After 50, At What Level Should You Give a Shit?
“Just keep moving forward and don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do, for you.” - Johnny Depp, 52
While I love Johnny Depp for saying it, trust me, when you are over 50, no one has to tell you not to give a shit about what other people think. But I do think many of us need to be reminded to do what we have to do for ourselves, for what makes us authentically happy.
Expat life, at least where I live in Mexico, is practically defined by doing what you want to do and as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, not giving a shit about what anyone thinks. Many people in fact, deep down, think we are crazy.
Expats think that if you can’t have affordable healthcare, a living space that inspires you, time for friends and some adventure in your life in the U.S, you certainly shouldn’t give a shit about the latest version of a smart phone, more cable channels or the sale at Bed Bath and Beyond.
Yet, in spite of having only a few decades left, there are those people over 50 who still willing to work that extra five years at a soul-sucking job for an additional $100 a month in their social security check. When you consider that those ten years may be the last vital healthy years you have left, is it really worth it?
It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t for anyone else I know in Mexico either. We personally think the years between 55 and 70 are rather important, not to be spent on a lifestyle we don't believe in.
But enough of that. Even with a relatively routine life in the U.S. (I have one when I'm there), you can still find some things not to give a shit about.
Here are a few of them, especially if you’re over 50:
The news - Getting pretty repetitive huh? Not only have you already heard everything, you’ve also heard the responses to everything.
Your friends enjoy telling you the highlights. Let them. If you want to know how people are reacting to an event, just recall everyone’s response to the last time it happened.
Any material possession you have not touched in the last two years - You won’t miss it and if you haven’t touched it in two years, you don’t need it. Take a picture of it if it's associated with a fond memory and focus on things that count.
To many articles of clothing - Ten complete, well-accessorized outfits for each season. That's all you need (Maybe more than you need, but I live in the land of Colorado where you accessorize down jackets with flip-flops.)
Owning your current house - Does your living space really match who you want to be now, or does it better reflect your life 20 years ago, when you were raising children and/or married? Do you really still need two extra bedrooms, the quarter acre and the great school system?
That extra dollar or two tip - For just a few dollars, you can be someone’s hero.
Chasing people - As a professional fund raiser for most of my career, I had to chase people, sometimes people I didn’t like. It sucked. Frankly, this has been the hardest habit for me to break. (Chasing people is not to be confused with making the first move, which I heartily endorse).
Pot luck dinner contributions - Seriously, if you don’t feel like cooking that day, just take the extra wine bottle of wine, or be the one who builds the bonfire.
Focusing on what matters to you means that you will say “No” more. “No” to the job you hate, “No” to the individuals who say they love you but can’t find time to see you, “No” to having more than you need, “No” to living the life others expect you to live, “No” to making cupcakes when you don’t feel like it.
I learned about not giving a shit after my divorce. Although the feeling was coming from a place of hopelessness at the time, I recognized and never forgot it’s fearsome power. Not giving a shit can be like finding a gold coin at the bottom of a deep dark well.
Learning its power was one of the best things to come out of that whole business. Everything I thought was important turned upside down. I learned that not giving a shit beat out grief and fear hands down. Not giving a shit is sorely underrated as a superpower.
Once upon a time a man in his 20’s, against the advice and opinion of his friends, turned down a job at Microsoft and decided to backpacking through South America. He doesn’t give a shit about the money, he’s more concerned about having life experiences rather than life regrets.
This attitude shouldn't just be for young people, Bro. Our lives should be about having experiences rather than things for as long as our wheels turn, not just when we are young. Experiencing the new, taking risks and exploring doesn't have to be limited to the young.
When you decide to start living your life on your own terms, expect some push back from family and friends. No matter how well your interests match up with theirs most of the time, sometimes your friends and family will give a shit about things you don't.
GEICO Insurance has a funny commercial about that. A James-Bond type character is being attacked by bad guys as he disembarks from a helicopter. His mother calls at that very moment to tell him she needs an exterminator.
The tagline is “Calling at a bad time….it’s what mothers do.” He just keeps fighting the bad guys, without feeling the need to explain himself while she’s talking to him over the phone about what is important to her, the things in her life that matter - exterminators and dinner.
Coming up with your personal priorities and focusing on them without the old distractions is one of the things makes getting older so fabulous. Few things in life truly matter. Those things are pretty easy to figure out by this point.
Getting older is finally knowing what (and who) you love, lining everything up with that….and not giving a shit about anything else.
When the music changes, so should the dance. Are you still trying to dance to music that's no longer playing? - - Ventanas Mexico
The Guardian's must-read list of other things you should give up. (Although I'm going to keep flossing).
David Cain on the Art of Not Giving a Shit - with a helpful info-graphic
Coming up: What do they (Mexicans) really think? I dunno...may we should Ask A Mexican
Most recent: With a name like Pueblos Magicos, how can you not want to go?
Hi - I'm a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico, including "If Only I Had a Place," a guide to renting luxuriously in Mexico for less, written specifically for the aspiring expat.
I am also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web.