My grandmother turned 100 years old last January. To this day, she is full of life, love, and all the wisdom that comes from living for a century.
Of course, she’s not superhuman. Sometimes, her voice sounds weak and tired after a long day. Sometimes, her wrinkled hands shake uncontrollably, and her hearing isn’t as good as it used to be.
But she is still here. Despite everything, she is still enjoying every day as a gift. She is also an infinite source of wisdom, her insight and knowledge gained from many years of living.
Since I often speak with her on the phone, I thought I would share her advice and secrets to a long, satisfying life — regardless of circumstances.
Whenever my grandmother talks about relationships, she always gives me the same advice:
“Support yourself. Don’t expect someone else to pay your bills or take care of you. Find what you want to do, and go do it.”
It wasn’t until recently that I found out my grandmother gave this advice because she regrets not following it herself. At twenty, she was an extremely talented artist, and she wanted to go to Paris to study art and become a professional.
But my grandfather wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, they got married and soon after had a child.
My grandmother still painted, but she never followed her dream. And now, eighty years later, she still regrets it.
Even though she doesn’t dwell on the past, knowing her story gives me a deeper appreciation for the advice she offers. She realizes her life could have been entirely different if she had made other choices, and she wants others to pursue the opportunities she missed.
Take my grandmother’s advice: If you have a dream, follow it. Don’t let others get in the way, and don’t let obstacles change your mind. Life is meant to be lived fully.
My grandmother has always loved food. She lives in Antibes, France, where the open-air markets are full to bursting with fresh ingredients all year long.
Up until a few years ago, she used to take her little cart and walk to the markets by herself to buy her fresh vegetables. It was one of the small joys of her life.
Whenever I came to visit her, she would have a delicious Mediterranian lunch prepared with wild salmon, avocados, olives, and fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil.
I’ve always been impressed by her relationship with food because she doesn’t deprive herself. She eats fresh, wholesome ingredients and stops eating when she’s no longer hungry. I’m convinced this is one of her secrets to a long, happy life.
Even though she now lives in a retirement home, my grandmother makes it a point to go outside every day. Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes, she knows how important it is to stay active and get out of the house for optimal physical and mental health.
My grandmother tells me over and over how important it is to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat outside. As an adult, I’ve finally started taking her advice seriously because I know she’s right.
After living her whole life in hot climates and not paying too much attention to how damaging the sun is, her beautiful face is understandably not wrinkle-free.
During a recent phone call, she sighed and said, “Maybe if I had protected my skin from the sun, it wouldn’t be so wrinkled now!” (I didn’t have the heart to point out that maybe being 100 years old has something to do with it.)
This is one of the most important lessons my grandmother has taught me. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking forward to seeing your partner or looking forward to eating a sandwich — if you always have something to be excited about, problems won’t matter as much.
It’s about perspective. Your life will be a lot more enjoyable if you focus on all the wonderful things that will happen instead of fearing what might go wrong.
My grandmother always looks forward to hearing from her grandchildren, even for just a few moments, so I make it a point to talk to her often. It brightens her day and mine, and I know every day I get to learn from her is a priceless gift.
Whether we live for a century or not, life is a journey full of ups and downs. No one exists without getting hurt, losing loved ones, and experiencing hardships of all kinds. No one is shielded from suffering, yet no one is prevented from finding joy in the little things, either.
As my grandmother continues to teach me, life is a beautiful mess — it’s a mix of the good and the bad, the breathtakingly beautiful, and the intensely tragic.
The best we can do is learn from those around long before us and try to make every day as fulfilling as we can — for us and those who will come after us.