Brighten Youth Education Centre



Starting again


The education pages of most major publications have been particularly despondent of late. There is the proposed Bill currently making its way through the UK government which would allow British universities to charge even higher fees, making accesses to some of the best schools in the world effectively impossible for all but the wealthiest. There are the horrific events on the Stanford campus. There is the usual slew of articles on exam panic. There is the proposal to jail those found cheating on China’s gaokao for up to seven years. This week, we’re going to look at something positive instead.

Ang Lee spent the first six years after he graduated from film school as an unemployed stay-at-home dad before making his directorial début aged 38. The recently departed and sadly missed Alan Rickman had a career as a graphic designer and didn’t land his first feature film role until he was 42. In this category you can also place Harrison Ford (big break at 31) and Samuel L. Jackson (first major role in his 40s). Toni Morrison didn’t publish her first book until she was a 39-year-old single mum with a full-time college teaching position. She famously learned to write in small bouts and during any free moments of the day, often composing in her head while she performed household tasks. By the time she was aged 40, Vera Wang had never designed a dress, having spent her life until that point as an ice skater and journalist. Stan Lee, comic book artist and creator of Spiderman, drew his first comic at 43. Andrea Bocelli didn’t being singing opera seriously until he was 34, an age many people considered too old to start. In the sciences, magisterial works naturally appear later in life, as they require an entire career’s worth of thinking to produce. Darwin’s Origin of Species appeared when he was fifty after he’d spent most of his life as an unassuming naturalist.

There are inspiring examples like this from every area of human creativity. The point is that it’s never too late to start doing what you love. It’s not time that’s keeping you from your dreams (think of Toni Morrison, teaching her classes and doing the dishes), it’s will. It’s also worth remembering that these individuals weren’t doing nothing before they became famous, sitting at home and waiting for their dreams to happen. They were working on design projects, going on scientific voyages, teaching classes and generally doing what needed to be done. Tim and Nina Zagat, wealthy creators of the Zagat international restaurant guides were working as lawyers before publishing their first guide at the age of 51. All that you do in life is formative, but the person who is formed is largely under your control, no matter what your age.


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