Never Too Old

Just before we opened the bakery, while Alan and I were in the middle of set-up mayhem, we took a little side-trip to the beach with a friend of ours.  We brought some wine and some cheese and crackers.  We wiggled our toes in the sand.  We dreamed dreams and schemed schemes.  It was lovely.  And as we were sitting there, watching the sun creep down toward the horizon, the thought floated through my head that, how cool is it that we still get to do this?  Because not one of us will see 4o again.  And, while it’s not unusual for a bunch of middle-aged types to sit on beaches, it is unusual for people to continue to dream and to risk making those dreams real.

See, we have this idea that there’s a time for that sort of thing and that after awhile you have to stop.  You get to a certain age and whatever it is you’re doing, whatever your stage in life, well, it just has to stay that way forever and everandever until you die.  We all, I think, have a number in our heads after which we think we’re just supposed to quit dreaming.

But you know what?  It’s an illusion.  A lie we tell ourselves.  An excuse, maybe, so we don’t have to keep on scaring ourselves with these outlandish hopes and risks.  Or maybe we’re afraid of looking foolish and it’s one thing to look foolish when you’re young but something entirely different to look foolish AT YOUR AGE.

And so some of us stop.  We settle down, we stay safe.  We save for a secure retirement.  We stop dreaming.  We start to grow old.

Or.

We can continue to take chances.  We can acknowledge that time, yes, is moving on and we are getting older.  I’m turning 5o on Thursday.  I just became a great aunt for the ninth time.   Alan and I also just spent a helluva lot of money that we didn’t actually have to open a new business.  Big risk.  We may never retire.  We don’t care.  We feel more alive, excited and happy these days than we have in a really long time.

The risks are worth it. 

Alan and I aren’t the only ones taking chances.  A friend of mine got married for the first time at the age of 70.   They had two happy years together and then her husband died of esophogeal cancer.   She misses him terribly but she doesn’t regret a thing.  And how cool is that? 

When my siblings were young, my parents signed them (and eventually me) up for piano lessons.  My Dad listened to us practising, day after day after day and one day asked the piano teacher if she ever taught adults.  She was happy to take him on as a student.  My sister and I were secretly horrified.  The man was 4o, for heaven’s sake.  In our childish view of things, 4o was practically dead and why on earth was he bothering to learn to play piano soooo late in life?  Dad lived to be 81.  Played his piano right up until he died and loved every minute of it.

When we moved in with her, we talked my mother into replacing her uncomfortable mattress with something more padded and cosy.  We had a discussion in the furniture store.  Mum felt that it was ridiculous to buy a new mattress at this stage in her life.  It would be a waste of money.  I said, “Look, if they deliver it and you get even one good night’s sleep on it, it will be totally worth it.”    She had four months in the new bed before she had to move into a nursing home.  Four months of comfy, restful sleeps.  Totally worth it.

I’ve been trying to get my thoughts about this all nice and tight and coherent.  It’s not going to work.  I’m sleep-deprived and distracted by the many demands of a new business.  I’ve left it so long that some of you lovelies have started to worry.   Sorry about that, but thank you for your kind messages.  You’ve warmed my heart.  So  I’ll just have to put this out there, a little random and rough around the edges and hope that you can get what I’m trying to say. 

Dream big dreams.  And never ever stop.  Because it’s the cessation of dreaming that makes us old.  It’s having nothing to look forward to that shortens our lives.   Life is meant to be risky.  It’s supposed to be scary and exciting and breathtaking.  Even at your age.

***I was very flattered when Maureen Argon asked if she could interview me and take some pictures for Spotlight Toronto.  The resulting post flattered me even more.  Thanks Maureen!***

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22 Responses to Never Too Old

  1. margaret atkinson

    My mom started playing violin at the age of 64. She loves it. I went back to school at 45 and I’m learning Spanish at the age of 48. Thanks for all of the encouragement and the constant inspiration, Barb. Your new venture is exciting and fabulous!

  2. You are a fabulous role model. just saying.

  3. Yay – she’s back! Barb, I know this is going to sound like I’m such a ‘creep’ but your posts make the hairs on my arms stand on end (hmmm that statement perhaps gives a false impression of problematic hersuteness) but it’s true because you always seem to hit the nail on the head and write about things that resonate. Sometimes rather than consider the age you are it pays to consider the number of years you may have left. 40 may seem ‘too old’ to launch into a new career but if you think you may have another 40+ years left on the planet, that’s a mighty long time to be slogging away at something that doesn’t thrill you. Keep turning things on their head Barb and please keep writing about them here. I bloody love your blog!!

  4. 70 huh? I’m keeping the dream alive!
    Thank you for your ever timely message…

  5. “So I’ll just have to put this out there, a little random and rough around the edges and hope that you can get what I’m trying to say.”

    Well ain’t that interesting… maybe my brain is random and rough around the edges but I TOTALLY get what you’re ‘trying’ to say… you said it perfectly to my mind…

    My old Grandma, no longer in a human body, did her Italian A level (normally done at the age of 18) when she was 62 or something. She went to India on holiday and despite the fact that there was fighting going on in Kashmir, she insisted on going there to fetch some of their special wool, because she’d gone that far. On another holiday in Rhodes, she sat in a hotel foyer during an earthquake watching others running around panicking. Her attitude was ‘if your numbers up your numbers up, til then, I’m going to live my life to the full.’

    She grew old utterly disgracefully, and I fully intend to honour her memory by doing the same. :)

    Thank you for getting this out even tho’ you felt it wasn’t perfect. It was. It is. xx

  6. Barb, this is beautifully written and so very true. I’m not quite 40 yet, still have another year to wait for the magical number, but someday s dreaming is all that keeps me going.

    Thank you for being YOU, and for sharing the rough around the edges post because today it was exactly what I needed.

  7. Ironic that we just finished watching “Finding Neverland” with the kids. You’ve given the same beautiful message in prose! I love that you not only talk about risk taking, but also about honouring oneself. How lovely for your 70-year old friend who chose to marry, honouring herself and her beloved. Another wonderfully written piece, Barb.

    (What do you think of this proverb: To eat an egg, you must break the shell.)

  8. Well our kids couldn’t have grown up more like you if we’d handed them over to you as stipulated in our wills.

    Theresa went out on her own at 16, “lived”, came home at 22, caught up on high school and driver’s licence and went on to college. For now, she has a job in her field building up references. Her next step is Toronto at some point in the not too distant future.

    Colin started and closed a business, bought a house and had boarders, is in the process of selling the house and bought a boat to live on when the house sells. (He just turned 25.)

    Mike has helped run the business, quitting his job before, and reprising it after. He has gone to and into New York city and past Sault Ste Marie in a downpour, both on his 1987 250 Honda motorcycle.

    And every time someone asks me if their unsettledness bothers me, I say, “Nope, see they have this aunt and uncle who……” (enter your adventures here). You guys rock!

    • You made me cry happy tears with this one, Val!

      And don’t forget your own adventures – going back to school and becoming a teacher. Learning to ride a motorcycle.

      You rock a little, yourself!

  9. Such a wonderful post! Thanks so much!

    Being one of the ones who “re-great-aunted” you recently (by the way – you’ve ALWAYS been a great aunt!), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it is that I’m “supposed” to be doing. Right now, being a mom to a 3-week-old is taking up all of my time…and for a little bit, I struggled with the fact that I didn’t have time to be a student, teacher or researcher like I had been doing in the past. I worried that my time for those things had passed me by.

    Then it hit me – this is my JOB right now, and I’m going to do my absolute best at it. In this very moment, it’s exactly what I’m meant to be doing. She’s a blessing, and I love her to bits. Being the best mom I can be is one way to show her how much I love her.

    Your post helped me to realize that life is a very long series of moments – moments in which we can always choose to do the very best we can at whatever it is that that moment calls us to be doing. Every new day can call us to do something new and exciting and scary. I will have moments later when I can – if I want to – get back into all those other things that I used to do before…and after reading your words, I realize that it will NEVER be too late to do those things again, when the time is right.

    Thank you!

  10. Thanks, too, for being a PERFECT example, and showing me that it’s never too late for something new and fun and exciting! You do the coolest stuff. : )

  11. Happy, Happy, HAPPY birthday Barb,
    I found two quotes and thought them rather apt after your latest wonderful post:

    “50 years: here’s a time when you have to separate yourself from what other people expect of you, and do what you love. Because if you find yourself 50 years old and you aren’t doing what you love, then what’s the point?” ~ Jim Carrey

    “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming… suddenly you find – at the age of 50, say – that a whole new life has opened before you.” ~ Agatha Christie

    I hope your day is filled doing whatever it is YOU love.

    Warmest wishes, Michaela

  12. Thanks so much Michaela! Love the quotes!

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