Tom Farrar, devishly handsome in his double-breasted blazer, is also celebrating his birthday today.  He is turning 82.  As we are new friends, I take this shared date to strike up a conversation with Tom.  I wonder – what was New Zealand like when he was my age?  Eighty-two seems like a lot of years.  What has he learned in all his time? 

 “Cigarettes and silk stockings.  If you could give a woman silk stockings, you were in.  She’d love you.”  In the 40s and 50s, Wellington was a one-horse town he tells me. The story goes a marine was walking down Lambton Quay and Willis, confused.  “When do you come to the city?” he wondered.

"There were two restaurants in Wellington.  We had milk bars where you could get shakes and ice creams.  Alcohol stopped being served at 6 pm, so men would rush to the hotel bar right before cut off and drink as much as possible.  It was called the six o’clock swill.”  The six o’clock swill?  Sounds like my flat mates every Wednesday night.  Or afterwork on the hill.  Maybe times haven't changed that much after all.

On the eve of my 25th birthday, I’m lost in thought.  What have I learned in these years?  What has Tom learned?  And have we – so far apart in space and time – come to any of the same conclusions?  “Travel.  A lot” he says.  "Do it young.  It will change your life, your perspective, and your relationships. Education is hugely important.  It has the power to change your life completely.”  Another check.  “Don’t try and give advice to your kids about how grandchildren should be handled.” I think I’ve got a while to worry about that, but I’ll file it away nonetheless. 

I walk home from our Rotary meeting carrying Tom’s words, and wondering what he'd say if I actually gave him time to reflect on his years.  What has fifty years of marriage taught him?  Maybe I'll corner him another time on that subject.  
If someone were to ask me what I’ve learned, how would I answer them?  

While sitting in my Development Policy paper, I make a list – twenty-five lessons for twenty-five years.  When I lay my head down to sleep, the gears in my mind keep turning, forcing me to get back to my computer and write.  I'm not sure what other lessons are headed my way in life, but I can only hope I learn them in such a blazing and wonderful set of years as the last 24 have been.  How will I ever be able to top them?  Some might feel regret at all the should have and would haves behind them.  Not me.  I'm happy, fulfilled, and ready to mold the next 25 into something even greater.  I wonder, is it even possible?

I’m not sure what Tom would have to say about this list, but I hope he thinks I’m on the right track.  

Sometimes you eat the bear.  Sometimes the bear eats you.  ( I think I picked this up from Bear Grylls.  Strangely applicable to multiple situations in life).

There are few life cruelties that cannot be cured by a good cup of tea, a good book, a good laugh, and a good friend.

Money doesn’t always have to be an obstacle.  There is always a way.

At some point, being unhappy is a choice you are actively making.  You have the power to change things, even if it sometimes feels like you don’t.

I don’t really have 1,300 friends.  I have a dozen.  Maybe.  Even though these friendships are hard to maintain, they are worth it.

I have to workout.  Mother. F.

Ice cream increases the happy in my days.  I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

Fear can be a straitjacket.  Admitting you’re scared does not mean you have to give in to fear.  April's favorite quote is “The function of fear is to warn us of danger, not to make us afraid to face it.”  I try to remember this every time I feel scared - works about 50% of the time.

Travel light.  It really does make things better.

The bucket list isn’t getting any shorter.  Unless you actively plan and check things off the list, your list can turn into regrets real quick.  Seriously though, it’s okay to cut things off that list.  For instance, I no longer feel the need to grow up and become a flower.

No one ever really knows what he or she wants to be when they grow up.  I had this idea that adulthood came with answers.  Somewhere in between 22 and now, I’ve realized that every single person has a running list in their head of what they should be doing, what they’d rather be doing, and what they wish they were not doing. 

Relationships do not have to be restrictive.  There is much to be said of finding a complement to you instead of a person so similar that nothing but conflict arises.  Those who will sacrifice for your happiness are worth your consideration.  Those who won’t, chuck em.

Even if you can’t see friends everyday (or every year) some will always be in your life.  Thanks for letting me be absent most of the time – and still loving me anyways. 

Flowers on your birthday are always the best present.  Whether they are from your boyfriend or the handsome underwear model you now call a friend, they make your heart nearly burst at the sight and the smell of them. 

Travel light.  Live light. Spread the light, be the light. (Yogi tea thought)

"In every situation, consider the likelihood of skinny dipping.  Dress accordingly."

Don’t wait for some boy to give you closure.  You give yourself closure.  That’s real.  Then go buy ice cream.

Stop rushing through life.  Do things with swagger.

Edit.  Your words, your life, your friends.
You’ll question every decision you make, never really knowing if it’s the right one.

Everyone is afraid of public speaking.  It’s okay.  Take a deep breath and get on with it.

Politicians can be idiots.  But they are people too.  No matter the party lines, try to recognize that most people are inherently good, even if that jackass law they just pushed suggests otherwise.

Student loans are a real bitch.

We make time for the things we really want. 

Feelings don’t stay behind when you leave the country.

Hurt doesn’t always show itself immediately.  It can lie dormant for years and then BOOM!  all of a sudden throws you off balance.  Keep your head about you and you'll get through it.  You always do.

Travel.  A lot.

Love yourself more than you love any other person. 

It’s okay to be selfish.

Don’t beat yourself up.  Maybe you’re not as dedicated as you should be.  Maybe you procrastinate.  But you are a pillar, and there is a reason you are here in the first place.  Admit the good things about yourself before you admit the bad.

Women are more complicated than men.  We just are.  Men = feed me, sex me, love me.  That's it.  Mystery solved.

Sometimes you’ve just got to hug it out.

Even though it’s scary to go to a new place alone, you will always come out with more best friends than you thought possible.

People are good.  Children are taught to be wary of all things foreign.  Let your instincts guide you – they’ll always push you in the right direction.

All this time I thought adults had life all figured out.  None of us know what we want to be when we grow up.  I was sitting at a table of gentleman from 70 – 82 yesterday and they all told me they still feel like little boys in life,  wondering what to do next.  I always thought my elders had things on lock.  You guys are so tricky!    

Learn how to cook.  Really, just learn.  At least learn how to roast a dang chicken and bake some cookies.  These things can save you when friends or in-laws show up unannounced. 

No I’m not overeducated.  I’m just acquiring more knowledge.  So get off my back suckers!

You get what you give.

Seriously, teeth matter.  Go floss!

Stop making plans.  What life gives you is more than you could ever dream up for yourself anyways…

Tell the truth.  Sometimes it really freakin sucks, but it does set you free.


I'm sure Tom will love your list - I love it. Bring on the next 25 years and the next list - starting with your reaction at 50 to what you thought at 25. Times will have changed all of us (although we wont all still be here to know about it). I'm fascinated to consider which of these are about being 25 and which are about living here and now in 2012, with the influences that presses on us all.

Anna x


I love it. I love all of it. Especially "Don’t wait for some boy to give you closure. You give yourself closure. That’s real. Then go buy ice cream." You are amazing. Truly spectacular!


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