One of the benefits of being of a certain age is that you really can look back and dish out advice based on decades of experience! And no, I don’t mean the kind where you explain to your kids how, back in the day, you walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways, with no coat or mittens, barefoot. I’m talking about the kind of insight you dispense after you’ve learned to make the most from experience while also keeping up with the times.
Today I feel compelled to tell you that, if you believe you haven’t “made it” yet, that you haven’t peaked, no matter what your age, you should not feel bad. You should rejoice!
I will illustrate my point with an anecdote.
When Facebook became available to everyone, we all started searching for our long-lost school-day friends, and even our first loves. I was in my early forties when this happened and of course my school-day peeps were my age.
I had not seen some of them for a couple of decades or more, so a lot of life happened to all of us in that time. Well, at least to those who actually made it that far. Others had died from drug and alcohol abuse, illnesses, and even war. That’s life too.
So, back to my point, I was surprised to find that a lot of the “popular” kids at school, the ones who had peaked young, now wore middle-aged frowns and carried jaded attitudes. They had an “is this all there is to life” outlook. It was a shock to me.
You see, I was bullied as a kid, well into my teens. At school, I was a misfit, a weirdo, a wallflower. For many years after that, I felt I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. Sure, I wanted to write, but I didn’t know what to write, or how to get my work published. I wanted to be a young mom. But I couldn’t find the ideal partner to have kids with.
Fast forward to my forties, checking out my own profile picture on Facebook and my “about me” description. Suddenly, I felt pretty good about myself.
I had already published over a dozen books and become a mom—two of my highest aspirations in life. I still did not feel that I’d “made it,” but I also did not feel bitter at life.
A year or two after joining Facebook my world crumbled and I found myself divorced and in dire straits. Despite those tough times, I never, ever, thought, “is this all there is?” I still had dreams, I still had passions, I still had life and a strong will to live it!
In my forties I cherished my hobbies, sports, friends, family and hope. I believed that the actions I took today would carry me into a better tomorrow. And indeed, they did. In my fifties I went on to launch a profitable digital business, I happily remarried and continue to write books.
Despite some tough times, I never, ever, thought, “is this all there is?”
I realize that, unfortunately, I’m not the norm in having this outlook on life. So, I’ve taken a closer look at not only my schoolmates, many of whom I can barely recognize in their defeated older selves, but also at other people my age.
I can see a pattern. Those who were popular or even academically successful at school and college do not necessarily feel accomplished or satisfied with their life now that they’re in their forties and fifties or beyond. Their youthful ambitions are long gone. They seem to be living off of their memories.
On the other hand, those who went through school and college (unless they dropped out) without making a mark, seem to have found their wings later in life and have gone on to accomplish great things, form strong relationships, and feel good about themselves.
Those are the friends I love to spend time with today—the people who keep reinventing themselves, never resting on their laurels, always looking forward to the next project, the next invention, the next enterprise. The thinkers, dreamers and doers.
I don’t have such fond memories of my school days … but on the other hand I lived the first half of my life in a way that made me feel I was always moving forward. I was always exploring, always learning. Sure, mistakes were made. But I turned them into opportunities to make the next experience better. I aspire to live the second half of my life the same way.
Today, a month shy of my 55th birthday, I still don’t feel like I have peaked. I also don’t look back to this or that time in my life wishing I was as successful or happy or carefree as back then. And that’s a great thing, because what keeps me going is the pursuit, the chase, the creation, the journey. I think if I ever get to feel that I’ve “arrived,” that would be the beginning of the end.
If you feel you haven’t peaked, whatever your age, allow me to congratulate you. Good for you! You aren’t a has-been! You don’t need to live in the shadow of your past glories.
You still have the opportunity to enjoy the process of achieving whatever it is you want to achieve. Go for it! Please enjoy every step of the way, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.
Never, ever, give up on the pursuit of your dreams.
They will always carry you to the next step up.