It is never too late to be what you might have been

Some people my age (62 at the time of this writing) believe it is too late to follow their dream. You don’t have to be 62 to believe it is too late. In fact, I was only 26 when I felt that way. You see, a friend asked me to join him in going to the university. But I’m too old. I said. Everyone GRADUATES when they’re 22; I’m already 26 and haven’t even started.

However, he said, In four years, you will be four years older whether you go to the university or not. Which would you rather be, four years older with a degree, or four years older without one? Those words changed my life. I suddenly realized you’re never too old to follow your dream. So, I started school. After cramming four years of study into three, I got my degree, then decided to continue and went on to graduate school. See, its never too late. Unless you don’t start.

Is it really true that you’re never too old to start a new career or make a dramatic change in your life? What if you’re 72, or 82? Isn’t that too old to learn a new language? Not so. Two thousand years ago, the Roman Statesman, Cato, learned Greek at age 80.

Can you be creative in old age? How about Goethe? His greatest Work, Faust wasn’t completed until he was 80. And Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine Chapel.

More examples? Luigi Cornaro, a Venetian scholar, started writing on geriatrics at the age of 83. His classic treatise The Joys of Old Age was written in 1562 when he was 95. In modern times, the great philosopher, mathematician, and pacifist, Bertrand Russell, participated and was arrested in an antinuclear demonstration when he was 89.

We mustn’t forget about Grandma Moses, who started painting at 80. Did you know twenty-five percent of her more than 1,500 paintings were done after she was one hundred?

When I was a high school student, Henry Little, the president of  The Institution for Savings in Newburyport, Massachusetts, decided to retire so a younger man could take over. Mr. Little retired when he was 102. The younger man who took over was 83.

Little Lessons

What can we learn from the above examples? They were all passionate about what they were doing. Passion is a source of energy and youthfulness, for as Benjamin Franklin wrote, Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.

Also, they realized it is far better to be 70 years young than 40 years old, so they didn’t let their age stop them from chasing their dream. They understood that it is never too late to do something, and the time for action is now. Unlike King Richard II, they never lamented, I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

Another lesson is when opportunities appeared, they took the plunge. Yes, there were risks involved, but why be afraid of life? Death, maybe, but not life. Rita Coolidge appreciated how important throwing caution to the wind is when she said, Too often the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the locks and shut off the burglar alarm, its too late.

In my own case, the elixir of youth is my daily dose of new experiences and knowledge. Apparently Henry Ford felt in a similar fashion, for he said, Anyone who stops learning is old, whether this happens at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps on learning not only remains young but becomes constantly more valuable, regardless of physical capacity.

Finally, here is an Arabic saying to mull over, When you see old people amiable, mild, equable, content, and good-humored, be sure that in their youth they have been just, generous, and forbearing. In their end they do not lament the past, nor dread the future; they are like the evening of a fine day.

Poem by Edward Tuck

Age is a quality of the mind:
If you have left your dreams behind,
If hope is cold;
If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambitions fires are dead
Then you are old.

But if from life you take the best,
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold;
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly
You are not old.