Yesterday, I encouraged readers seeking to reclaim their youth to visit San Antonio, Tahiti and Disneyland. Today I'll examine choices we can make in an effort to reclaim the eighteen-year-old heart that beats within us all.
1. Start with your hometown: If you grew up in Lincoln, Neb. but haven't been back since you got that swanky job at NYU, it's time to reconnect. High school friends, teachers, distant cousins, Mom -- it's time to check in. No one can remind you of your teenage self like the teacher who still sees you as the chubby-cheeked girl eager to please or the boy who started the Anti-Bullying League in 7th grade.
Log into Facebook and do a search for old friends; as you recognize names, check their Friends list, too. Soon, most of your friends will be old friends, and nothing is sweeter. But don't stop there: arrange to fly back to Lincoln and have dinner with someone whose name you forgot but whose face you'll never forget. After all, it won't be until you're sitting across from her at Denny's eating Nachos that you realize Missy is the one who made out with your boyfrend in this exact booth after Homecoming.
2. Learn or brush up on a foreign language: Parlez-vous Français? ¿Habla Español? Of course you do--or did. How many times have I spoken to someone in their 40s or older who's whined about what they used to do, used to know, used to visit. I can't believe all the people working dead-end jobs who backpacked through the Alps at 20 only to grow beer bellies and belligerent at 60. While job stability is commendable, complacency is not.
Growing up is not an excuse to grow old: and readers, I won't have it! This Examiner learned French at 48, and while I'm not fluent (yet), I'm on my way. And P.S. I dropped out of learning the language my first year in college after the professor stuck us on the audio tapes and didn't make a connection. I found an inspirational young French teacher who not only encouraged me, but lit a spark.
3. Break off toxic relationships: If you are in an unhealthy and/or stifling romantic relationship, it's not love: it's prison. Non-negotiables can include: infidelity, alcoholism, and drug abuse; and domestic violence is never negotiable. At least get to a shelter and work through issues with a therapist right away.
If you are in a relationship where you are afraid to go home it's time to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Even if your boyfriend, husband, wife or girlfriend isn't damaged in any of these ways, if he or she doesn't fill you with joy, leave. As you realize now that you're over 40, life is indeed far shorter than we would like. And that cute physical therapist you met last week? Maybe he's the one.
4. Get your money house in order: Easier said than done these days, but nothing will make you feel 10 years younger than climbing out of debt. One of the biggest ways people in America absorb debt is through medical and dental bills, so make sure you and your family are covered as much as you can be. Do you qualify for Medicaid but haven't tapped that resource? Check into all the possibilities. If you don't qualify, look into low-cost healthcare, or at least low-cost. Click here.
5. Dance before a sunset: Sounds so tired, but it's really true. Take your digital camera and watch the sun set over the Hollywood sign or the ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier. If you can afford it, fly to London and photograph the sun setting over the Thames, or to Tokyo, where you can visit a Shinto shrine. No matter your location, make some memories with your significant other, best friend or just yourself...today.