While I was doing art part time, there was this constant voice in the back of my brain saying, “You’re starting too late, you’ll never make it.” It’s a voice I know well as it is a voice I’ve heard all my life. It’s the voice that keeps a lot of us from trying. That fear that we’ll never make it because we’ve started too late. The irony is that for those of us who hear the voice (does everyone hear it?) it starts when we’re incredibly young. It starts when we still have time to try, and it can keep us from ever taking the leap.
This is why I find artists like Lisa Congdon so particularly inspiring. Congdon didn’t pick up a pencil and start drawing until her early 30s. And since then she’s built an incredible art career. I didn’t realize how badly I needed these types of stories, the stories that defy that inner fear of starting too late, until I heard them.
Today I added to my inspiration pile Debbie Millman of The Design Files. I’ve heard The Design Files referenced in some of the design blogs I read, but I never actually sat down and listened to the podcast. (I’ll be honest and say I actually didn’t realize it was a podcast.) A friend sent me an interview of Millman by Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project. Millman, like Congdon, didn’t really realize what she wanted to do with her life until her 30s. She said that she spent 10 years making decisions out of fear and that it wasn’t until much later she even realized she had a choice. It sounds so, so familiar.
As we venture into this unknown territory of following our dreams, it’s important to surround ourselves with good people. That means supportive friends and partners and also people who we may never meet. People who remind us that no matter what the fear tells us, it’s not in fact too late to start. That we’ve got a long life ahead and figuring out what makes us happy and then pursuing that doggedly is important no matter our starting age.