There was a brilliant thread on Twitter toward the end of last year, about how you should stop telling yourself you’re too old to do (fill in the blank) Did you see it?
Since reading it, I’ve been thinking about it A LOT, so thought I’d write a quick post about the whole thing in case anyone else needs to read it like I did.
It got 2006 retweets, 9480 likes and over 2000 replies. It was the best thread I’ve read on Twitter in a long while.
The people who replied were a massive cross section. From the famous to the not so famous.
The successes and accomplishments listed diverse, but it was the whole load of people (me included) that thanked her for starting the thread that struck home the most.
Out of time because of a birthday?
It seems a lot of us are filled with anxiety that ‘we have missed our time.’ I know I was.
I remember when was in my early thirties, my son was about three years old and I’d just got rejected again by an agent for the young adult book I was working on.
I’d edited it to her requirements, done a rework and she still wasn’t on board. She congratulated me on my writing but said she just wasn’t ‘in love with it as much as she would’ve liked.’ That old chestnut.
What I should’ve done, was asked her why, begged her for more feedback, done another draft and carried on, carried on, carried on.
But, I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I felt like a massive failure and told myself it was too late. Something along the lines of, ‘if it hasn’t happened now, then I should give up.’
And so I did.
My husband started singing Give it Up, by KC and The Sunshine Band, to inject a little humour into the situation but I couldn’t laugh about it. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was out of time on that particular dream.
And so began another stretch of not writing fiction, years of not pursuing my dream. Instead I patched up that longing I had by becoming a freelance writer, providing articles for magazines and copy for websites. I enjoyed it, it was great, I told people I was a writer, but then I’d read a great novel and get that horrible feeling, the one in the pit of your stomach that whispers regret.
I should have done this by now
I really, really wanted to write fiction, so why wasn’t I? Because of how old I was?
When you put it like that, you realise how daft it sounds. Like someone is clock watching, marking your progress and dictating it’s far too late for you do that now. No one is telling you that crap apart from yourself, like you have a certain age to get everything figured out. By this age you should be this, by this age you should have done that etc, does it sound familiar? Because it’s all nonsense. Stop telling yourself that.
There’s no age restrictions on accomplishments.
In her thread, Cassandra tells a young woman who is turning thirty and feeling awful about it, ‘It’s because of the media, because of how youth is endlessly championed, how Hollywood talks about being ‘young and free.’ On TV, everyone is immortally young. So it makes sense that you’re going to feel that tug of despair at the thought of losing that. I did. It’s normal. Everyone goes through that. You’ll come out of the other side’
And you do.
The only thing that happens if you stop reaching and striving is that you get older.
The dream never disappears, you never make peace with it unless you know, without doubt that you tried your very hardest. That’s why I kept coming back to writing fiction, why I still keep coming back to writing.
It took me a few years to realise that my life is lesser without writing in it. I have to work toward that goal of being good at writing the stories I want to tell.
Stop telling yourself lies
In that glorious thread are people who switched jobs after 40, who got publishing success post 60, people who became animators, sold mini-series, computer games all over 35. In fact, when reading through the many replies, it struck me that most people only start to really get where they’re going post 30.
And here are some other examples, Vera Wang didn’t begin her dress designing career until she was 40, Stan Lee, the creator of ‘The Fantastic Four’ didn’t get his first hit comic until he was 39, Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50, Anna Mary Robertson Moses began her painting career at 78, and one of her paintings sold for 1.2 million dollars.
So don’t let age stop you from doing anything. You need to stop telling yourself it’s too late, or you’re too old, or you’re too tired. Stop telling yourself excuses.
Don’t let another birthday be a reminder of how your aspirations are slipping away, and don’t feel like a failure if it hasn’t happened how you planned yet. No body (apart from a rare few) just happen upon achieving their dream the way they planned. Give yourself a break, be kind and stop filling your head with lies.
You can catch up on the Twitter thread here