Just two weeks ago, the world watched in awe as Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West, in shark-infested water without a protective cage. Throughout the 100 mile trip, the endurance swimmer contended with harsh wind, exceptionally cold water, fatigue and jellyfish. Hardly a novice, Nyad had attempted the crossing four times before, each time dealing with storms, asthma attacks, a swollen tongue and lips, and even vomiting due to excessive intake of salt water. But all of this isn’t even the most impressive part to me. Her fifth and final attempt took 53 hours, resulting in a historic achievement, all at the tender age of 64.
I can’t help but think that the universe is trying to tell me something this month. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve befriended Sarah Bracey White, a 67 year-old author who was just published for the first time; watched Lillie McCloud, a 54 year-old, mind-blowing vocalist make her first appearance on national tv after years of putting off her dream in favor of taking care of her children; and I just learned that Julia Child didn’t begin her long-running PBS program “The French Chef” until she was 51. It’s true. It turns out the inexperienced Child enrolled in cooking school in her mid-thirties, unsure of “what to do with herself” when she relocated to France for her husband’s post with the State Department.
When Diana Nyad walked onto land she said, “I have three messages. One is, you should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport but it’s a team.” For all of our self-imposed limitations, these women serve as a strong, inspiring message that life is what we make of it at any age. True, the aging of our bodies can impose some limitations, but don’t performers and artists bring more passion, skill and a deeper expression to their work, having lived longer, fuller lives? Don’t older entrepreneurs stand a greater chance of success since they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to a new business they are trying to establish? Doesn’t someone who finds their passion “later” in life bring a greater commitment and ardor to that very pursuit?
I think we are all capable of turning the tables, changing our lives and achieving great things – at any age. Many of us have to delay or derail our goals when life presents us with challenges or responsibilities. Lamenting those losses is human but it’s possible, and necessary, to hold onto those dreams and interests. They are, after all, what makes life worth living. The very experience of life can also lead us in new directions, even if it’s very late in the game. When the little voice inside your head shouts, “You’re too old” or whispers, “That ship has sailed,” it’s important to resist the urge to “act your age.” Age doesn’t have to define us. It’s secondary to who we really are. And as George Eliot once said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
photo credit: humblypeaxlove.net
A few more inspirational quotes to consider;
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” – Satchel Paige
“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”
– Coco Chanel
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” – George Burns