This week, the writer Charlotte Clymer shared the inspiring story of a woman who is living proof that it’s never too late to begin pursuing your dreams.
“In 1980, a psychiatric nurse at Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital (and mother of two) divorced her husband in the midst of a particularly troubled married life and decided to pursue her lifelong dream of an acting career. She was 40,” Clymer wrote.
The catalyst for this radical decision was her mother’s deathbed confession that she had failed to pursue her own dreams. After all, studies have shown that it’s not the things that people do in life that they regret, but the things they don’t do.
Determined to not wind up with the same fate, this woman signed up for acting classes, despite having no previous training or experience.
“For ten years, she made a bumpy transition into acting,” Clymer wrote. “To support herself and her kids, she painted houses and hung wallpaper. She slowly learned the craft, winning parts in local theatre productions. And in 1990, at age 50, she was hired as a street performer at Disney World.”
After a year at Disney, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a serious actress.
“Imagine the harsh critiques at this point. Friends and family looking at this incredulously. ‘You’re making a mistake.’ ‘Who’s going to hire a 50 year-old woman?'”
Thanks to her hard work and determination, she won guest roles over the next few years on hit shows like Frasier, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Seinfeld.
Then, in 1999, she finally got her big break, after almost 20 years in the industry. Sixty year-old Kathryn Joosten was cast as Dolores Landingham, personal secretary to President Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) in the wildly acclaimed show The West Wing. She played the role for two seasons until her character died in a car crash in a crucial plot line, and continued to return in flashback episodes.
Afterwards, she began appearing more frequently in shows like Scrubs and movies like The Wedding Crashers. She also had a recurring role as Karen McCluskey in Desperate Housewives, for which she won two Primetime Emmy Awards.
Joosten died of lung cancer at the age of 72 in 2012, but no one could claim she hadn’t lived life to the max.
“I’d like to be remembered as a good actress who had a lot of fun, a wonderful sense of humor, and was a great comedian,” she said in an interview shortly before her death. And she certainly was.
After sharing this inspiring bio, Clymer made a passionate plea for people to realize that life does not end after the age of 60:
“I hate the way we strip older folks of their humanity by asserting that they can’t do something not on the basis of their ability or competence but the date on their birth certificate. As though they just need to accept their lot past 50. If someone decides in their 50s, 70s, 90s or whatever that they want to go to medical school or become an actor or open a business or run for office, who…are we to say they can’t? If you love something and you’re willing to put in the work and meet the standards of excellence in an ethical way, why should age ever matter? Telling someone they’re ‘too old’ to do something denies their gifts to the world, and how dare any of us do that. Vera Wang didn’t start designing clothes until she was 40. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book until she was 65. Told as a young woman that being a doctor wasn’t ‘appropriate for women’, Genevie Kocourek would go on to graduate medical school at 53.”
Many people responded to the tread with their own inspiring stories, such as this woman who went back to university at 48 and got her first teaching job at 52.
I went back to uni at age 48. My first teaching job came at age 52. At my hiring interview, I promised the committee that, if hired, someday they would have to wheel me out of the building and say ‘enough. I am now the oldest teacher in the building.
And I’m not going anywhere.
— Jeff Stirling (@stirlingthinks) August 19, 2018
Or this mother that graduated law school and passed the bar at 61 and is still practicing law at the age of 87.
My mom graduated law school and passed the bar in 1997 at age 61. She is 82 now and still practicing law. I graduated/passed the bar at 47.
— Betsy (@betsyfinocchi) August 19, 2018
And if you need more evidence that it’s never too late, check out 40 People Who Became Famous After 40.
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