It’s Not too Late to Take that Leap.
I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom in a slightly seedy double-fronted Victorian terrace in Melbourne.
I had the cigarette I’d just rolled in one hand and a CD cover in the other. The album was Dry by PJ Harvey. It made a big impression. It’s a great album — raw, passionate, stripped-back rock. I spent many an hour avoiding study, smoking cigarettes, listening to that album.
And now perhaps you might imagine I’m about to tell you how it inspired me. Well, it didn’t. It discouraged me. PJ was 22 when she made that album. I was 20 when I first listened to it and did the math.
It gave me the slightly agitated feeling of being behind the 8-ball. Even back then, I felt like I should have written a seminal novel, recorded a generation-defining album, started a movement that bettered society. Stella Franklin, better known as Miles Franklin, was also only 22 when she published My Brilliant Career, one of my faves.
And now, maybe you’re expecting that I will launch into how this realization gave me the fire to achieve those aforementioned ideals.
Well, it didn’t.
It remained nothing more than a fleeting memory which, other than lodging itself firmly in my mind, didn’t really become the catalyst for anything more than that.
I didn’t write a seminal novel, record a sublime album or start a revolution.
No, instead I cruised through life feeling like I’d somehow missed the boat. Even as a kid, I immediately gave up on the thought of being an inventor because I decided everything was already invented.
Why the hell? Did I think I was going to die young?
Or maybe I’m just lazy, and think there is still time.
Last year I turned 39 and had a bit of a meltdown. I didn’t realize I was age-phobic, but it brought up some stuff, including that memory at 20.
What would my 20-year-old self think of my almost 40-year-old self? She’d probably think, “Oh fuck, you still haven’t done any of that stuff? Now it’s way too late. You’re old. You missed the boat.” And I’d say, “Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve been thinking that too.”
But now, as I stand on the bridge between 20 and 60, I can just make out the view from beyond.
And I have a feeling that my 60-year-old self would call out: “Darling, get over yourself. You are young and you have 20 years of time to do whatever you like until you get here. And then you’ll still have another 20, 30 or 40 if you keep up the clean living!”
Wow, what a thought, eh? It’s a roll-your-eyes cliché, I know, but it is never too late — until it is, of course. And then who knows?
And you know what else happened this year, as a parallel tributary rushing towards the ocean? Story after story of people who did really cool things later in life, or persisted through setbacks to do what they really wanted to do.
If you’ve ever done any soul-searching, then you’ve most likely heard of Louise Hay, author of seminal self-help book: You Can Heal Your Life. Did you know that she was 60 when she formed Hay House — the now hugely successful publisher?
Or that Anna Wintour, 65-year-old editor-in-chief of American Vogue, was once fired from Harper’s Bazaar?
I recently listened to a TED Radio Hour interview of Diana Nyad who, at the age of 60, decided to reignite a wish to swim from Cuba to Florida — a 177 km stretch of treacherous ocean that she had tried and failed to cross four times before.
Finally, on her fifth attempt, at the age of 64, after 53 hours of continuous swimming, without a shark cage, she made it from Havana to Key West.
And here’s some more:
Charles Darwin was 50 when he published On the Origin of the Species.
Samuel L. Jackson was 46 when Pulp Fiction catapulted him from an obscure recovering cocaine and heroine addict to Hollywood star.
And J.R.R. Tolkien was 62 when he published Lord of The Rings.
Besides these famous personalities, I’m also inspired by the people in my life right now. One of my clients is completing a Master’s degree at 65. She left school at 15, and has no previous academic experience.
Another client has taken a leap of faith, and committed to starting up her own business for the first time in her life, at 53.
So this year, I’m getting out from behind that fucking 8-ball, letting go of this stupid notion that everything should have been done yesterday, and looking forward with a determined brow… starting right now.
How about you? Is there something you’ve been it’s-too-lating too?
Leonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter and editor working with people and businesses that make the world a better place. She’s also a mother, flower-loving, get-her-hands-dirty-veggie-gardening, coffee-drinking, Yoga-teaching, sometimes swearing, adventurous and passionate woman of too many words. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly(ish) blog.