"It's never too late to be what you might have been."
~ George Eliot (1819-1880)The above quote is one of my favorites. Not only does it originate with a woman who certainly knew how to go after whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, it also serves as a reminder that my tardiness in entering the world of writing is far from uncommon.
Now that I've reached my mid-forties, I confess to having moments of slight regret over what I have not yet accomplished. On particularly bad days, I beat myself up a little for not following the "writing bug" back when it first bit, which was...well, so long ago I can't even really say! Books and reading and writing have been a part of my life for so long that I can't pinpoint the genesis of my love for it all. It's just always been there, like the air I breathe. My mother tells stories of peeking at me in my crib when she thought I was asleep, only to find me quietly flipping pages of a cloth baby book, so maybe it started that long ago.
Whenever it began, it's never ended, and in the last few years the need to put pen to paper has only grown stronger, even as my time has seemingly grown shorter. And on those bad, woe-is-me, why-didn't-I days, I've found it helps to remind myself of all of those other people who started following dreams late in life and managed to find success and (one presumes) contentment. For those of you out there who, like me, find themselves regretting time not spent pursuing writing or something else you've always wanted to do, here are a few others who didn't have it all figured out by twenty-one either! :)
- George Eliot - she was forty when her first novel was published (Adam Bede, 1859, followed by The Mill on the Floss in 1860 and Silas Marner in 1861).
- Laura Ingalls Wilder - her Little House books were published when she was in her sixties.
- Kenneth Grahame - The Wind in the Willows was published in 1908, when he was forty-nine.
- Richard Adams - he was in his fifties when Watership Down was published.
- Maya Angelou - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969, when she was forty-one.
And if we think about it, it makes a good deal of sense. What do we really know at twenty or twenty-five? How much richer and deeper might our books or stories or paintings be once we've had a chance to live a little, lose a little, experience more?
So I'm choosing to see my late start as a good thing, and hope that by waiting until now I've given myself a chance to grow wiser and, with any luck, it will all give my future work more depth and meaning. I may not be able to reach my goals in the next year, or even two, but I'll keep going, knowing the trail has been blazed by the likes of Maya, Laura and George, and that being late to the party may turn out to be a good thing after all.