Photo by Tim Mossholder
Summer has arrived in New England, Boston specifically. Temperatures have been hitting 100 and the sun is shining. The traditional school year is over until September and I often think of students who just finished high school and might be heading to college. I remember feeling like I wasn't ready for college. Actually, I liked school quite a bit and I loved learning new stuff, but I didn't have a clue in what I wanted to be (when I grew up and, apparently, it was time to grow up!). I thought there was something definitely "defective" about me because I couldn't bear the thought of choosing what I would do, for the rest of my life! I admired people who dreamed of being a doctor or nurse or architect or ... and who had held fast to that for many years. Depending on the time of day, I could get excited about any number of careers from the ridiculous to the sublime -- in other words exotic dancer to archeologist (those really were considerations!). I just didn't know where I finally wanted to land and couldn't imagine making that ultimate decision until I experimented and experienced some more of life.
I felt like I was in a bind and even though I was a bit of a rebel, it might have been better if I'd been even more of a nonconformist. Instead of taking off for India (one of my desires at the time), I decided to try and please my parents while still doing some exploration of my own. They were pressuring me to become a success at something legitimate -- I had expressed an interest in ballet and theatre, however they were quick to squash those ideas. My dyslexic, musician father had become a CPA and my mother, who had overcome much adversity, was a dental hygienist, and they just wanted me to go to college, pick something that I could do for the rest of my life (!) and buy into their idea of success. They just wanted what they thought was best for me.
I tried. I went to three full years at one university where I had multiple majors and minors and still couldn't settle on one. I decided that I needed to return to Brazil where I had been extremely happy as an exchange student four years before. After six months there, I still felt like I was a disappointment if I didn't graduate from college, so I switched to another school, started a completely different course of studies and finally got my BS (which is exactly what if felt like) in a field in which I had no interest taking a job. All along the way, I had some very interesting opportunities for employment on the side. In fact, when I married my husband two years later, I was both a technical translator as well as the office manager of a start-up computer company. Slipping into the role as "assistant to the president" or GM for my husband's company was as natural as breathing. At the same time, I developed another interest/passion in pregnancy, childbirth, and new parent education which I pursued on the side.
In my mid 40's, I was struggling in my marriage and felt called to go to nursing school. I graduated as an RN and even got my Master's in Nursing four years later. In the meantime, I was learning about a lot of complementary wellness modalities including Reiki and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. It all tied in with the meditation I had been interested in when I wanted to run away to India instead of going to college so many years before.
I am now in my 60's and I'm still not sure what I want to "be" eventually, but it doesn't matter any more. I'm more interested in what's going on now and I'm open to whatever might be coming next. In fact, I've told my angels that I'm totally open to receive their next best idea! I've had no evidence that it should be any other way. You see, my upcoming birthday (which I'm looking forward to with my usual enthusiasm as cause for celebration) has absolutely no influence on the choices I might make going forward.
Here are a few people who clearly have felt the same way as I do:
Peter Mark Roget, a physician and theologian, created Roget's Thesaurus at 73 in 1852.
Vera Wang was a figure skater, journalist, and fashion editor before she became a famous designer of bridal gowns after age 40.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote and published Little House On the Prairie at 64.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer was 52 when she started her NY radio show, "Sexually Speaking" and, at 90, she's still going strong with Twitter: "I shouldn't have to remind you how dangerous firecrackers, etc. are. My alternative, make your own fireworks. And to be really safe, use contraception."
Susan Kiefel, a high school dropout, was appointed Australia's first High Court chief justice at 63 last year. I guess she found her way!
Harland "Colonel" Sanders franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62.
Julia Child published her first cookbook at 50.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses, "Grandma Moses", started painting at 76 and continued for the next 25 years.
Photo by Stephanie McCabe
We just celebrated the 4th of July, our Independence Day here in the U.S. This country was created with the principals of freedom of choice and founded on people's longing and desires, even though many of them were not all that young in years. There is no set time limit for starting a new business, changing careers, or enjoying success with something different. I would encourage you ... no, I would insist that you explore setting a new goal or dream with no regard for how many times you've circled the sun. Set yourself free and see where it takes you ... this is what I wish for you.