Jul 032013


Do you think you are tool old? Or too young?

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, already competent on the piano and violin, composed music at the age of five. Pablo Picasso’s career as an artist began in his early teens. Blaise Pascal  invented an early mechanical calculator at the age of nineteen. Michael Jackson started performing with his brothers in The Jackson 5 at age six. By age eight, he was sharing lead vocals. Alexander Pope wrote “Ode to Solitude” at age 12 and became famous at 21 with the publication of “Pastorals”.It can be awe-inspiring to hear of such talent and competence at early ages. But it can also be discouraging.

Sometimes it makes us, even those of use who are still relatively young, think there is no point in trying something new or continuing to work on a dream. We mistakenly think that because we didn’t master it as a teen or display obvious talent as a child, there is no point.

Last week, my review of Sonia Tilson’s debut book, The Monkey Puzzle Tree, appeared in The Winnipeg Review. Sonia Tilson is eighty years old. Her accomplishment reminds me of the many people who have successfully pursued something new or completed a life’s work at a later stage in life.

Although Nelson Mandela became politically active in his twenties, an activism that led to many years of imprisonment in South Africa, he was 62 in 1990 when he led a multi-racial ANC committee into preliminary negotiations with South African government officials, the first of several negotiations that eventually led to the ending of apartheid. He was almost 76 when he became president of South Africa.

Benjamin Franklin was 70 when he signed the United States Declaration of Independence. Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was in her thirties and was 51 when her PBS show The French Chef debuted. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing as a columnist in her forties. She was in her sixties when her book Little House on the Prairies was published.

If you look around, you will likely find other examples of accomplishments later in life close to home, accomplishments that may not have received the world renown of the examples I’ve cited. I see it in my own family. I was in my teens when my maternal grandmother took up ceramics. Her work was excellent. She sold many pieces, often commissioned items. She loved to tell us about Grandma Moses the artist who started painting in her 70s.

Aunts from both sides of my family began painting in their fifties and sixties. Both have displayed work in juried art shows. Another aunt began teaching music to young children in her late sixties.

We often cheat ourselves by saying we are too old or too young to do something. Granted, as our bodies age, more physical limitations appear. And it may be difficult for a baby-faced twenty-five year-old to be taken seriously in a position of power. But our perceptions about it being too late or too soon in life are frequently more limiting than any real physical limitations. My friend taught a water colour class this past winter. Her youngest student was 15, her oldest 75.

Whether it is an artistic endeavour, computer skills, volunteer work, a new language, mastering knitting (which I still haven’t completely given up on), visiting another country, or some other skill, there is only now. Follow your dream.

Explore your mind, discover yourself, then give the best that is in you to your age and to your world. There are heroic possibilities waiting to be discovered in every person. ∼Wilfred Peterson

It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise. ∼Nancy Thayer


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