Sometimes it seems as if everyone has advice to give these days – what to eat, how to parent, whether to buy a house, why Pinterest is or isn’t real life, whether it’s technically bad to eat macaroni and cheese more than three days a week – but it’s just easier to listen to advice when it comes from people who have lived a lot of life.
I mean, I listened to my grandparents long before I decided that maybe, possibly, my parents could know something.
So, without further ado, here are 5 pieces of super solid advice from some life-savvy seniors.
#5. Love your work for more than the money.
This can seem hard if you’re toiling away in a profession that doesn’t feel like your passion, but, in the end, the choice to look for the positives when we show up every day is on us.
Bennie Stewart worked from the time he was 7, when he began running errands for neighbors and getting paid in chicken eggs. By the time he sat down to talk with his granddaughter, he had chopped cotton for $3 a day, bused dishes, worked as a janitor, sold insurance, and eventually worked at jobs he felt genuinely passionate about, as a social worker and a pastor. But he found a way to love each and every labor:
I love talking to people. I’ve been told I have the gift of gab, so I can talk and I can grasp things real fast. I always took pride in being able to listen to instructions and pick them up quick. [My work experience] taught me that I can have something of my own and provide for my family and get some of the things in like that I couldn’t.
These sentiments are echoed in an interview with Michiganite Evelyn Trouser, who spent her life working in auto factories:
My advice to everybody in my family: learn to take care of yourself. Don’t depend on anyone to provide you with anything.
When asked whether her jobs were as dreary as they sounded, she flat-out denied it:
I used to love going to work. It’s the people you’re with that makes a job fun or not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people you’re with that make things different.
#4. Think of hard times like bad weather – they will pass.
Sometimes it can be really difficult in the moment to believe that things will ever get better, but, if you give them time, they almost always will. Here are some wise words from Agneta Vulliet (as they were imparted to her granddaughter):
What I want you to know and keep in mind is that your 20s are very turbulent and that it does get better. You want so much for yourself, you have such expectations, you have so many wishes to succeed, and there’s a lot of anxiety that goes with how all that will take shape. I never want you to get carried away with how hard it seems. Growing up is a lot like the weather. Every time you hit the big storms that seem like they’re going to snow you under, it will change and get better – and the sun will come out.
#3. Find mentors who will not only guide you, but also challenge you.
It’s not every day that you find someone willing to take the time to help you become the person you want to be, so, if you do, make sure it’s someone willing to push you farther than you expected.
Allen Ebert worked most of his life as a physician, but he started out where many people in Michigan do – welding in an auto factory. But, as he told his grandson, there is always an opportunity to learn, and many lessons can be applied beyond the immediate task.
If you understand how something works, when it breaks you know what to look for and how to fix it. Even the body is mechanical.
He spoke about how and when to find people to teach, inspire, and challenge you – and how they may not be who you’d expect:
Just develop relationships with people whom you can observe, even from a distance, and see how they accomplish things. The way I look at it: in life, we probably make 95% good decisions and about 5% messed-up decisions. A large part of our lives as adults is fixing the mess of those few wrong decisions, and you can minimize them by just having people in your life who will challenge you and make you think twice, who will say, “Well, that doesn’t sound right to me.”
#2. Be inspired by the people you meet.
When the world seems like a total sh*tshow, it can be hard to remember that the people we meet every day are amazing and can maybe change our lives, if we just take a moment to stop and really look. This is what journalist Bill Janz had to say about the most inspiring person he’d ever met (when asked by his grandson):
A boy named Eddy [a 10-year-old who lost his leg to cancer] helped me see a little bit about what life is all about. No matter what happened to him, he never gave up. I called Eddy once at home, and the phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, he picked up the phone. I said, ‘Eddy. I was just about to hang up. Where were you?’ And he said, ‘Bill, I was in another room. My crutches weren’t near, so I crawled to the phone.’ He was only a young man, but he was teaching an old man to never give up. I sometimes tend to give up and go do something else, and he helps me remember not to do that.
#1. Be happy making more out of less.
Many of us today don’t know what it’s like to truly struggle. We were born well after the effects of the Great Depression had faded from society, and, though our parents might have been altered by it, they did their best to make sure we were not. The middle class thrived, but there is a flip side to prosperity: we don’t understand how less can be more because we were raised in a world where more is more.
Along with some great recipes, these seniors shared stories about how they came to be. Though they might have been making the most of what they had with cheap ingredients, something delicious and lasting came of it, anyway:
When I was 18, I was married and had a child and did not have an outside job, so I’d go to the library, bring home cookbooks, and try the recipes. Back then, we were on a very limited budget. A pound of fish cost 69 cents, so I learned to cook a lot of things with that.
Check out Patricia Smith’s tuna noodle casserole recipe here.
Jaxton Bloemhard interviewed his mother about her mother:
She’d [Jaxton’s grandmother] tell stories about how they [pierogies] kept the Ukranian people alive. The Ukranians grew potatoes like nobody’s business, and as long as you had flour, water, and some oil, you could make the dough.
Here’s a recipe for Bethany Bloemhard’s mother’s authentic Ukranian pierogies.
Try the recipes, try the advice. You never know when something is really going to stick!
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