I remember the day I heard Geena Davis, the actress, was vying for a semi-finals spot in archery for the 2000 Olympics. She was 43 years old, and her introduction to archery had only begun two years before this Olympic tryout. The news filled me with a warm, elated feeling, close to giddiness, that I didn’t quite understand. I was pulled in and invested in her success. Yes, I was rooting for the underdog, but it was more than that. Deep down, what was actually bubbling to the surface inside of me was this: I could still become an Olympian.
Sometimes it feels like life has slipped us by. We intended to do exciting things, and be great at such-and-such, but somehow we got caught up and lost in the day-to-day.
For me, I wanted to be a writer. I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was six years old, I wrote my first poem and started a journal of my writing collections. At eight, my third grade teacher told me I was a good writer, and that sealed the deal. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
What I actually became was an English professor and a mother.
I put my writing on the back-burner of my life. It sat there boiling, the most fantastic homemade soup, ready for me to pick it up off the stove. Sometimes I’d stir it, or stick a spoon in, and taste a bit. It was not quite ready. When the timer started going off, I was too busy. I settled on convenience and ate fast food instead.
Toby Mac, the musician, puts it this way: “Too many passing dreams…roll by like limousines.” I’ve definitely felt like I’ve stood on the sidewalk and watched plenty of stretch limos roll by.
One of those times was when my husband had a chance meeting with Matt Hader, a screenwriter and uncle to Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live. My husband told him I was an aspiring screenwriter, and Mr. Hader gave him his business card. He said he’d help me if I ever got a script written. He said to write every day. That was five years ago. I watched that limousine roll by. But I still have his card. Maybe I can grab an Uber car and find a way to catch up with it.
Not that everything I had prioritized above my writing wasn’t important. It was. I loved my students, and know I made an impact investing in their lives. My love for my children and my family surpasses it all. I don’t regret the time I have given, immersing myself in taking care of them. What I regret is not having carved out at least a little time doing the thing that thrills me…writing. The good news is, it’s never too late.
Once, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I read George Eliot’s quote on a bookmark. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Never had a quote resonated with me more. I bought the bookmark, but kept the words deep down in my heart. I knew I would eventually make that move to become a writer. I would become what I had never been.
Last year, the younger of my two daughters moved off to college. I still had an eight year old son at home, but I saw this as an opportunity to fill the aching void of my girls not being home. I began my writing journey. I went to my first writer’s workshop the month my daughter moved out. It was my first step.
After three days of soaking in every ounce of information about writing I could, a dam broke and a poem poured out of me. It took me a month to shape and polish it, then I sent it off.
It. Got. Published. At the age of 50, I had become a writer.
So here I am, doing it. I wrote a short story after that, and was asked to do a guest blog for Write Well, Sell Well. Here’s the thing. It’s not too late for you, either.
My childhood friend, Blake, decided he wanted to move to Colorado and pursue his lifelong dream of being part of the ski patrol. He trained for two years, and a month after he turned 50, he became part of the Keystone Ski Patrol rookie class. When I saw the picture of him and all those other 20-something rookies, I felt that same warm, fuzzy feeling. He was living his dream on the slopes.
My friend, Shannon, went through a divorce and set a goal to do two things she had never done, but always wanted to do. Lose weight. Go to church. She did both.
I know a teacher who was totally drained after 10 years of overcrowded classrooms, subpar supplies, and too little pay. When a statewide teacher walk out ended less than successfully, in his opinion, he and his wife quit their jobs. They bought an RV and spent a year traveling the U.S. before settling into a new job in a new state. It’s not too late to start over.
As impressive as Geena Davis’s middle-age launch into the realm of Olympic archery was, there have been even older Olympians. In the Running Deer Shooting category, Oscar Swahn became the oldest silver medalist at the age of 72. Seventy-two!
Perhaps you’ve read about Johanna Quaas. She started competing in gymnastics in 1935, and has never stopped. In 2012, she became a viral sensation for her gymnastic training videos and was entered into the Guinness Book of World records as the oldest gymnast at the age of 77. You’re never too old.
You can live your dreams. You can change your career. You can lose the weight. You can begin a new hobby. You can break the addiction. You can even change your unpleasant disposition to a cheery one. You, my friend, can become an Olympian.
Has your dream been on the back-burner a while? Don’t let that stop you. It turns out, time may have been just what you needed. Long-simmering soup can actually be the best soup of all. With time, ingredients interweave and meld into one another, creating something even more flavorful.
Now is your moment. The soup is ready. This is the day to finally take that dream off the stove. It’s going to be delicious!
Heather Cottom received a MFA in Creative Studies from the University of Central Oklahoma, and taught English Composition, American Literature, and Creative Writing at Mid-America Christian University for 10 years. Currently, she is creating time for her own writing again at the age of 50. You can follow her journey into the world of writing at https://www.facebook.com/HeatherCottomWriter/