Rising to the challenge in age old conundrum of living fully


Fairy tales can come true

It could happen to you

If you’re young at heart

Carolyn Leigh/Johnny Richards

Ever wonder what could come next?

Do you ever feel like your creative flow is drying up? Or that there are no real challenges left?  Or if anyone will really notice when you are gone?

Many older adults face these questions in their final years. Some have never had children, and others have outlived them. Even when we have family, loneliness and despair can set in when we feel we have nothing left to offer or no one to offer it to.

Carolyn Leigh was an American lyricist for Broadway, film, and popular songs. She is best known as the writer with partner Cy Coleman of the pop standards "Witchcraft" and "The Best Is Yet to Come.” With Johnny Richards, she wrote the million-seller "Young at Heart.” At the time of her death, Leigh was working with Marvin Hamlisch on the musical Smile.

Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and other musical icons sang her words. If you are like me, you probably remember the songs but never heard of the people who wrote them.

Not everyone is a well-known scientist who invented a lifesaving cure or Pulitzer Prize-winning author. It doesn’t mean our life didn’t have meaning. And it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to touch lives.

We would not have had heat if not for the coal miners who risked life and limb in the mines. Loggers risked their personal safety to make it possible for us to live in warm and safe houses. Our cars, appliances, airplanes, and plumbing couldn’t operate without mechanics, carpenters, repairmen, or inventors working in their basements to make their and our dreams come true.

We may not know all their names or faces, but they are us. If you are feeling there are no mountains left to conquer, consider the following that was posted by Drew Forrester recently on Facebook:

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King worked as a janitor and lived in a trailer.

At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to attend art school.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.

At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home dad working odd jobs.

Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39 and got her own cooking show at age 51.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.

Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.

Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at age 52.

Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.

Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.

Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Fulfillment can come to us at any age – even more so after a lifetime spent gathering experience and wisdom.

So if you are feeling that you’ve done it all already, find something, anything, that makes you smile and do it often. And remember the words of that marvelous wordsmith, Yogi Berra - “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at or post your comment below. 


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