September 7th is Grandma Moses Day. Reading about her life was a positive story reminder to me that it’s never too late to pursue dreams and goals, never too late to learn, and never too late to create a life you love.
Grandma Moses life is such an inspirational one. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, born on September 7th, 1860, didn’t begin painting in earnest until in her seventies. She grew up one of ten children on a big farm, married Thomas Moses at seventeen, and ran a farm with him while raising their five children. When arthritis made embroidery more difficult in her sixties, she began dabbling with paint, mixing leftover house paints to create pictures on old farm board. In her late seventies, when her husband died, she began to paint more, selling some of her primitive folk art paintings, like the one depicted here, in a local drug store. An art collector, Louis Caldor, saw a group of her paintings and bought them, and the next year put them in a New York art exhibit. The public loved Grandma’s simple colorful paintings of rural countryside scenes and farm life, and she soon grew a wide following. From her seventies to her nineties Anna Mary created more than 1,500 paintings and her work was exhibited through the U.S. and abroad. She won many prestigious art awards, was memorialized in books, magazines, and movies. One book about her life you might enjoy is her own autobiography called Grandma Moses: My Life’s History.
So often we think we need to have the right connections, the right training, or a lot of money, to try anything new … but Grandma Moses shows we can often simply begin where we are. If we would. As she wrote: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
Another “Late Bloomer” grandma story I love is of Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail at sixty-seven, the first woman to hike the entire AT, with no special equipment and a drawstring sack carrying her simple trail needs. It was 1955 and the Appalachian Trail was rougher and less developed then than it is today and few had hiked its length. Emma Gatewood had known a rough life before this date, raising eleven children, enduring an abusive marriage and harsh poverty. When she set out that spring of 1955, she told her children she was “going on a walk,” never offering them any particulars. You can read her remarkable story of that “walk” and her many hikes after in Ben Montgomery’s book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Her story shows again what is possible, no matter your age.
It isn’t only grandmas who bloom late. Many men, or grandpas, also pursue new ventures late in their lives, move into new careers, discover new inventions, create new businesses. Some notable examples of late men bloomers are Mark Twain, Morgan Freeman, Colonel Sanders, Albert Einstein, Ray Kroc, and James Michener to name only a few.
I love Harlan David Sanders story. As a young man he did a little of everything—farmer, pilot, salesman. He loved to cook, too, and at mid life opened a restaurant, which failed, leaving him bankrupt. But he didn’t give up his dream or his belief in a fabulous chicken recipe he’d discovered. At 65 years old he used his first Social Security check of $105.00 to begin again and to found the Kentucky Friend Chicken Company, becoming a multimillionaire before he died. He once wrote: “Every failure can be the stepping stone to something better” and he proved that belief to be true.
Albert Einstein is another man who bloomed into greatness in latter life. He was born in Germany in 1879 and considered slow in development and learning as a boy. A late bloomer, he taught himself calculus and geometry and loved physics. He failed the entrance exam for the Federal Polytechnic Institute the first time but tried again and passed later. Einstein struggled in his early adult years, taking menial jobs to get by, and in the scientific field later, people had trouble understanding the importance of his work. He wrote: ‘The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time… but as a child I developed slowly and began to wonder about this.” Einstein’s wonderings, study, and work led to his discovery of the mathematically complex Theory of Relativity in his mid life. His name became synonymous with brilliance and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his services to Theoretical Physics.
I think both these men’s stories show that people don’t always understand the dreams or talents of others. None of these people had an “easy” life either. A common misconception is that talents, production, and intellectual development peak in young adulthood and decline with age, but this has been disproved time and again by research and by countless individuals who didn’t find their deepest talents and abilities until later in life or who didn’t get the time or life breaks to pursue them earlier in their lives.
For many of us at mid life, or later, there might be many reasons that cause us to push forward to doggedly pursue an old dream despite life’s setbacks or to totally change course to begin pursuing an entirely new dream. Reasons which might lie behind mid life change include:
(1) Termination from a job. Statistics show that businesses are less loyal today than in the past and that 56% of employees are “let go” for various reasons at late midlife so companies can avoid paying retirement benefits and the higher salaries a long-time employee nets.
(2) Demands of life. The busyness and responsibilities of life often keep individuals from reaching for their higher goals and dreams until their latter years.
(3) Unhappy work situations. Discontent and changes in employment situations often push individuals to reevaluate their lives and seek change.
(4) Work retirement. After retirement individuals gain a long “second adulthood” of useful years, freeing them to pursue new dreams, works, and goals.
In all instances, change is hard and never easy. It’s risky. Change forces people to leave “the comfort zone” of their present life and its familiarity. It demands overcoming fears and self-doubts. It requires self analysis and the courage to change in all the ways needed to pursue something “new” and different. Change demands discipline, hard work, and persistence. It also pushes against the innate nature of people to remain comfortably or uncomfortably as they are. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion reminds us that: “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” People are governed to a great extent by this law, and it takes a “push” or a “force” from within or without to propel most people into a new path. However, on the positive, Newton’s Law also states that: “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So once factors from within, or without, push a person to change – and they get past that first stage of fear, anxiety, and resistance—a move in a new direction may prove very positive and productive indeed.
I hope you can see more now that Late Bloomers are individuals with the zeal and courage to bloom a little later than at the expected time in life … and often in a way no one would have ever expected. Late Bloomers may achieve recognition and success or they may simply find joy in discovering new, rewarding, and useful works and interests. Can you bloom late? Yes! People are living longer and stronger today, and a “wide open” new life period exists for people at mid life who want or need to change direction and for those beyond sixty-five to pursue new interests, new careers, and new pursuits. Be assured, you CAN BLOOM beautifully and bloom well even in midlife or late life. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “over the hill” and that it’s “too late to pursue new dreams.” Success and joy in work can happen at any time and at any age … and there are more late bloomers out there than you may think. …I’m one of those Late Bloomers myself and blooming more joyfully every day.
Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.