“No,” she said. “That won’t work. I can’t tolerate being bad at anything in this stage of my life.”
If you think you’re too old to learn something new, then you’re right. You are too old even if you’re young. It’s all in the way you think about it. You can’t expect to pick up a guitar for the first time and play like Eric Clapton. You don’t go to your first ballet class and spin like Misty Copeland. You don’t create suspense like Stephen King when you write your first horror story. The ladder to excellence is tall and you have to climb up rung by rung. You have to try, make mistakes, drop back to Square One and begin again in order to eventually get good at something. It may be a little shaky at first but when you get inspired and eventually you will, it becomes exciting and all encompassing.
Inspiration shows up in the most unexpected places. Master painter Pablo Picasso hated flying and he was pouting and grousing when he boarded a plane in Barcelona. But once he was in the air and he begrudgingly looked out the window, he was astonished to see the clouds appearing in cubic formations. This was the inspiration for his Cubism period, something that forever changed his life.
What do you want to learn that is new and challenging? A writer friend was inconsolable after he read Sophie’s Choice. The story line was so wrenching, the characters and the dialogue so authentic, he was too intimidated to pick up his own pen. When I encouraged him to use the book for inspiration, he said, “Why bother? Styron just did it perfectly. What’s left to say? The last thing the world needs is one more bad book cluttering the marketplace.”
He missed a powerful opportunity. Imagine how many great books, paintings, operas, plays and films languish in the back of a closet somewhere, never seeing the light of day because someone was afraid of not being good enough. God knows we have the time right now so why not take a risk? Why not use this gift of time to create something that expresses your uniqueness? It doesn’t matter how old you are. Bob Dylan sings, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
I have a friend in her seventies who just started to write and she loves it. I met a woman who was eighty when she began a successful acting career. Another octogenarian enrolled in tap dancing lessons for the first time and is having a ball. These people are living proof that when you stop expecting perfection from yourself, when you take a risk and open a new door, a world of beauty, satisfaction and unexpected surprises are waiting on the other side.
In the words of the late Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”