We love to think that it’s too late — too late to get the job, invest, start the business, grow a family, heal, reach our goals. It’s our way of insulating ourselves against the reality of going for it, of really trying and doing the damn thing. If we say, “The time for that passed” or “It’s too late,” We don’t have to endure the pain of trying, do we?

Fuck that. 

Life isn’t linear, and benchmarks are arbitrary. There are as many ways to live life as there are people in the world — 7.888 billion. That’s more than seven billion ways to be happy, successful, loved. 

You are not a failure just because your life hasn’t followed a linear path, but some people — big giant dick bags — will try to tell you just that. One of those giant dick bags is likely you. 

Why We Think It's Too Late

Research shows that we perceive quick achievement as a display of innate talent and intelligence.

Mensa researcher Tanja Gabriele Baudson told the BBC in 2021 that we are captivated by early achievement because it signals giftedness. 

“There’s an idea that genius is effortless and that hard work is somehow less fascinating or valuable,” Baudson said. 

We like to think that an innate goodness, a specialness is behind early success, all while dismissing that even the immensely talented have to work really fucking hard.

The Success Sequence

On another note, we can feel suffocated by our failure to meet the “success sequence” (yes, that’s really what it’s fucking called): get an education, start a career, get married, start a family in that order, right on time. There is evidence to show that those who do follow the sequence reach success earlier than those who don’t. But it’s not the only way.

For many people, the success sequence is just fucking impossible, and that’s OK. Our lives aren’t supposed to be a series of benchmarks occurring on an identical schedule. Our paths are supposed to look different. 

Life is serpentine. Shit happens. And sometimes, life asks something different of you for a while.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or that you should put them off. It means that achieving them might look different than you first imagined.

Evelyn, Shigemi and the Iron Nun

Years ago, I was the editor-in-chief of a regional women’s magazine. My mailbox was a never-ending portal for self-published books, PR boxes, and the occasional handwritten letter either praising my work or eviscerating it. In April of 2017, I received a submission in a manilla envelope. It was an arresting personal essay detailing the writer’s childhood of learning to read while sitting in her father’s lap while he read the local newspaper. As a little girl, she dreamed of becoming a writer but was waylaid by motherhood. 

The author of that essay was 97 years old. Her name was Evelyn and after marrying young, she raised five children before becoming the sole caretaker to her first husband before his death. Now, at nearly a century old, she was returning to her dream of becoming a published writer. 

Two weeks later, I was in Evelyn’s office with a photographer. Her office consisted of a corner of her bedroom with a chair and a TV tray upon which her typewriter sat. It was her own magical corner where she came alive, typing essays, stories and observations. We did a full photo shoot with Evelyn in her office, and that month we published her essay to our estimated 50,000 monthly print edition readers.

Evelyn was a bad bitch who went after it, who stashed her dream in a safe corner of her heart, ready to tend to it when the winding path of her life allowed her to.

The world is full of Evelyns, people who say, "Fuck too late," and do it anyway.

In 2016, 96-year-old Shigemi Hirata became the oldest college graduate after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and Design from Kyoto University. 96 fucking years old. It took him 11 years, which, if you need help with the math, means he started at age 85. What an absolute badass.

“I am genuinely happy. Learning is always fun at any age,” Hirata told the Japanese Times in 2016. 

Hell yes, sir. 

Ya’ll ever heard of the Iron Nun, also known as Sister Madonna Buder? An actual fucking nun, Buder began running at age 48 when she found a pair of running shoes in a donation bin. In 2012, at 82 years old, she became the oldest woman ever to finish the infamous Ironman, a race that spans 140 miles of swimming, biking and running. Now, at 93 years old, her racing career includes 400 triathlons, including 45 Ironman races.

You might notice we’re focusing on octogenarians and nonagenarians. Why? Because the fact that they are old as fuck should humble and inspire you.

What You Really Want

At the core of our desire for achievement is the desire for the joy we associate with that achievement. 

Think about your goals that you haven’t gone after yet, that you may have abandoned because “it’s too late.”

But what is it that you really want — what is the beating heart of that goal? 

Behind your dream of playing in the NBA is the thrill you feel playing basketball.

Behind your dream of being a rockstar is the love of playing the music you create.

Behind your dream of being a published author is the aliveness of writing.

It’s never too late for that thrill, love, aliveness and joy, even if it looks different than you initially imagined. You can still ball without playing in front of millions of people. You can still be a rockstar in your own right. And there will always be someone who loves reading your writing. 

Be like Shigemi and Evelyn and the Iron Nun, and don’t place the conditions of an imaginary timeline to keep you from your dream life.

Next time you hear a little voice telling you that it’s too late, remember them. If a 96-year-old man can graduate from college after 11 years, if a 97-year-old woman can publish her first article, and an 82-year-old can swim, bike and run 140 miles, you sure as shit can, too. 

More

Three years ago, USA Triathlon made a YouTube video about the Iron Nun. It's goddamn adorable, and you should watch it.

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