The myth of the young genius, the early blooming prodigy, the athlete peaking at 22, has us all in its grip. But that is just a myth — a myth that deserves to be busted. Thanks to the efforts of some wonderfully inspiring bloggers, that dream killing belief that you have to succeed young or not at all is crumbling.
America’s love affair with youth destroys dreams every day, as people sadly put aside the computer, the paint brush, the guitar, convinced that they’re too old to do what they long to do. But thanks to the magic of the Net, the message is emerging that none of that is true.
I’ve just helped in the writing of an eBook on memory and cognition — and I’ve learned some astonishing stuff that challenges those beliefs about youth and dreams. Did you know:
Certain kinds of memory functions don’t even develop until midlife? Intelligent memory — the ability to synthesize information from multiple sources, weigh alternatives and “think outside the box” can’t fully develop until enough complex neural pathways have been laid.
Learning new things actually makes the brain lay down those pathways. Studies have shown that the brain structure of a 20 year old and a 70 year old are actually not substantially different.
Brain scans show that people who engage in creative work have better blood flow to the brain, and more complex neural pathways that encourage multifaceted thinking and imagination.
I’ve become a fan of Later Bloomer and Write it Sideways, two blogs dedicated to proving that when it comes to creative flowering, youth ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Later Bloomers just featured a segment on the writer William Gay, whose gorgeous Southern Gothic voice didn’t get much recognition till he was in his fifties. There’s a video of Gay speaking about his work — a beautiful, grizzled man, talking with that calm centeredness that characterizes creative people speaking ab0ut what they do.
Gay, like many of us, led a life that can be characterized as “eclectic” and sometimes just plain rough. But his writing was always a part of it, and when the time was right it took center stage.
Life isn’t really lived in a straight line. We move in spirals, like the shape of shells and galaxies, circling back again and again to the things that matter, the visions we long to manifest. At different points on that spiral, different pieces become real. We never close doors to who we really are — and as the quantum physicists remind us, time is not at all what we think it is.