Two women celebrate their 70th Birthday. They both feel very different about this milestone. One ‘knows’ that her best days are behind her and that life is drawing to a close. After being alive for seven decades, her body is starting to break down and she needs to prepare for her final few, restful, years.
The other woman figures that what a person is actually capable of, at any age, depends much more on her beliefs and she believes there’s more fuel in the tank. She’s always been interested in mountaineering and decides, if not now then when?! For the next twenty years she devotes herself to this passion, climbing some of the highest peaks in the world.
At 91, Hulda Crooks became the oldest woman to scale Mount Fiji.
It is a tragic truth of many lives that people have a fixed idea of what they should do, when. That there is an optimum age to start something, or achieve a milestone. If you’ve gone past it, unfortunately that experience has passed you by and you must now find something more age appropriate, or a goal more feasible.
Look up ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’ on Wikipedia and you’ll be told that, Penelope Mary Fitzgerald (1916–2000) was an English Booker Prize–winning novelist, poet, essayist, and biographer. In 2008, The Times included her in a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
An impressive and accurate bio of an ambitious woman. What that snippet doesn’t tell you though, was that in 1970, aged 53, Penelope hadn’t written a thing. Having graduated from Oxford University in the 1930s, she was a star student and her professors expected big things. However for Penelope, as for many of us, life had a knack of constantly getting in between her and her passion – in this case writing. When she finally did commit to writing her first book, she went on to publish 9 novels and 2 biographies. And it was her last novel, ‘The Blue Flower’, which made her a literary celebrity at the age of 80.
There are many, many examples of people like this but our culture doesn’t make their stories famous as it does with younger stars or prodigies. This is especially prevalent in the entertainment industry, which has such a public face.
Carlos Santana has had a remarkable career as a musician, but the spotlight was never brighter on him than it was in 2000, with his single “Smooth”. He was over 50 then, and is still performing now. There are many artists who wouldn’t have kept creating to this age, when it feels that too many people have lost interest in you, or that you’re “not relevant” any more.
If you think you may be too old to start or pursue something which interests you, ask yourself, the experiences you dream about now, do you think you’d still enjoy those in 5years time? If so, then what ya waiting for? We are living longer so just because Tupac and Keats were heroes at 22, doesn’t mean 22 is the only age you can be heroic.
Not every dream or goal will have been accomplished by someone older than you, it’s true. But that is true of everything until someone does it. Someone always has to be the first.
The curves of our lives don’t all bend the same way.