Posted by: unlikelygrad | October 11, 2009

Never too old

Why do I blog? I think there are three main reasons:

First, I like to write. I write for fun. (As proof, I offer several half-finished how-to books and one half-finished novel lurking on my hard drive.)

Second, I want to help people who are going back to grad school after a long hiatus, especially moms who stayed home for many years with their children. I want to prove that this is a viable option–that people shouldn’t rule out having kids at a young age just because it might kill their chances of having a career.

Finally, I want to reassure those who worry that they might be “too old” to do something (grad school or otherwise). I see a lot of this over on The Grad Cafe–people who ask, “I’m 27, am I too old for grad school?” Personally, I find these questions silly; but then, I have the advantage of coming from a family where “too old” is not in the vocabulary.

For example, my mother, who dropped out of school when my oldest sister was born, was a stay-at-home mom to her seven children for 20 years. She finally got her BA at 52 (if I remember correctly) and her MA at 53.

When I was younger, I used to say: “When I get old, I want to be like my Great-Uncle S.” Great-Uncle S also did not know the meaning of the phrase “too old”. After he retired, he decided that he wanted to learn karate. He started lessons at 77 and got his black belt at 81. I remember holding his 80th birthday party at our house; he blew out all 80 candles on the cake with one breath.

Around his 90th birthday, his nephew (who was his caregiver) put him in a boarding house. One day, the nephew received a frantic call: “S is missing! He went out a couple of days and never came back!” After a couple of weeks of frantic worry on all the relatives’ part, S calmly strolled in the door of the boarding house again. He’d gone on a cruise to Alaska, then spent a week skiing in the Alps. He hadn’t told his nephew in advance, he said, because he knew that the nephew would have said, “You’re too old to go!” and tried to stop him. A month or so after this incident, Great-Uncle S died peacefully in his sleep.

Only recently did I begin to understand that, although it will be many years until I’m 80, I can be like Great-Uncle S right now. The reason he was retained his vitality to the end was because of the attitude he had from the time he was very young, younger than I am now. I am blessed to be friends with several ladies in their late 70s and 80s who have this go-getter attitude. I want to be like them, too.

I have tried many things in my life. Some of my endeavors failed; some succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, not even the parts that seemed so horrendous at the time. I am who I am not just because of my successes, but also because I was willing to try and fail, to take the bitter with the sweet.

So don’t fret about whether society says you are the “right” age to do something–if you want to do it, do it. Want to go back to school at 50? Go for it. Start those karate classes at 75. Go sky diving at age 80. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, go to college at 16. After all, why shouldn’t you? What do you risk, anyway? Suppose you end up dropping out of school. Would that really be the end of the world? Or would you have learned some valuable lessons–about the world, about yourself–in the meantime?



  1. Followed your blog from the Grad Cafe. Thanks for blogging, since I am SAHm headed back to school (hopefully!) next fall. Its nice to read the stories of someone who has BTDT and lives to tell about it. 🙂

  2. […] As a child, I decided early on that when I got old I wanted to be like my Great Uncle S. Lately I’ve been deciding that I want to be like my parents, […]

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