It’s too late to become the world’s youngest Olympian.
It is essentially too late to become an Olympian at all for me and everyone I know. Someone could drop everything and take up target shooting (the sport in which the oldest recorded Olympian competed) but even then they’d be competing against people with a lifetimes head start.
The same thing applies if I wanted to become a doctor. I’d have to spend a few upgrading my current academics just to be eligible for 8 years of med school which I then wouldn’t be accepted to in favour of younger candidates who could actually afford to go.
So even if it’s never too late to start doing something, it is often too late to become the fruition of that something.
So despite the tautological argument that it is possible if a thousand conditions went our way and we were absolutely unwavering in our concentration (as people always imaginable they’ll be before they do anything for real), yes, it is too late to become a doctor.
In fact from the minute we’re born our options start narrowing – actually from before we’re conceived – because we didn’t pick our genes and we didn’t get to pick our parent’s income. Which is the single biggest indicator of early opportunity and future success.
Life is what you make of it. I have no problem with that. What I hate is people deluding themselves and encouraging others to delude themselves into thinking they can make it anything they want. And not just to be a cynic but because I think dreaming so big you know you’ll never reach it is a mental hamster wheel that stops people from reaching their actual potential. It’s equivalent to always imagining you’re someone else by immersing yourself in television and talking about winning lotteries.
If the piano of your life has 46 keys there’s nothing gained imagining the songs you’d play on someone else’s 88.
Just in case you assume I’m making a case for docile determinism I’m not. What I’m saying is once you accept what you’re options really are you can gauge opportunity cost. I could become a doctor (allowing for consecutive miracles of course) at the cost of maybe 15 years. Is my desire to become a doctor higher than other uses for the years between now and 47? Nope.
So the question to ask oneself is; why did I want to become a doctor? I’m sticking with the example but this will also be true for all the astronauts, presidents, and rock stars we’re not going to grow up to be.
The answer will always be that we think it will make us happy. So then the insightful person, rather than talking themselves to sleep about how it’s never too late, asks why do I think that would make me happy? What comes with being the rock star president of the astronaut doctors club that I want?
Human happiness is remarkable simple to quantify in the abstract. While every individual anxiety is unique to each person the qualities of every self identified happy person are pretty much the same.
And they always include a sense of purpose.
When people say it’s never too late the hope they’re trying to give is that a sense of purpose can arrive in your life at any time and in a lot of unexpected ways. That’s why we use grandiose examples like doctor when we talk about optimistic futures because we assume a sense of purpose comes lock, stock, and barrel with being something important.
But being important just means other people need you to do things for them a lot.
A sense of purpose is with you when there’s no one else around. If being a doctor suited your internal sense of purpose you’d already know it. In a conversation about this someone remarked “I’d hate to find out that I’m really good at hockey and that’s what I should have done.” to which someone who had played hockey for years retorted that after age 10 no one ‘finds out’ they’re good at hockey, it takes decades of honing various skills (skills which aren’t analogous to many other things in external life) just to not suck at hockey as an adult. However what this dreamer was saying on a lower conscious level is that they’re scared the path they’re on (playing guitar) wouldn’t get the results they wanted (fame and fortune) and being and NHL star was a path they considered parallel.
That’s what bugs me when people dream about their ‘ideal careers’, they don’t care about the job itself, they mentally jerk off about what they could afford to do in their downtime, monetarily yes but also socially. I knew someone who aspired to get rich simply so he could commit crimes and then bribe his way out of it, as if the key to happiness is simply freedom from the consequences of impulses society controls.
And that word, freedom, is pivotal here. Because I think it isn’t ever too late to free oneself from material concerns and become happier. Not all-caps happy in the paradisical sense but happier than we are in the rat race cycle of ambition and defeat.
The social test mentioned in office space applies well here; if you never had to work again what would you do(?) and the answer is supposed to tell you what you should do for work, like if you’d fix classic cars then you should be a mechanic, etc.