I dunno about you but I hear this so much, preach it so much, and yet need a constant reminder of it. Too often, I talk myself out of even trying things because “I’m so behind, I’m so old, etc.” So, if you’re like me and need another reminder: here it is.
I’ve found that the feeling of being “behind” comes from two things:
- Shaming my past self
It’s the “should haves” that contribute to giving up on something before I even start. Berating myself for not starting earlier, for making different choices, for not being consistent or committed, and using that to convince myself that I’ll never be able to achieve what I want.
Oof, we all know this. I can’t even say it’s a social media problem, because I’ve been comparing myself to famous artists since I was 12. Recently, it happened with the emphasis on Zendaya being the youngest to win in her Emmy category. Almost every tweet was about that. Zendaya stans wanted EVERYONE to be reminded that she won this at 24. And of course, that is amazing, but that does not mean that any older actor’s achievement meant nothing.
I remember going back and being angry that my parents didn’t get me into acting and dancing early. “Why didn’t they nurture my artistic talents earlier? Why did they pressure me academically? Why wasn’t EYE on a Disney show at 14??” Ya get it.
To soothe my feelings of being behind, I like to remind myself of three things.
The time will pass anyway
Of course “only” getting into acting at 23 felt late to me at the time, but no matter what, I would have turned 23 in 2017 anyway. At least I turned 23 in LA finally studying what I wanted to be studying. I groan at the thought of starting new things that will take a year, but in a year’s time I’ll still be 27. But I could be 27 and more fluent in a language I’ve always wanted to learn, 27 and making my own show, 27 and the fittest I’ve ever been. You get the point.
Starting a new course tends to feel silly after 22 after “everyone has graduated by that time” etc. But dear lord, get that degree, bih! You’ll still be 43 in 4 years. Be a happy 43-year-old!
Trust the journey of your life
I know, I know, what a typical quote. But hear me out. Goals and dreams don’t lose value or meaning with age. Learning to split, for example, will still feel good when I’m 27 as if I’d learned to at 19. I still feel like a bad bih learning new dances at 26 even though I “should have” been a pro dancer at 16 (in my head).
I kept thinking I’d only started making films at 24 when some people start younger, but I’d racked up some amazing life experience by that time, so I had some really important topics to go into by then. I got more mature, and those years studying in obscurity with my Instagram on private were a valuable time for me. I got to experience not feeling pressure to be known, I went to an amazing university, I made a group of friends I still have and treasure today. I wouldn’t take any of that back for a chance at “making it” earlier.
Others have done it
I often remind myself that many actors or artists I admire started past their late teens/early 20s “prime”:
She started releasing her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl at 26, and then Insecure airing at 30/31. What she’s doing is amazing; telling important stories, using her platform to promote artists of colour. And she books more and more work by the day, it seems. None of what she’s doing is less valuable because she’s older than 22. It’s a reminder to me that 30 is not “old,” that I won’t run out of stories to tell or have zero opportunities once I can’t convincingly play a high-school student. It’s a great reminder to me that a great career can still be built after 25.
Look, this woman is my damn hero. I first saw her in How to Get Away With Murder (I know I’m late- I’m just not a fan of slave movies which was pretty much all she was cast in before.)
I think she’s a phenomenal actor and she comes to work READY every day. I’ve been blown away by her performances and inspired to trust in myself and have confidence in my talent. Yes, she absolutely should have gotten better opportunities earlier, but she’s undoubtedly leading the way for darker-skinned women having roles that aren’t just “Nurse.” (Also shout out to Shonda Rhimes for creating kickass roles for black women to play.)
She won her first Emmy for HTGAWM at 50, her first Oscar at 52 for Fences. She’s knocked everything she’s done out of the park, and she inspires so many of us around the world.
There are many others, such as Mahershala Ali who won his first Oscar at 42, Toni Morrison who published her debut novel at 40, Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and more.
It’s important to keep reminding ourselves that we can still live the lives we dream no matter our age, and remember that you are never behind. You are right where you need to be.