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Stories of People Whose Success Later in Life Proves Life Doesn't Stop After Age 35


May. 18 2020, Updated 4:20 p.m. ET

TV writer Melissa Hunter was onto something when she recently tweeted, "At the end of 2020, instead of 30 Under 30 and NextGen lists, please profile middle-aged people who just got their big breaks. I want to read about a mother of two who published her first novel, a director who released their first studio feature at 47, THAT'S THE LIST WE WANT." 

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We're tired of hearing about the ingenues and overnight successes. The vast majority of people work really hard for years and have responsibilities and whole lives that prevent them from making any "30 Under 30" list. Plenty of people — both famous and not — didn't achieve their goals until later in life. 

Melissa's tweet went completely viral and prompted so many people to share their stories. These are people who switched professions and went back to school at 40, decided to pursue their lifelong dream of writing or painting at 60, or even just made sure that they're doing the things they love and having new experiences well into their elder years. 

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Talk about perseverance! Shelly is proof neither age nor illness must necessarily stop you from achieving great things. People like Shelly are proof youth isn't a condition for success. We are fed so many narratives of young hotshots and prodigies who do incredible things by the time they're 30.

And what that has done is condition us to believe you have to do all of the things before you're an adult, that your chance to make your mark or achieve your dreams effectively goes out the window with the smoke from the candles on your 35th birthday cake. But that couldn't be more false.

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Everyone's story is different. Some people's dreams are delayed by family responsibility. Others spend years in one career, then realize, decades later, they want to do something else. It takes some people longer to finally give themselves the space and time to explore a new hobby. None of these paths constitutes a waste of time, and none is better than the other. The only thing that matters is that you're proud of yourself. 

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I don't know about you, but if I were to attempt a math class even now, after about 12 years of not having taken one, I would be a mess. But at over 60 years old, Nicolette is about to get her doctorate. In a follow-up tweet, she writes, "Sometimes I want to tackle law school next." 

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Life happens differently for everybody, and it's all valid. You just hope that, when you get to the end, you don't regret the direction yours has taken. The responses to Melissa's viral tweet are such good reminders that, no matter your age, it's never too late to start something new. 

It's easy to be jealous of young people who seem to have it all together, but the truth is no one does. And there are also plenty of famous people out there, household names, A-list stars and super-famous authors who didn't reach their status until way later in life than you'd think. 

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Film director Ava DuVernay is one of those people. She decided to completely change career paths at 32, having never picked up a camera until then. The rest is history. 

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The French Chef herself Julia Child didn't even learn she loved to cook until she was 36 years old. She eventually attended Le Cordon Bleu and, years later, found success with her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was published in 1961, when Julia was 49 years old

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So many legendary actors didn't become household names until they were at least in their 40s or 50s. Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Bryan Cranston, Melissa McCarthy, Alan Rickman, Viola Davis, Steve Carell, Kathy Bates, Betty White, Dame Judi Dench... The list goes on and on. 

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi) was a stay-at-home dad for years before he directed his first film for an American studio at the age of 41. Toni Morrison, iconic Nobel and Pulitzer-Prize winning author, didn't publish her first novel until she was 40. At the time, she had a day job as an editor at Random House.

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Larry David co-created Seinfeld when he was 42. I Love Lucy didn't premiere until Lucille Ball was 40 years old. There are so many varied reasons people find their bliss at different ages. It's all OK. It's all good, actually. But you don't have to be on the path toward becoming a famous actor who makes it onto lists of household names who "bloomed later in life." 

Being a "regular human" is extraordinary! This might be the best tweet of the bunch. None of this (*vaguely gestures to everything*) should be about racking up accomplishments or points or attention. It's all about living a full life and being a person you can be proud of.

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