A few days ago a thread came across my twitter feed talking about the idea of 26 being old. Now the thread mentioned that this whole idea was absurd, but I felt I should say something as well.
Because the truth is, it is.
According to this theory, you go to college right out of high school at 18, graduate by 23, then start your career and build on what you were doing the whole time and achieve “success” by 26.
There’s a reason I put “Success” in quotes.
Define it. Does it have an end date? Does it tell you when you should have achieved it?
Society has a specific defined image of success that fits a narrow definition of people, and anything outside of that is failure.
That means you can’t afford to have physical or mental health problems or you’ve failed.
You can’t afford to have a personal tragedy set you back or you’ve failed.
You can’t afford to change your mind or you’ve failed.
See how ridiculous this is? I’m almost 26, a college dropout with chronic pain problems I didn’t have a few years ago due to a condition I was born with. On top of this, I’ve struggled with various mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
I’m not saying this to form a pity party, pity is the last thing I want.
I’m saying this to say that it’s ok if you haven’t figured out what you want to do with your life by 26. It’s ok if you haven’t published yet or you haven’t done any art commissions yet.
There were people in that thread that were 18 and saying like they’ve failed at life already.
Ok, some of you might be 18. Let me tell you this, you don’t realize how young 18 still is when you’re 18. I remember being that age and I thought all the adults had it all figured out, like a lot of you probably do.
Some of you are also older than me and feel like you’ve failed. I’m not your age, I haven’t been that yet. But I can say this. That’s ok too. A lot of authors didn’t publish until their 30’s or 40’s. Miyazaki, Tolkein, CS Lewis. The list goes on. So many artists didn’t even publish their first works in until their 30’s or 40’s or even later and their names are instantly recognizable.
Now, of course that level of fame is never guaranteed, and is extremely rare. But I say that to say this, it is ok to start later and take longer to achieve your goals than someone else, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There’s something I think we’ve forgotten about this age of 26. It’s barely past the quarter century mark. Logically you know the number is there, I know, but as an age that people experience, we forget that. In the push to become better younger we forget that people live easily 50 years longer than that.
Fifty. Years. Nearly twice that long. There is zero reason logically to think 26 is the end all be all age of “Success” or even 30. Your personal timetable for achieving your goals is the only one that matters, don’t let anyone else tell you when you need to have a career and family by. No one but you can decide when you start making your art, and let no one tell you you’re too old to make a living from it.