Never Too Late

George Eliot quoteIn addition to being a sublime Victorian novelist, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) was a reliable source of refrigerator magnet epigrams about subjects as diverse and enduring as friendship, love, and destiny. One of our favorites is her thought about fulfilling one’s dreams: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

How inspiring and liberating an idea! How cheering and hopeful! To think that our lot in life hasn’t been permanently and irrevocably cast, that despite the discouragement of family and church and neighbors and whomever would seek to tether us to our millstones of routine, we are essentially free to make of ourselves whatever we wish – well, that’s a transcendent prospect, indeed.

It’s also vaguely misleading and dangerous.

Eliot would have been better off saying it’s never too late to try to be what you might have been. Take me for example: I ended up being a writer and a singer (and someGeorge Eliot gussied up other things); but, let’s say what I fantasize I might have been is the starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Or the President of Uganda. Or an astronaut. Never mind that I’m 5’9″, born in America, and wickedly susceptible to motion sickness; according to my refrigerator magnet, it’s not too late to be all I wish for. The truth is, despite the overwhelming odds of any of these conclusions happening, it’s not too late for me to make a wholehearted attempt, no matter how comical and pathetic, to replace Shaquille O’Neal in the post position. Should I fail – and there are more than a few people who predict I will, miserably – at least I’ll have the consolation of knowing it wasn’t too late to discover my real and true destiny.

And that, I think, is the greatest hope of all.

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