The other day I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis that says, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes. In fact, one of my top 5 strengths on the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment is “Input” which means collecting information is my jam. Just check my “Inspiration” board on Pinterest and you’ll probably conclude I am the most motivated, inspired person in the Western Hemisphere.
The only problem is… I’m not. Or I haven’t been for many, many years.
I was a latch-key child from the age of five, raised by a single working mother. My elementary school was right across the street and when school was out for the day, I would walk with the crossing guard over to our apartment complex and let myself in our home, feed myself a snack, and proceed to watch Days of Our Lives where I would dream of one day becoming Hope Brady (Days of Our Lives fans know what I’m talking about). I still have memories of being that little girl out in the field of our school yard, acting out my very own soap opera with dreams of romance and escaping frequent near death experiences.
As I grew older, my afternoon television preference became more sophisticated and, by the time I was ten, I had a new hero. I was introduced to Tess McGill in Working Girl (brilliantly played by Melanie Griffith). If you’ve seen the movie, I know what you’re thinking. A ten year old should not have been watching Working Girl. This is true, but we were pretty lax with parenting in the 80s… and turned out just fine by the way. Need I remind us that Tang was the drink of choice back then?
What I took away from that movie was this burning desire to be successful. Like Tess, I wasn’t born into privilege but I had a good combination of street smarts and book smarts and was encouraged that those two things alone could take me far. No one in my immediate family had graduated college or reached any comfortable level of success. I’m not talking upper-class success. I’m talking about middle-class success. No one in my immediately family ever made it past living paycheck to paycheck. My mother and I ate our share of grilled cheese sandwiches and ramen noodles so we could make rent. I babysat from the age of 12 and worked a real job from the age of 15. I knew it was my responsibility to contribute financially in order to have any of the things I wanted in life. And, by the time I was 17, I was off to University with scholarships and grants to cover my school. I went to school full-time while working full-time in restaurants to cover the cost of living. My only goal was to have the complete opposite life I had growing up. I had no mentor, no guide, no plan. All I knew was I loved writing and I loved reading. So, I pursued a degree in print journalism. And then I changed it to English Literature. And then I changed it to Theater. Did I mention I had no mentor and no plan? By the end of my four years, I had enough credits to graduate, but not enough in any one major, so the school counselor advised me to take my Interdisciplinary Humanities degree and be done with it. By the age of twenty-one I was ready to be out in the adult world, proving I could make something of my life.
But what would that be?
Flash forward seventeen years and here I am. I fell into a career as an executive assistant- never a conscious decision, but one that chose me. I have a great home, great family of my own, and a mostly great dog that doubles as a stuffed animal. My faith is strong and I’m content. This C.S. Lewis quote had me thinking, though, about what happened to that girl with dreams?
I’m always inspired by those people who knew what they wanted to be from the time they were little until the day they achieve their dreams. The little boy who dreamed of space only to become an astronaut one day. The little girl who made dresses for her dolls only to become a high profile fashion designer in her future.
Why is it some people know their purpose from the time they’re young and others, like me, float along and take decades to figure it out? I’ve only recently decided to get back to my first passion which was writing and see where it goes. I’m putting away the fear, the self deprecation, the impostor syndrome, and pursuing the things that bring joy. And you’re never too old to do that. Just take a look at some of the examples set before us. Vera Wang was 40 when she began designing wedding dresses and 41 when she opened her first bridal boutique. Julia Child was 39 when she published her first cookbook and made her television debut in The French Chef at age 51. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart when he was 44. And those are just a few of many examples where people took a leap and pursued their dreams later in life.
Like C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” I hope you’re encouraged to give it a try.
Originally published at medium.com