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(Not) Too Old To Begin the Training

In relation to one of us trying something new, my husband often quotes Yoda's line in The Empire Strikes Back when he tries to dismiss Obi-Wan's insistence that he train Luke. "Too old to begin the training."

But all laughs aside, the concept crosses my own mind with some frequency. Have you been on Twitter lately? It's amazing how many 20-somethings (or, sadly, even younger) are worried that they're "too old" to pursue or reach a goal. Going back to school, getting the proper training for a dream job, or, more commonly (purely because of who & what I follow), getting a literary agent and book deal.

I know this feeling way too well.

I've been "behind" my peers for most of my post-high school life. In fact, I connect intensely with story of the Israelites headed to the Promised Land. They could've gotten there in mere DAYS compared to the years it actually took, but God led them the long way round because if they'd faced opposition, it might've sent them packing back to their lives of slavery under Pharaoh back in Egypt.

Not a Bible-reader? Bear with me. The point isn't personal beliefs but this light-bulb moment:

"When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine [enemy] territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, 'If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.'" -Exodus 13:17-18

I went to my first university for a year, then took a semester off to work; then transferred to another uni in another state; then after 2 years, dropped out to play in rock bands because I wasn't sure what academic goal to focus on; then moved to California to pursue a relationship (I know, right?), because I *still* didn't know myself or what I truly felt called to do, and didn't want to invest until I did. I worked full-time in California until, at 29, I moved to the UK to "find myself," and start university over as a mature student.

I graduated from university at last at age 31.

At uni, I worked my tail off to get to the top of the class to "prove" I could apply and dedicate myself, that I had the chance to find the path that finally felt right. And as a people pleaser, I was determined to impress my lecturers, some of whom where only a year or two older than me. I studied film, and it was the storytelling and world-building aspects that interested me most (whether through script, sound, effects, or directing). I'd been writing stories and poetry and lyrics since childhood, but it wasn't until post-graduation when I couldn't nail down a job in the film industry that I turned to writing full time. And once I did, I was hooked.

So if you take into account my level of writing "seriousness" blooming at my then-age of 32, and the aforementioned social media-fed disease of ageism, then you understand why I get bristly seeing people far younger than I am thinking they're too old to "make it."

The truth is, they aren't, and I'm not either. And even if you tell me I am, I'll still keep going. Until I feel like life drops me a neon sign that says NO — instead of the hundreds of miniature glimmers I've had over the years that say YES — for now, yes, I will keep going. And you should, too. If you're seeing those little shimmering lights in the dark now and then, you're following a path. And I'm not sure why, but I'd rather follow a narrow path that's lit at only certain corners and alleys and cliff-sides than a garish avenue illuminated like a carnival. Maybe that's been my lifelong mistake. Maybe that's what's made me start and stop pursuing so many college majors, passions, and people. Because I was afraid the way was too easy or too obvious (another topic for another day).

Comparison isn't just the thief of joy, but of progress.

I want others to feel it's OKAY to not be where society has set the clock for them. It's okay to be a control-freak in a world where our biggest dreams are often the things furthest from our control. To be honest about what happens with a combination of your choices and others' and God's keep you from the carefully curated path it feels like everyone else is on. This is why the advice to not compare is so often repeated. Comparison isn't just the thief of joy, but of progress. Yes, we can learn from others' work — and should! But comparing your progress to someone else's, believing you should beat their time like life's a game of Mario Kart, is NOT healthy. So stop it. The less of us who do it, the less of that negative mindset we'll send out there to others. Our journeys are our own, and our experiences, feelings, and dreams are 100% legitimate. But sometimes we have to go the long way around because if our goal was too easily reached, it wouldn’t feel worthy; if our goal feels too scary, even if our life before wasn’t fulfilling in the way we wanted, we might turn around and stick with the devil we know. Our goals and the roads to them often if not always turn out to be not as dreamy and magical and perfect as we'd hoped, and so we instinctually want to turn back.

I did this on so many forays in different directions throughout my 20s. Yes, I'm still on the writing/publishing path, but because I've stuck with it, because I've been on a windy, long-ass route, I've been forced to learn patience, perseverance, and hope. And, I like to think, a hell of a lot more about storytelling than I knew a decade ago.

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