Man, I miss Betty White.
No, I didn’t know her and, yes, she’s only been dead for two days, but still, I’m bummed, because it feels like there’s a little less goodness in the world now.
After I learned she died, I spent a few hours watching old interviews with her in the hopes of soaking up some of the joy, humor and wisdom she dispensed during her nearly 100 years with us.
In one interview, Katie Couric asked what White would say is the key to a “rich, long life” and White responded: “kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself.”
Another time, she told Queen Latifah she credited her long life to always staying positive and ... hot dogs.
Her advice got me thinking and inspired me to research other folks who’ve lived long lives that, at least from the outside, appear to have been happy and fulfilling. I wanted to glean whatever secrets I could from their experiences.
Below is what I came up with. It’s a mix of others’ insights and some things I’ve learned during my own time on this planet. This list is by no means complete and hopefully you might have a few tips or tricks to share in the comments section to help get us through 2022 — and however many years we’re lucky enough to live after that (even if it means having to go on without Betty White).
- Be curious about the world and the people around you. Never stop learning or asking questions. Be willing to admit you might not have all — or any — of the answers and that the answers might be different depending on who you are or where you’re at in your life.
- Look for the bright side wherever you can.
- When faced with the dark side, look for what it can teach you while you’re there and then bring those things back with you to the bright side.
- Forgive when you can (including yourself, too) but if, for whatever reason, you can’t, don’t.
- Say you’re sorry whenever it’s required, even if (especially if) it’s hard. Recognize you probably could (and should) say it more often than you do.
- Find something you love to do — cooking, traveling, reading, visiting petting zoos, arm wrestling, watching cartoons from the ’80s, making outfits for your chihuahua out of old sweatpants — and do it whenever you can for no other reason than you can and it brings you joy; it calms you; or it lets you feel at home in your body or your head.
- Love something or someone every chance you get but understand that love comes in all kinds of forms and none is necessarily more worthy than another.
- Allow yourself a few vices, whether it’s Betty White’s aforementioned hot dogs or Hallmark Christmas movies or an occasional handjob from a stranger, and enjoy them without regret or apology or explanation to anyone, even yourself.
- Say yes to scary things that you suspect will make you grow or learn or be happy.
- Say no when you need to say no and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Find out who you are and what you believe in and then be that person and believe those things whenever you can, even if it scares or shocks or upsets other people.
- Understand that even if or when you figure out who you are and what you believe, you can (and hopefully will) change. Recognize and welcome the fact that who you were 10 years ago isn’t necessarily who you are today and who you are today isn’t necessarily who you’ll be in 10 years. Be kind to your past self and expect big things from your future self.
- Learn what and who to hold on to, and what and who to let go of and don’t kick yourself if and when you get it wrong.
- Don’t compare yourself or your life to anyone else because that’s just asking for the worst kind of trouble. You aren’t them. They aren’t you. And you have no idea how gnarly their demons might be.
- Give what you can when you can without expecting or needing anything in return.
- Go easy on yourself. Go easy on each other. But don’t take shit from anyone — and that means from yourself too.
- Laugh when you can, cry when you need to, remember what you can, forget what you need to. And order the french fries instead of the side salad with your entrée every chance you get.
Noah Michelson is the head of HuffPost Personal and the host of “D Is For Desire,” HuffPost’s love and sex podcast. He joined HuffPost in 2011 to launch and oversee the site’s first vertical dedicated to queer issues, Queer Voices, and went on to oversee all of HuffPost’s community sections before pivoting to create and run HuffPost Personal in 2018. He received his MFA in Poetry from New York University and has served as a commentator for the BBC, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, Current TV, Fuse, Sirius XM and HuffPost Live. You can find more from him on Twitter and Instagram.