreams but don’t step out of line. Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground. No one knows what they want really, and once you realize that you understand a great truth: it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you do something.

No matter what, someone will think it’s wrong and someone will think it’s right. You will be applauded and reviled within minutes for the same action—sometimes even by the same person. It all gets very confusing and frustrating when you try to do everything right for everyone. You may as well give up and do what you want.

The only rule that seems to matter is the golden one. As long as you act in love and kindness you are doing the right thing. Love respects, shares, gives, responds and is, ultimately, active. Love can be violent and crazy or gentle, but it is always good. Bug or behemoth, we all have enough to give. Big or small, every act done in love matters.

Which is probably why my decades just seem to get better each year. I have been blessed with the most loving, generous and kind people on the planet. From my own adult children, my husband and the mass of tolerant and amazing people I count as friends, I have a lot of love in my life.

I’ll end this soppy, sentimental missive with a poem, not one I wrote but one that was written for me as a gift—just another reminder of how lucky I am. Never think I don’t appreciate all of it (even when I grumble about people bugging me when I’m trying to observe).

Poem from Laura…

I know of her
a package of a life
surviving dreams and disappointments.
The wrapping is deceptive
as the layers of invisible tissue paper
keep her secrets from exposure.
All is calm and dark
No clue as to the colorful turmoil
of an author’s existence.
It seems near impossible
that so much of life can be
bound into a small box,
taller than wide, but not too much.
I don’t know when the final reveal, if ever.
For she must stay within her own perception.
Entangled in a passionate affair
the ménage à trois-self, lover and alter ego
tumble against the walls of her existence.
She is complete
I love her for she is my friend.
—Laura Kester Duerrwaechter

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Ryukyuan-American, award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years in newspapers. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year, she shares Authortunities, a free weekly calendar of author opportunities at

5 thoughts on “The First 50 Years”
  1. Angela, what a wonderful batch of sentiments/comments & insights! I enjoyed the poem as well. Probably my favorite ‘take away’ from this is what you say about people not minding your thinking outside of the envelop but they do mind your coloring outside the box. What the heck, I do much more than that when I color outside the box — I make it a different shape! But I keep my profile low, actually. I prefer to. You’re a wonderful addition as friend to be thankful for, and I surely appreciate you –and your blog posts!

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