Have you ever given up on a dream because you felt its time had past or that you were too old to make it come true? Well this week, an encounter with a elderly lady taught me that it’s never too late for your dreams to come true.
She was well into the little vintage shop where I work part-time before I had a chance to acknowledge her. Unassuming, a bit dumpy, gray haired and bespectacled, the elderly woman moved slowly around the store thoughtfully enjoying the pieces on display.
When she replied to my standard greeting, I could just make out her accent. Her life began somewhere in the UK.
Because my harbourside city boasts a lot of tourists in the summer, I regularly ask if my customers are local or if they are visiting. Her response was that she is now a local. Then she volunteered that she had lived in Nanaimo in the early 70’s and was finally moving back.
I’m a curious sort, so I starting asking her questions about where she originally lived in Nanaimo and why, after so many years, had she decided to move back.
Nanaimo was a town of about 30,000 souls in the 70’s. So perhaps, I thought, I might have gone to school with one of her kids. She looked old enough to be my mother so it would not have been a stretch to find a connection. Maybe a Kevin Bacon, 6 degrees of separation kind of thing.
It was at that point that this dowdy, owl eyed old woman lit up and a different woman emerged right before me.
“I’ve always felt this town was home for me.” she said. “Well, obviously not my home town.” referring to her accent, “But I just loved living here when I was younger. I felt that I belonged.”
She continued to tell me that after 3 years living in Nanaimo, her husband was transferred to the east coast of Canada with his government job and when they finally transferred back several years later, he insisted that they settle on the mainland and not Vancouver Island.
So for many years she settled into life, started a business, raised her kids…. and waited.
When it was time to downsize to a smaller house years later, she once again tried to convince her husband to return to Nanaimo but he refused. His life was rooted to the mainland. Her soul yearned for the island.
“After almost 50 years” she said, “I figured I had waited long enough. I wanted to go home. So I did.”
“So you moved over here by yourself?” I asked.
A spark of life crackled in her eyes. The defiance undeniable. “Yup, I bought a lovely little trailer in a park up by Westwood lake and I can’t wait to get possession next month. Right now I am staying with my friend who I have know since I first lived here.”
“Oh, maybe your husband will follow over once he sees that you were serious about moving.”
“I don’t want him to follow me over here.” she says indignantly, “He’s a miserable old bugger. He needs to stay over there.”
To say I was a little shocked by her comeback would be a fair assumption. This harmless little old lady morphed right before my eyes into a warrior queen. Her dream was not going to die and she would defend it to the end.
We chatted some more about Nanaimo and how it has grown. She purchased a collector tin for her friend and promised to visit again, then left as unassuming as she entered.
Her story hit me right to the core. Here was a woman, who freely admitted to being in her late seventies, whose dream of coming back to her beloved island and settle back into the city were she felt most at home, was no way, no how going to die.
How hard would it be to be in the twilight of your life, to willingly give up a marriage of over 50 years, even a poor one, and move from a community that you have lived in for more than 20 years, leaving most of your possession behind and relocate to one on an island; a ferry ride away from all your family and friends?
Apparently pretty easy once you decide that your dream will not die along with you.
In that moment, I knew that there was a lesson here for me. Messages come from all sorts of places, you only need to be wise enough to acknowledge them when they do.
Dreams are the oxygen that keep our souls alive. With out dreams we have nothing to live for.
So I asked myself, what dreams might I be unknowingly allowing to die a slow torturous death because I believed they had lost their window of opportunity, or that I was too old to have them any more?
It’s an age old story. We capitulate to the decisions of others. We compromise our wishes for the greater good of the group. We play second fiddle in the orchestra of life to harmonize with the band or we let our dreams expire to support our loved ones dreams instead, and in return, our own souls die by degrees as the years pass.
To keep our dreams alive, they must be lived. This was the lesson.
Here was a little old lady, who most would think would be content to live out her dotage in her comfortable home with her family close by and call it a life. But instead, was even more determined to finally realise a dream she has tenderly carried deep in her heart for almost 50 years at the sacrifice of everything else in her life.
And it was that dream, that spark that I witnessed flaring in her eyes that was revving her up for her final years. To me, I sensed that she was finally living.
If she was finally willing to make this grand sacrifice to realise her dream, what little sacrifice could I make that might feed my soul a little breath of pure oxygen and keep my dreams alive? The answer to this question is the answer to this lesson.
We are never to old for dreams, and there will always be opportunities available out there for the taking. The key is to finally have the guts to reach out and grab.
Because your dreams can come true. This I do know. But it took this little old lady with fire in her eyes to remind me not to wait. And that was the lesson I needed to learn.