At the beginning of a new year there are always a lot of “30 Under 30” type of lists to laud the accomplishments of young go-getters. Today in response, someone on my Facebook feed posted a list of accomplishments of people over 50, and it rocked. It also resonated. I’m 51, and for the past year and a half my career and much of my life has gone in a completely unexpected, and wonderful, direction.
For the past several years I had slowly, almost imperceptibly, kind of lazed myself into a sedate existence. I liked aspects of my real estate career very much, but it didn’t speak to my creative side at all. I didn’t work out or use my body and my joints had started to hurt. I had that “Ouch, I have to ease into the day” feeling whenever the alarm went off in the morning. I wasn’t headed anywhere good, physically or emotionally.
Then, unexpectedly, two years ago I was offered the opportunity to be trained by a well-respected physical trainer in a pilot diet and exercise program at no cost for a year. It was one of those things that just hit at exactly the right time. I knew I should grab the opportunity, so I did. A few months later my sister urged me to pick up my paint brushes and start nurturing my creative side again. (Urged is a weak word in this context… “persistently hassled” would be a more appropriate term.) And because I had begun moving my body regularly and I was feeling generally more engaged and energized as a result, I listened to her. I started to paint in a way I never had before. And boom! Connecting to my creative side instantly left me feeling more alive than I had in years. The changes were compounding.
Had you asked me six months earlier if I would be engaged in any of this activity, I would’ve been certain that I would NOT. I had felt middle-aged. Old. Done.
So, what’s changed for me? The short answer is that I’m 35 pounds lighter, much stronger and healthier than I’ve been in years, and much more energized than I ever imagined being again. I feel far more like the athlete I was in my youth than the old lady that I felt that I was rapidly becoming. I have become a part-time professional working artist and expect to be doing it full time by the end of the year. I’ve had my work included in national exhibitions, my clientele is expanding, and the opportunities for exhibitions and sales continues to grow. I’ve taken up one of my favorite past times again (competitive billiards) and I’m meeting new people and engaging in life in an entirely different way than I was just a couple of years ago. I literally look and feel like a different person.
But that’s how it can be in the middle years. That’s the benefit of getting here. You have enough experience under your belt to be courageous enough to try new things without worrying so much about looking foolish. And you have enough perspective to know that you don’t really know what’s ahead, even if it FEELS like things will never change. (Hint: they can!)
The other really important thing to note is that I don’t feel arrogant or braggy about any of this. I didn’t do this. This is the result of all of the circumstances in my life: the people, experiences, opportunities and situations that brought me here. We all have this warp and weft of experience that leads us to where we are, and that will lead to where we cannot yet predict we’ll be. You might think you know you’re whole story, but I would bet that you don’t.
I write this in the hopes that reading this can be a piece of your change; that this can be the straw that broke the camel’s back on your stagnation. I don’t know what your “art” is. Maybe it’s travel, maybe it’s seeing your family again, maybe it’s working on your marriage, taking up fishing or taking that class you thought it was too late to take.
It isn’t too late. It isn’t. I promise. Listen to that little voice that’s telling you “Maybe I could do this.” What, after all, have you to lose other than some old, unfounded beliefs, unsatisfying and weak comforts, and stale habits? In the words of some Nike advertising exec somewhere (who was probably a bored employee in another industry just a few years prior… just guessing here… probably not *smile*), Just Do It. No, really. Right now. Start. And let me know what happens!