My friend Susan stared at me in disbelief. “You’re going to do what?” She was incredulous. “Go to Africa alone and climb Kilimanjaro at sixty?” She paused for a deep breath.
I nodded. “Why not?”
My other friend Lori shook her head. “You’re crazy.”
“Perhaps,” I countered. “But the snows are melting. In a few years, the fabled snows of Kilimanjaro will be gone. If I don’t go now, I never will.”
Susan shuddered. “I could never do that.”
She’s right. She can’t. She’s not even willing to give it a try, so of course, her mind, soul and body are in alignment with her statement.
None of us has to be an athlete to create an adventurous life. It begins with asking the question, “What would I most love to go do, that I haven’t done yet?”
As soon as the naysaying thoughts rise, squash them. They may come from parental or societal condition, or long habits of saying “Well, that’s just not me.” How do you know?
On November 17th of my 60th year I reached the top of Kilimanjaro. Not in a million years would I have imagined it, but there I was. The clear blue skies stretched in all directions as I stood on wobbly legs, starved for air. But I had made it. That year redefined what I thought I could do and who I thought I was.
Today I do adventure travel all over the world, because it constantly challenges my definition of who I am. But this isn’t just about physical adventure.
I have a dear friend who for years has talked about writing a children’s book called The Gillygaloo, which would be based on her grandfather’s stories. She’s the only one who can write this book.
She’s bright and funny and today she has a growing gaggle of grandkids for whom such a book would be a loving legacy. After I published my first two books she asked me for ideas. I pointed her towards all kinds of groups and materials to get her started.
Yet she won’t. Despite all the discussions we’ve had, the resources I’ve shared with her, how to get involved with a children’s book writing group, my buddy refuses to even try. The Gillygaloo is going to die with my friend. To me, that’s a loss.
It’s not my place to judge her for not giving it a shot. However, I strongly believe that each of us has a unique gift that the world deserves to enjoy. Fear of failure keeps us from sharing that precious gift. Procrastination guarantees good excuses like “But I’ve got my hands full with the grandkids.”
With access to the Internet, we have more at our fingertips than ever. I can research a location to find out what kind of gear to take. You can find online support systems for writing that book you’ve always discussed. You can get inspired by other women’s stories about starting late in life.
And to that point, precisely when is it time to begin?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said to “Do something every day that scares you.” For me, that may be leaping out of an airplane. For you, that may be starting that book about your family that you’ve long dreamed about publishing.
A mentor of mine did just that in her late 80s. She went about and published Deep Family: Four Centuries of American Originals and Southern Eccentrics in 2005. It was a work of love and sustained her for years, and was a great gift to many.
So many of us are far wiser, our perspectives deeper and our resilience far greater than ever before. I found my inner athlete at 58.
Others discover deep wells of creativity and competence by simply trying out something new at a local community center. However, if we state flatly, “I can’t do that,” we can be right about limiting ourselves.
What would happen if we said, “I don’t know. Let me try?” How would your life change if you embraced a new direction in your 60s or later? What doors might open for you?
When computers first came out, my father said that he and my mother were “too old to learn computers.”
Nonsense. He was scared to try and fail.
So are we all. But those who do try discover new worlds and see themselves with new eyes. All kinds of groups have formed to help us women do just that.
Have you tried something new – an activity, sport or hobby – recently? What have you experimented with that led you to a new direction in your 60s and beyond? Where did your adventure take you? Please share your experiences with the community and how they inspired you to do even more.