Here’s what I would go back and tell my 50-year-old self 29



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Recently I saw one of those lists that does the rounds of the internet, “What would you tell your 20 something self?”

For me, the answer is simple: “NOTHING!”

At 20 something, with the confidence, some would say arrogance,  of youth, I knew everything and was just waiting for the world to realise what a star I was! I was single, running an office, a qualified accountant and for relaxation I went into two of Sydney’s prisons for debating competitions. I studied acting and joined an amateur theatre company.

Two disastrous relationships meant I knew all about love; I went to the theatre, ballet and concerts. I even suffered the first big loss of my life when my adored Father died. I could have tried to tell me, but I probably would have been patronising in my “acceptance” of my advice. Even when against my better judgement I found “love” again, I didn’t allow myself to relax; if I didn’t believe he would stay, I wouldn’t feel too bad when he left.

Luckily my 50-year-old self learned to listen. So what would I say to her?


He didn’t walk away. This one is really the “Love of my Life”. Don’t wonder how much longer he may stay around; just realise that he loves you as much today as he ever did and he is seriously “blind”. He sees beauty all around him and you are the centre of that beauty. His version of beauty is not surface; he sees below the skin, beyond the bluster and loves people as they are. The things that attracted you to him have ripened in the man; the things that annoyed you have become less noticeable and totally unimportant; except his snoring. As I tell you these things, you have been married for over 30 years and together nearly 40.


What a roller coaster, but you have always loved the adrenaline flow that comes with not knowing what is around the corner. On your 50th Birthday, you are working for one of Australia’s top CEO’s as his Executive Assistant with access to the so-called “Captains of Industry”.  What delightful people you get to meet; what a fascinating all-involving job. Knowing he will retire before you are ready to is a worry, but he is a good man and will take care of you.

Five years later you move to Queensland and here we go again, a new career; one you are eminently suited to, even if you don’t have a piece of paper to prove your qualification. For the first time in your life, you are a Public Servant! Go, get that Degree! You do the Diploma, but the Degree is the better option. Even after you retire, the Universe has more surprises for you; you won’t believe it now but at 66 you return to work part-time and you love it; out of your comfort zone again.

Family and Friends

Although you don’t have children, you are surrounded by beautiful young people, not only in your family but your friends’ kids and the young people in the theatre. You keep close to your family, but later distance will make that more difficult. Take the trouble to keep in touch; it doesn’t matter if no-one phones you, pick up the phone and talk to them.

Ditto with your friends; some will come and go but when you celebrate the 50th anniversary of leaving school, you realise your best friend has been around 61 years! This is also an opportunity to re-establish friendships, don’t let it pass.  Moving states will offer challenges, but by going a little out of your way, you will make new friends and although they will never laugh when you say “Kevin”, you will create new memories.


Sorry, my 50-year-old self, I can’t protect you from loss; unfortunately it will happen. You were only in your 20s when Dad died, in your 30s when Mum went to join him.  You are already rather mature about death, you have faced it and have developed a compassionate nature. You won’t be spared the pain of loss, but, there again, you only feel this pain because of the happiness you shared with those who died. You already know death is part of life, but you will be tested. You are strong and you will grow stronger.

Other things

Because both parents died young, there will be a niggle at the back of your mind that perhaps you will too – well I can’t promise you Aunty Kate’s 100 plus years, but be happy that you and your siblings outlive your parents by a significant number of years.

The world around you changed not long after you turned 50. After the wonderful high of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, there was the disaster of 9/11 and the Bali bombings. Thankfully these horrors did not directly affect your immediate family, but some of your work colleagues and friends were not so lucky. Don’t lose faith young lady; the world is no better and no worse than it ever was; we just make more noise about it.

There is still so much ahead of you; you will experience wonderful highs and some devastating lows. But you know what? You are a beautiful person in the true sense of the word; keep your trust in God, keep looking forward, keep growing, stay true to yourself. There are challenges ahead, but:

Dance like nobody’s watching.

Love like you’ve never had a broken heart.

Sing like nobody’s listening and

Live like there’s no Tomorrow.

What would you tell your 50-year-old self? 

Karen O'Brien-Hall

I've had many careers in my life and loved each one! My new career blossomed when I retired and become an OAP. I am passionate about childhood literacy, books in general and my garden. I love Ballet, Opera, Concerts, Theatre, (both professional and community) and Movies. I tend to have opinions on most things and enjoy a good debate about the topic, not the person. In my thirties, I married my GOM (Gorgeous or Grumpy Old Man) the love of my life.

  1. I would cut all the selfish people out of my life, the ones who haven’t got time for a quick hello or acknowledgement would be off my list.

  2. You cant help someone who doesnt want to be helped. Stay away. Realise that you will never be good enough in their eyes.

    2 REPLY
    • Yes, ive been going through a lot lately but have realised I just have to let go. Its sad but its the only way. Im sorry you’re having problems too.

  3. I think to “not sweat the small stuff” so much. To try to have had more patience & understanding for my mum who had alot of her own struggles going on. Career, easy as it is one of my life’s big blessings, have felt very fortunate in my jobs. To never let myself be bullied & to use my voice more when I knew my opinion counted.

  4. Back light fingers in the cup,then galilee next year, then red handed and I could give you a list from there

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