There’s an insidious belief that’s wormed its way into many of our minds. It’s the belief that at some point the bus stops coming. If you slept in, got distracted or way laid by life – too bad, you blew it! That opportunity bus ain’t coming by no more.
As to when the service stops – some say it’s about number of blown opportunities – one, two or three business or relationship failures then no more chance-buses on your street.
But the most prevalent stories talk of age, telling you it’s 20, 30, 50, 65, or maybe 75 or 85, when the chances cease and you are relegated to wait on the bench with the weight of roads not taken.
But how true is this? Does the bus stop ever coming?
Apart from the very few biological dependent opportunities that may have a short window of time, do your chances really dry up at some point? Or is it the nature of the moment to be continuously alive with possibility just waiting for us to engage with it?
And what is it we believe makes up this bus pass? What is it we fear will disappear and deny us access?
Is it our creativity, our intelligence, our flexibility, our courage, our imagination, our energy, or is it about trust, value and relevance? Phrased perhaps as, others no longer recognize our worth or relevance, but very much a measure of our own belief in the value of our offerings and our trust in our capacity to deliver.
What is it that we buy into believing will dry up? And how true is this? How much is fact and how much is mere unexamined fallacy?
Despite my best attempts to gate-keep my mind, I’ve run into the fear of missing the bus, more than a few times in my life. As I was nearing 50, I felt that creeping dread slip in with it’s walls and dead-end views – the stomach-sinking smog shrouding all possibility. I thought I might have really blown my chances. I’d taken too long to begin. I’d missed the window and now – my unlived life would remain just that -unlived.
My solution was to blitz my mind with alternative stories. I searched for books that showed me how 50+ was a time of power, passion and possibility. Not finding the books, I began reaching out and interviewing inspiring women who were living out the potential of this phase in their lives. I floated the idea of writing my own book. I did a diploma in freelance journalism to build up my writing skills and I finished a degree, started in the seventies, switching my major to English/creative writing. I filled my mind with loads of powerful stories and I strengthened my belief in the continuing possibilities of life. The fear of missed buses disappeared and I reconnected with a desire to champion possibility. To this end, I did training in counselling, psychotherapy, creative expressive therapies and life coaching and I immersed myself in the inspiring tales of entrepreneurs, particularly those who claimed 50+ as a starting point.
I came across many, many inspiring re-framers of age who have helped me build up a new paradigm. Some of them are –
A dentist who quit to follow a his passion for jewellery at 57.
A woman who quit her job at 59, got another and was laid off at 60, so started a successful not for profit business.
A truck driver laid off at 61 and started a successful geneaology business.
A man who is still skateboarding at 78, having taken it up at 65.
A woman who after going blind at 66, went back to university to do her masters. She also had her first book published at 79.
A woman who chose to follow a life-long passion and trained to become a vet in her 70’s.
A woman who took up stand-up comedy at 70.
A woman of 85 who is still running the company she started in her 70’s, to manufacture and distribute her invention.
An 80 year old woman pilot who had just completed her first solo ocean flight.
And a woman who took up industrial climbing at 85.
People who either didn’t get the memo about missed buses, or chose to ignore it.
Perhaps it was their reflection on and learning from the years of experience that gave them the needed perspective. Maybe age actually helped rather than hindered. Maybe it’s how they developed and strengthened the qualities and skills like patience, acceptance, resilience, empathy, courage, authenticity, humour, steadfastness, a deeper trust in their creativity and intuition, a deeper knowing of themselves and others, and a more open hearted relationship with uncertainty and failure. Maybe it’s these potential benefits of experience, the ones we tend to airbrush out of of our cultural image of ageing, along with the wrinkles, that facilitated their success and full-on-living.
Maybe it’s about noticing that sometimes opportunity takes different forms and needs to be looked for in new ways and in different places. Maybe it’s time to try a new bus stop, start your own service, or look to solar powered car, scooter or boat instead of bus. Maybe it’s about accessing alternative support systems, things such as crowd funding.
Whatever creative or innovative approach it takes to engage with it, I choose to believe and continue to find evidence to support the notion that possibility is held in the moment, there for us to access no matter what our age or track record, right until our last breath.
” Here’s a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Lauren Bacall