Today’s post is adapted from the forthcoming I’ll Get Around To It Someday ebook the next offering in the Someday Syndrome Cure Series.
- Someday Lesson: “Don’t wait until it’s too late” is a cliché only because no one pays attention to it the first thousand times we hear it said.
Hollywood movies and TV shows are full of plots where the main character thinks they have all the time in the world to follow a dream, tell their estranged son they love him – or whatever – when the character is struck down with a debilitating disease or suddenly finds themselves staring death in the face.
It’s a popular theme because, despite the number of messages we take in about not waiting until it’s too late, we don’t think any of them apply to us.
A few years after making my decision to write, I decided to follow the path of my then favourite author Charles de Lint. He published his first novel at age 32. To a 16 year old, that was almost too old to contemplate. I mean, seriously, 32? Ancient! But I decided to be prudent and allow for unforeseen circumstances.
I loved writing as a teen and would write for hours on end, almost always complete crap, but at least I was practicing. As I entered my twenties I was scared by the realization of just how long it really takes to master writing. I let the fear stop me.
If only my teenage self had been able to return from the past to kick my twenty-something ass. When I was 16, I found and stuck to the bulletin board in my bedroom a piano ad. It showed a baby grand in an empty room with pillars, soft yellows and the wind blowing sheer curtains in through French doors.
Across this image were the words:
I decided not to learn how to play the piano because it would take ten years to play it well. That was ten years ago.
I’d cut it out to remind myself that nothing comes quickly and that it takes playing a lot of bad notes before you can play like a master.
Only two years later, with much less self-confidence and a much bigger desire for consumerism, I decided that taking that much time for anything would take too long. So, instead of pursuing the creative writing program or courses I really wanted, I settled on a Celtic Studies Bachelor that I mostly slept through and an Information Studies Master I most certainly did sleep through.
As my thirties rapidly approached, I realized that I wasn’t going to reach the published-at-32 goal I’d set at 16. I’d be lucky if I’d reach it by 40! But I still didn’t do anything about it because I realized another favourite author, Sherri S. Tepper, didn’t start publishing until much later. I had nothing to worry about.
I believed that time would go on forever and that I’d get around to writing at some point. I mean, I was a good writer; it wouldn’t take me that long to get published. Ha!
It wasn’t until I was 36 years old that I decided that it wasn’t worth living a life without writing, no matter how much time it would take to master the craft.
When I was finishing up university, I applied to teach English in Portugal. I’d been accepted to a program where I’d get a certificate and then they’d find me work. My computer was a laptop, so I pictured sitting on top of a cliff in Portugal writing a novel while falling in love with the country.
Then I got sick and decided to be more practical. I went for my Masters degree, which was supposed to get me decent work. The problem was I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, but I told myself that I needed to do this because I wasn’t well.
Twelve years later I finally said “screw it” to my health issues and left Canada anyway. And two years after that I now teach English while I write (the only difference is I ended up in Spain, not Portugal).
Fortunately for me, there was a later. I could decide twelve years after putting off my initial decision to follow my dream. I was lucky. Many people don’t have that opportunity.
We all have dreams that we’ve denied for one reason or another. How many of them could you now actually pursue? What choices have you made in the meantime that rule out, or at least make difficult, pursuing those old dreams?
Sometimes our choices have brought about limitations that we cherish (like children or spouses), but sometimes the choices have taken us down a road we didn’t really want to go down. All because we felt that we could eventually find ourselves back on the path we wanted to be on originally – the new path just being a detour of sorts.
Well, look around you. Do you see the old path? Or has the detour taken you off in a completely new direction? If you’re lucky, the new path has created new dreams. If not, you might have a lot of work ahead of you finding your way back to your path of dreams.