The writer Susan Straight was helping her mother move, when she found an old painting thrown in the trash can. Sensing that this wasn’t something that her mother had bought, she asked her about it. “I took a painting class at the YMCA,” her mother explained. “Then I found a book—teach yourself to paint. My mother was an artist. She made beautiful sketches of our garden and our house in Switzerland.”
Surprised and moved, they began to talk about the painting. Was this a secret hobby that Susan hadn’t known about? Did her mother have a creative side she never shared? Were there other paintings? Sadly, no. “Just after I finished this,” her mom stated matter of factly, “I had you, and then I never painted anything again. My life was over.”
Yet there is a part of us that understands it, right? A part of us that felt, when our house was suddenly flooded with babies and diapers and our lives disrupted by carpools and soccer practices, like it was over. No more time for hobbies. No energy for self-exploration, let alone self-actualization. Certainly, we have been taxed and burdened in a way we never expected.
But we can’t throw in the towel. Because it’s not over for us yet. Better for us to follow the path of Jimmy Carter’s mother—the one that asserts that age is no barrier. Better for us to follow Nell Painter’s mother and Nell Painter herself, two people who picked up new careers late in life. We can’t use being parents as an excuse. On the contrary, because our kids are watching we have to keep pushing ourselves. We have to keep growing. We can’t give up on ourselves or our interests.
Our lives are not over. Not even close.