Jane Fonda, who rang in her 80th birthday on Dec. 21, says she’s simply thankful to be alive.
As a young woman, “I never pictured 30,” she tells People in the magazine’s new issue. “I assumed I wouldn’t live very long and that I would die lonely and an addict of some sort. I didn’t think if I did live this long, that I would be vibrant and healthy and still working. I’m grateful.”
Fonda’s early years were shaped by family tragedy. Her socialite mother, Frances, suffered from mental illness and committed suicide when Jane was 12 and her brother, actor Peter Fonda, was 9. Jane, who idolized her father, movie legend Henry Fonda, despite his emotional coldness, says she led a “fraught adolescence” filled with insecurity and loneliness. She battled bulimia for decades, even as she rose to Hollywood stardom and won two Oscars.
Today, the actress, activist and author has overcome many of life’s challenges and is not only alive but thriving. (She earned Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations this year for Grace and Frankie, her Netflix comedy with friend Lily Tomlin.) In the new issue of People, she looks back on what she has learned about life and love, including her three marriages (to director Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and media mogul Ted Turner). “If you don’t feel seen, safe or celebrated, get out,” she says.
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Fonda talks about her biggest regrets (“I tell my kids I’m sorry” for not spending more time with them), her proudest moment (accepting her father’s Oscar for On Golden Pond after they made amends) and the roots of her controversial antiwar activism. Today, she’s an outspoken advocate for many causes, including women’s rights. (Her charity, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, supports health, well-being and pregnancy prevention for teens.)
And yes, the onetime workout guru looks amazing at 80. But Fonda says it’s her inner self-improvement that she is most proud of. “I’m thankful that I’ve gotten better over the 80 years,” she says. “I’m less judgmental. I’m forgiving. It wasn’t always true. I’ve really worked hard to get better as a human being.”