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 Loretta Swit, 81, Emmy-award winning actress and author, what wisdom she’d impart to her 50- or 60-year-old self. Given how her life turned out, what does she wish she’d known two or three decades earlier?

Have the courage to speak out

Best known for playing Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on M*A*S*H, Swit is also an animal rights activist and author of Switheart: The Watercolour Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit.

“So if I look back on what I would do differently, I would try to be more aware of other people’s issues.”
Loretta Swit

“I think it’s good to speak out, especially if you have something very positive to say. You have to have the conviction and the ability to say it out loud—the courage.

“Hannah Gadsby stood in a sold-out Sydney Opera House [in her 2018 Netflix special Nanette] and said, ‘I will not do self-deprecating comedy. I won’t do it to myself, it’s not funny, it’s not humor—it’s humiliating.’

“That was a great gift that she gave the audience. So if I could go back, I would try to be stronger. I would try to have more courage to speak out. I have done that to some degree, but not like she did.”

Swit, who grew up Catholic, has also seen her perspective on how others act evolve. “When you grow up in that atmosphere, you never assume that anybody would lie, but they do sometimes,” she says.

“You need to be aware that the whole world and every person in it is not a saint. So if I look back on what I would do differently, I would try to be more aware of other people’s issues. I had to learn that little by little as I got older.”

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

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