I’ve heard this question many times, in various forms: often from people in their fifties, but sometimes younger – and once from someone aged thirty-six. My response is always no; no, you are not too old for that.
It’s said by those who work with the dying that people often experience significant transformation, letting go, a new perspective: in their final days, or even hours. It’s never too late, and living evidence of this truth is a 90-year-old woman who checked out of a weekend workshop with the following: “I now know what I’m going to do with the next stage of my life.”
We are all capable of life transitions, wherever we are on our trajectory. Yet what many people wonder is not ‘Am I capable of a fresh start?’ but ‘Is it worth it?’ They brood on questions such as ‘If I retrain now, will I have enough years’ work left to be worth it financially?’ One pragmatic response is that we don’t really want to retire from work we truly love; we hope to do it for as long as we are able. If you undertake lengthy study even in your sixties, you may have decades of fulfilling work ahead.
A more soulful response might be: we don’t know how many years you will have to do this work, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Your soul seems to want to unfold a new pair of leaves, or a flower, or some seeds; perhaps all you need to do is let whatever is trying to come through, come through.
Another common concern is: ‘I don’t want to waste all those years in my current field.’ The concern might be about wasting money, or wasting the skills and knowledge you have gained. At a practical level, those skills and knowledge won’t simply evaporate. They will actively inform the work you do next, or they will fall away and create rich compost around your new seed. Or both.
And at a deeper level, sometimes there is a fundamental need to let go of the old before the new can emerge. This is a form of psycho-spiritual death, and requires both courage and readiness. (Readiness isn’t an achievement in this case; more a feeling of necessity.)
I was dipping back into my first book Hearing our Calling the other day. I smiled to see my musings on how my entire life had led up to this work; how I suspected I wasn’t quite spent yet, and hoped there would be something more. I was 48 when I wrote those words. The last eight years have been rich in new ventures I could never have imagined. And I’ve just committed to substantial study, to support a new phase of my work that’s been emerging.
Perhaps, rather than ‘Am I too old?’ a better question is ‘What is calling me?’ – no matter what our number of years.