Oftentimes, it takes a tragedy, diagnosis, loss or other negative occurrence to motivate many people to change. At age 50, I got divorced and sober and became and empty-nester. I had to change my life, starting with finding a new place to live. But why wait until life throws us a curveball before making our lives better? If not now, when?

We all have friends who have experienced health setbacks or have lost loved ones. One of my favorite traveling partners can no longer travel with me because of her health. I learned today of a young man who was a classmate of my son who unexpectedly lost his life at age 20. It is time that we all make the choice to drink fully from the cup of life, while we still can.

In my book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), I describe how I examined my life and the changes I wanted to make to improve it. For my 50th birthday, I decided to try 50 new things in an array of categories. I brainstormed a list that included physical challenges, spiritual endeavors, travel, thrill-seeking adventures and lifestyle changes. In the process of pursuing these things, I re-blossomed. And I like the 2.0 version of myself even better.

We, as a society, are careful about how we spend our money, but less mindful about how we spend our time. Yet time is the one resource that is of uncertain duration, un-replenishable and cannot be bought. This awareness should be enough of an impetus to spur us to action and to be more mindful about how we spend our days.

As a recovering people-pleaser, I am still learning how to say no when others ask me to do something. I know, however, how important it is to protect my time. I want to preserve my energy to do the things that enrich me and bring me joy.

A friend of mine recently started piano lessons. He has a demanding law practice, yet carved out time to enjoy making music. Why wait, he asked himself.

Aside from the pleasure that comes from learning something new, studies show that such activities keep our minds sharp and can help stave off Alzheimer’s. It also adds variety and character. What new skills would you like to learn? What activities do you want to try? How would you like to expand your mind?

It’s up to you what you do with it. 


  • Maria Leonard Olsen

    Maria Leonard Olsen is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and author of “50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life” (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2018).

    Maria Leonard Olsen graduated from Boston College and the University of Virginia School of Law. She is an attorney, radio talk show host of the Washington, D.C. show “Inside Out,” writing and women's empowerment retreat instructor, editor, and public speaker on diversity issues and living a life authentic to one's values. Her work has been published by The Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Bethesda Magazine, among others. She also served in the Clinton Justice Department prior to having children, and recently returned to practicing law now that she is an empty-nester. Olsen is the author of four books, including the children’s books Mommy, Why's Your Skin So Brown? and Healing for Hallie, and the non-fiction titles Not the Cleaver Family--The New Normal in Modern American Families and her newest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life.