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The life advice old people wish they could give to their younger self

'Travel before your knees give out'

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 21 December 2016 12:38 GMT
Artist Susan O'Malley asked people to imagine the advice they might like to give themselves
Artist Susan O'Malley asked people to imagine the advice they might like to give themselves (guvendemir/iStock)

What would you tell a younger version of yourself? Would you warn them of what they’ll regret, or be resolute that you had lived your life as well as you could? This is what artist Susan O’Malley asked for her project: “Advice from my 80-year-old self”.

To explore this idea, O’Malley, who tragically died in 2015, confronted dozens of people in her local California’s San Francisco Bay area with the question of what their 80-year-old self would say to their present self.

Her search took her from public squares and farmers’ markets to seniors’ centres across the Bay area.

The results were published in the book Advice from My 80-year-old Self and installed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Responses included practical advice, from urging themselves to travel while they still can and save money.

“No matter how many times I’ve asked it, I am always surprised by how people respond,” she wrote in the foreword for the book.

(Chronicle Books (Chronicle Books)

"For the most part, it takes time for people to find their 80-year-old voice. She’s always there though, her wisdom just waiting to be summoned and heard. She is likely a kinder, more courageous, and sometimes even more practical version of you.”

O’Malley’s book was published after the artist collapsed and died when she was pregnant with twin girls. Doctors attempted to save the babies with an emergency caesarean operation but they also died. She was 38-years-old.

As well as an artist who specialised in simple text over colours, O’Malley was a curator who oversaw over 50 exhibitions and programmes. She once described her work as “making art that connects us to each other", according to the Huffington Post.

Christina Amini, publishing director of Art publishing at Chronicle Books and a friend and collaborator of O’Malley told The Independent: “Right now, I am looking to the artwork of my dear friend Susan O’Malley for inspiration, for articulation, and for strength. Susan was an expert at the great power of human connection and distilling life into its fundamental element: love.

She added: “She had the singular ability to find essential truths and share them. They seem to be speaking to us all the time, especially now.”

Karen, 51, said simply: "Nothing will be what you expected," while Sarah, 50, urged realism when attempting to change a loved one by saying: "You can't change anyone except yourself."

Larry, 88, gave a simple but inspiring message: "Try again and again and again," and perhaps, eventually, you'll get what you want through your persistence.

He also imparted one piece of advice that it's so easy to forget: "Appreciate your body, especially when it's w

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