This week’s post is short, because the week has been full of celebrations, and they’re going to continue into the weekend.
Our culture values youth, and I think it’s a great thing. Only a generation or two ago, youth were told to keep quiet at the table. Hitting a child for discipline was widespread and accepted, and in many cases, a child’s career was decided for them. I’m so happy to see how much we support our youth today, talk about children’s rights, and encourage children to find their true path in life. (Although I also wish some old practices, like teaching children to not run around in someone else’s house, would return.)
But if there’s one thing Western culture excels at, it’s the pendulum swing: whereas the older generations were once valued, the pendulum is now at the other side. A story has been making the rounds about Lyn Slater, a 63-year-old professor with *gasp* a sense of fashion. She blogs at Accidental Icon. In an interview from January, published at Today, she says, “I get a lot of emails from younger people saying … you’re making us feel like getting old is fun and cool, and that you can do whatever you want at whatever age.”
I shared her story on Facebook with one word: “Amen.”
I’ve still got a ways to go before I reach her age, but I look up to people like her and older who are breaking the stereotypes of aging. Our reverence for youth has, I think, made us blind to the grace, wisdom, knowledge, and fearlessness that can come with age. (I sometimes joke that I can’t wait to turn 70, because then I can start dancing down the street to a song in my head and people won’t think I’m crazy, just old.)
One skill I’ve finally developed with age is discipline. I’m not a Zen nun in Western culture by any stretch, but it was through discipline that I dedicated an hour to 90 minutes almost every night over the past two and a half years to work on a novel. That same discipline allowed me to start it again at an editor’s suggestion in November of last year and finish that first draft just this week.
My point isn’t to gloat, though. My point is this: Getting older lets us develop filters without blinders, and those filters are what help stay focused on goals. I’ve learned to trust myself enough that if something interrupts my writing routine, I start it up again as soon as possible. In my 20s I didn’t have that kind of discipline. I often regret that, of course, but part of growing up is learning to live with the errors of youth.
Whatever your age, it’s never too late to be bold, daring, and set large goals. And that means it’s never too late to start on your dream creative projects. Even if you have to take painting lessons first before you can start that mural in your bedroom, register for those lessons. You have the discipline to practice most days, the experience to know when it’s time to take a break, and the wisdom to know that, even if you don’t make it, what you’ve learned on the journey can be just as or even more thrilling than achieving your actual goal.