I recently read an article about people who reached their career or personal goals much later in life than they originally planned. It was eye-opening, not to mention inspiring. Especially to a 40-something woman who is grappling with the what's next question of life (me). So if you're starting to feel a bit washed up after the age of 35(!), don't give it another thought.
First of all, 35—the defined age of a late bloomer—is not old, neither is 45 or 55, for that matter. But according to the powers that be, 35 is the age when we're supposed to get our sh*t together. The world is filled with twenty-somethings who seem to have conquered their to-do list in record time. Some of us take a little longer. And some of you may still be trying to figure out what you're going to do when you grow up.
I don't know any 18-year-old who knows exactly what he or she is going to do with the rest of their lives. Hint: you're not supposed to. I tell my girls all the time it doesn't matter if you graduate from college and decide to take a different path. It doesn't matter if you go down one path and then choose another. And it certainly doesn't matter if you decide to do 2 or 3 things. In fact, I encourage it. But, if you're not 18 any more, the same rules apply.
I honestly feel like we shed our skins like a snake. Every 7 years or so, it's time to try something new. Our personal identities don't remain stagnate, why should our professional identity be any different? The problem is we feel we've failed if we haven't met certain goals by a certain age. We question whether we have enough education, experience, or just plain guts to see it through. We're afraid of failure. We're afraid of success.
Let's use me as an example. Because I chose one career (design) over another (writing), I was constantly telling myself it's okay, I'll get to it later. Until later became much later, and then I started to feel too old to try. One excuse after the other kept rolling off my tongue. But the truth is, it's never too late and you're never too old to begin anything.
David told me about an article he read in the newspaper about a 55 year-old woman who published her first novel. Cynthia's book has made my list of spring/summer reads and I just purchased it over the weekend. Many people begin the career or job they've longed to try well into their 40s, and this was just another example.
I was inspired once again.
Did you know?
These authors did not graduate from college: William Faulkner (1949 Nobel prize for literature), Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Nora Roberts...
John Grogan was 48 when he wrote Marley & Me. Sue Monk Kidd didn't start writing until she was 30. Danielle Steel has a degree in fashion design. J.K. Rowling studied French and became a teacher. John Grisham studied accounting, went on to become a lawyer, and wrote A Time to Kill after work. Robert Ludlum studied drama. Janet Evanovich didn't publish her first novel until she was 44.
And still, many tell you don't bother getting an MFA in writing. Just write! (And watch this interview as she has since edited her post. Also, please read her book, Big Magic.)
So pick up that camera. Start baking. Learn a language. Pick up a brush. Find your voice. Stop making excuses. And never, ever let this three-letter word back into your vocabulary.
P.S. You may also like Mistaken Identity, Some Thoughts on Writing, Worshipping at the Alter of Elizabeth Gilbert, and My Take on Writing.
Photo: Moyan Brenn