How many of you have ever said, or thought, "I'm too old for this s**t?"
Go ahead. Raise your hand. Nod in agreement. Stare in to space remembering the last time that happened. Or maybe, for some of you, that's never happened. Maybe you're too young for that to have happened or you're just incredibly good natured. But if it's happened, please read on and if it hasn't, maybe read on just in case.
I am fifty five years old. 2020 has been one of the most memorable years of my life, and likely yours too. It's memorable because of a global pandemic and all of its associated hardships, an incredibly active storm and hurricane season here in the United States, a very strange drought stricken gardening/homesteading season here in Maine, and a political situation I never thought possible in my country. Some mornings I wake up and have to reorient myself to much of 2020's reality in the first few moments of the day.
I often think, "I will never live long enough to see the world recover from this." That thought adds to what was already a strong imperative for me: to live long enough to fulfill some of my dearest dreams, upon which I got what I consider a very late start.
For reasons far beyond the scope of this blog post, I did not start to pursue a life in making and fiber art until well in to my forties, and ever since I have felt as though I am driving up life's passing lane, pedal to the metal, trying to make everything work before I'm too old to make anything work. I have been encouraged recently by a book I'm reading by Nell Irvin Painter, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. In it, the author, a distinguished retired professor of history, decides to embark on an art education and career at sixty five, age be damned, and the story is both compelling and inspiring.
In any significant pursuit, things go awry. It is in those moments when I am most likely to think or mutter under my breath, "I'm too old for this s**t." I'm not fresh out of college with my whole life ahead of me. I don't have time for too much trial and error much less entire years lost to pandemic and political chaos. I can now see inevitabilities of history that I very much want, but will never live, to see. With every success I am able to manage in spite of this, I am blooming late.
The other morning I went out to my garden to see how things were going, especially since I've been so busy that it's been a little neglected. My sunflowers had finally bloomed. I had planted them way too late in the season and I'd been wondering whether they'd bloom at all. But they did because they had no choice but to keep moving forward from the moment I set their seeds in the ground. Late or no, it was the natural order of things. Although they are now coping with fall's short days and freezing nights, still they bloom. Will they survive long enough to bear seeds for next year before a truly killing freeze cuts them down? I have no idea. It's mostly out of my hands.
I am not fatalistic about age. I do not accept that we have to be any one way or another at any particular age. I take reasonably good care of my health, I run three or four times a week these days, I make sure I'm always learning something new, and I keep moving forward in my late blooming fiber art career. I am, however, realistic. I don't have another half century to play with. In fact, the harsh reality of life on earth is that we don't ever really know if we have another half hour to play with, and this makes me all the more determined.
So, the next time (or the first time) you think, "I'm too old for this s**t," know that if it's an obstacle you're referring to, yes, you are. In reality, you are whether you're twenty five or eighty five because there is simply no time to hand over to not blooming. We're all too old for this s**t if whatever this s**t is is in the way of our most cherished dreams. Like the impending winter threatening my sunflowers, some hazards can not be avoided, but others can be skillfully sidestepped or even fiercely defied. My sunflowers' blooms are as beautiful in October as they would have been had they arrived "on time" in July. Better for them, and us, to have bloomed late than not at all.
- Elizabeth Miller