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You’re Never Too Old To Chase Your Dreams

A couple months ago, as I laid in bed, almost dreading the stroke of midnight on my 23rd birthday, I found myself confronting an emotional question. 

I had just graduated college and had just started working in my desired industry of media and entertainment. In the words of my family and friends, I was so “young.” I was in my early twenties and there was a whole world of endless possibilities in front of me, they’d constantly reassure me. 

The rational half of me knew that they were obviously right; everyone’s winding path is unique, unraveling mysteriously in its own grand way. Yet if this was the case, why did I still feel like I was somehow behind in the imaginary timeline of my own life? That despite everything I’d accomplished, I still felt a lack of inner validation when it came to crossing certain goals off my checklist. Was this feeling just due to my unrealistic expectations of success…or something more?

Once upon a time, I used to want to be everything. As a kid, when I really was in my 4- to 5-year-old “wonder years,” when people asked me what I wanted to do, I used to change my answer depending on my current fantasy of the day. A superhero, a princess, a veterinarian. A scientist, an astronaut, a Renaissance painter. As a wide-eyed child wallowing in naivety and endless hours of playtime, the world was bursting to the brim with opportunity. We’d been given grace in those early years to just exist and experience the world for what it was.

Now I guess the hardest thing about growing up is realizing that life is short and there’s so much to do and so much to see and oh-so very little time. And on top of that catalytic revelation, it was this particular worry that stressed me out the most: what if, after everything, I was further behind than everyone else? What if, after graduation, I needed to magically have everything For The Rest of My Life figured out, laid-out in a step-by-step manual like a written guideline for Success?

As a chronic overachiever, I often found myself volunteering to do everything and working hard until I’d bleed myself dry. This obsession only thrived during my high school and undergrad years. There was no room for rest, no breaks allowed. For so long, my whole mentality revolved around the “go, go, go!” idea. Because if I stopped to smell the roses every once in a while, someone would already be one step ahead of me with (yep, you guessed it) bigger and better roses. And if I did stop to rest, I was afraid that I wasn’t working hard enough to ensure my own future was secured, along with the futures of the people I cared about.

But now, as I’ve taken some time to reflect and focus on my own betterment and introduction to the 9-5 lifestyle, I’ve recognized something rather ground-breaking. Modern society tends to have us competing against each other in what we’ve been able to accomplish, broken out in timeframes and Instagram highlight reels. But what if it’s not all about who gets to the finish line first…what if it’s about redefining what that path or finish-line even looks like. 

And more importantly, what if life is not even a silly race after all? What if, instead, it’s a gorgeous walkway where there are gardens upon gardens of flowers for us to stop and smell, and that’s the whole point of living and experiencing this mortal existence in the first place?

Thus, these past few months, I’ve been able to reflect on how much I’d grown and transformed in just a singular year. I’ve suffered great highs and the lowest of lows. I’d had my spirits lifted on the top of a speeding roller-coaster, traveled with strangers who’d turn into best friends, and had some of my wildest dreams come true. But I’ve also had my heart shattered, cried what felt like waterfalls out of my eyelids, and finally begun to understand that I wasn’t as grown up as I’d hoped and still had so much left to do and learn.

The best part? I’ve learned to sit with my fear of not doing enough and realized that when Billy Joel sang, “Slow down, you crazy child. You’re so ambitious for a juvenile,” he was unfortunately oh-so right. 

Although I do find myself yearning for all the versions of myself that I could’ve been, as a 23-year-old still trying to create my own destiny, I’ve found peace and pride in what I have been able to be and hope to continue to work towards as I embrace aging and not run from it anymore.

I used to worry that I was getting too old to chase after my dreams. That somehow, there was a cut-off for being successful, that there was some hidden formula made that magically happened during my teenage years that I missed out on. I was so mature for my age when I was a child. I think a lot of us feel that way sometimes; that although we played outside in the snow and climbed the trees and scratched our knees, we had to wake up from those “wonder years” quicker than we’d have wanted in order to survive.

Reality can be harsh. Many of us have had to bury some old dreams to chase after new ones, or vice versa. But some dreams don’t ever die, and there is not a time limit for when you can make them come true. At 23, I just auditioned for my first ever TV show pilot. At 23, I went to Hollywood for the first time. At 23, I brought myself to Disneyland for the first time and started a manager position at one of America’s top media and music companies. At 23, I’m learning how to heal my inner child and revive those faded dreams, that youthful wonder I had when I was growing up, and come to love living in the present rather than always having one foot ahead in the future.

You see, society tends to put restrictions when it comes to defining success. They put “older” people out to pasture, but the truth is, 23 is young. 30 is young. 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 is young. 

After these few months of reflection and growing pains, I’ve realized that when it comes to accomplishing your dreams and growing in your journey, age is just a number. Feeling young is just a mindset. We will never know everything or be fully “grown up,” but that’s the fun part, I guess. You are NEVER too old to chase after your dreams, and you are never too old to form new ones.

So, at 23-years-old, I’m not only working to make my future-self proud of me, if she could look back at everything I’ve done now to get to where she hopefully peacefully resides. I also vow to enjoy the present moment, soak up the sunshine and lick the snowflakes that fall onto my tongue, and do my best to make my curious, outrageously ambitious, awe-seeking 5-year-old proud too.