It’s Not Too Late
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 this album.
And now perhaps you might imagine I’m about to tell you how it inspired me. Well it didn’t. It discouraged me. She was 22 when she made that album. I was 20 when I first listened to it and did the math.
It gave me a 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 her first novel (one of my faves) - My Brilliant Career.
And now, maybe you’re expecting that I will launch into how this realisation gave me the fire to achieve those aforementioned ideals.
Well it didn't.
It remained nothing more than a fleeting memory, that 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 always feeling I'd somehow missed the boat. Even from a very early age I wanted to be an inventor but 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…
At the beginning of the year I turned 39 and had a bit of a meltdown. I didn’t realise 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 wayyyyy 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 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, 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 has 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 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 a now hugely successful publisher?
Or that Anna Wintour, 65 year old editor-in-chief of American Vogue was once fired from Harpers Bazaar?
And I was recently listening to a program on TED Radio. One of the women interviewed was Diana Nyad who at the age of 60 decided to reignite a wish to swim from Cuba to Florida; a 177km 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 obscure recovering cocaine and heroine addict, to Hollywood star.
And Tolkien was 62 when he published Lord of The Rings.
So, 60 year old me... I hear you. I'm dropping the 'it's-too-late' story and making the next 20 years count.