Was there something you really, really wanted to do when you were younger, but you walked away from it because you didn’t think you could do it?
I wanted to be a writer. I loved to write. I mean, I LOVED it. I kept diaries; I had literally dozens of pen pals all over the world. I crafted short stories that I believed would someday win awards. Writing was in my blood.
I kept my dream of writing professionally to myself, but when I was in high school and exploring college programs, I floated the idea. “You can’t make a living that way,” advised my guidance counselor. “Why don’t you do that in your spare time?” suggested my parents. “Earn a degree in something that will pay the bills” was the message I received.
So I entered college with the intention of earning a business degree . . . and dropped out after almost two years and before attaining an Associate’s degree because I was tired of going to school. I wanted to get on with living my adult life. But I always regretted that decision, and twenty-five years later I decided to pick up where I’d left off: I returned to college to earn my undergraduate degree when I was forty-five years old.Did you tell yourself an “I can’t” story when you were younger? #dreams #goals #writing Click To Tweet
When I first went back into a classroom, I thought I must surely be the oldest student on that (or any other) campus, but I soon learned that I was just one of hundreds of “mature students.” In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the year I returned to college there were 2.0 million students over the age of 35 enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities; in 2016 that number had grown to 3.5 million and is projected to be 3.9 million by 2020. Retirement and The Golden Years certainly have different connotations for my generation than they did for my parents’ generation.
What Do You Want to Be When You “Grow Up”?
I wasn’t certain about what I wanted to do once I had a degree, but I decided I’d figure it out while I spent the next few years back in school. I knew writing would factor in somehow.
I ended up spending seven years attending college part-time. During that time I was also raising two teenaged daughters and flying across the country to spend a week or two of every month as one of my mother’s caretakers while she battled ovarian cancer. One of the lowest points of those years was spending the night in my mother’s hospital room, unable to sleep and trying to complete homework in Statistics, a subject I struggled to understand.
Those were some of the most challenging years of my life, but I was determined to reach the finish line this time, and I took it one semester at a time. One of the high points was graduation day when I received a BA in English Literature and graduated summa cum laude—what a feeling of accomplishment to not only achieve my goal, but to also be fêted by family and dear friends!
And then what? Can you believe I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up?
I’d always loved reading and writing, but as a young woman I had doubted my ability to write well enough to earn a living at it. Now that I had overcome my fears and finally attained that degree, I wondered if I might also flex those long-dormant writing muscles.
I started writing essays, short stories, articles for newspapers and magazines. Reconnecting with my love of writing eventually led to a job in the publishing world, where I actually got paid to read and write—it was nirvana!
When I later became a freelance editor, I decided the best way to connect with potential clients was to start a blog. As I tell all my clients, blogging
is a fantastic way to not only hone your writing skills but to meet talented, interesting people too. And I’ve met dozens of them over the years, several of whom have become good personal friends, too.
Today I look back on my youthful fear of failure—believing I couldn’t make a living through writing—and I wish I could tell that young girl to have more confidence in herself and in her ability to carve out a place for herself in a field she felt passionate about. But as novelist Nancy Sayer put it, “It’s never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise.” I did by going back to school, and you can too. Whether you want to learn a new skill, begin a hobby, or reinvent yourself, today is the day to start overcoming that youthful fear and revise your life!
Did you tell yourself an “I can’t” story when you were younger? How have you overcome that negative voice? What long-forgotten dream will you resurrect, and where do you think accomplishing it might take you? Please share in the comments!
(This version of this article originally appeared at SixtyandMe.com)
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.