As anyone in their 50s or 60s can tell you, there’s still a lot of learning, exploring, growing—and, yes, mistake-making—to come.

Midlife is just another milepost, not a stop sign.

We asked Ashley Bryan, 95, children’s book author and illustrator, 2017 Newbery Medal honoree for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan, what wisdom he’d impart to his 50- or 60-year-old self.

Given how his life turned out, what does he wish he’d known two or three decades earlier?

Make the most of every moment

After completing college and graduate school—broken up by a stint in the army during World War II—Bryan established a career as an artist and teacher, eventually becoming head of the art department at Dartmouth College.

“If you’re living in the moment, the regrets have already been realized and dealt with in their own creative ways.”
Ashley Bryan

“The advice I’d give myself 20 or 30 years ago is the same as it is today: Make the most of the moment. The moment is all we have. The moment is given,” says Bryan, a Harlem native who began drawing and painting as a young child. “I have tried to make whatever I’m doing in that moment be most important to me.”

At 65, Bryan retired to Maine’s Cranberry Isles and began making art prolifically.

He has created fantastical hand-held puppets from items he found washed up on the rocky shores and published more than 30 illustrated books, many of which bring African stories, proverbs, and spirituals to life.

“If I give to each moment the best I have, I can’t regret anything in the past,” he says. “The thing is, if you’re living in the moment, the regrets have already been realized and dealt with in their own creative ways.”

This is part of a series of Interviews conducted by Max Alexander, Austin Kilham, Lynn Shattuck, and Emily E. Smith.

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