Too Old to Dream vs. Reinventing Yourself

I went to see Kenny Loggins at the Mountain Winery a few nights ago. His opening act, of which he was a part, is called Blue Sky Riders. Really good music, beautiful harmonies, but I was fascinated by the lyrics of one song, and Kenny’s description of how the band came to be.

Apparently a couple of years ago, Kenny hooked up with two Nashville-based songwriters (Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman) and their musical styles meshed so well that they talked about forming a trio. When Kenny told one of his buddies about this, that person replied, “you’re too old to form a new band.” This concept put Kenny into a tailspin, and when he told Gary and Georgia, not only did they disagree, they put together a song called “Dream.” Needless to say they’re now touring, and the song is a prominent part of their set.

The song resonated with me because the lyrics say, “Leave me in the rain, send me out to sea, lock me up in chains, throw away the key, the day I ever get too old to dream.” Those of us in midlife crisis can find that idea really appealing. But a passing comment Kenny made as he introduced the song strikes a dissonant chord with me. He stated something to the effect that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself. This bothered me on a couple of levels.

First of all, I can’t equate the notion of “reinventing yourself” with a man who has been in the music business for over 40 years and continues to record. He’s not becoming someone else, he’s not changing careers, he’s building on his existing skill set, popularity, and experience to set out on a new venture. (I happen to like this venture, but it doesn’t seem like he’s reinventing himself to me.)

Second, the notion of “reinventing yourself” to me typically means coming with a high price. I have seen plenty of people forced into “reinventing” themselves when their jobs disappear and they have to completely switch gears and find something entirely different to do. I see people who go from being a couple to being single (for a litany of reasons) who have to find out how to live differently both emotionally and financially. I see people with serious illnesses grappling with how Cancer, or disability, or other awful stuff try to figure out what inner strength they can draw upon to get them through their ordeals with grace and bravery. I see empty nesters trying to figure out what to do now, since everything they had spent so many years doing is suddenly gone. While reinventing yourself can mean changing your life for the better, it still seems largely like it’s born out of pain and struggle.

I suppose you could say that dreaming with a goal can equal reinventing yourself, but that seems like a gross oversimplification.

Those of us who have changed careers multiple times would argue that in some cases, you CAN be too old to reinvent yourself. I’ve done it five times. And it’s hard to measure the success of reinvention. Do you base it on a higher salary? (I’d epically fail there.) Do you base it on overall happiness level? Do you base it on how your life is enriched? What if you reinvent yourself and find that it doesn’t improve your life as you’d hoped? What is the cost in emotional energy for multiple reinventions/life changes? In this regard, you CAN be too old.

There are clearly exceptions to this concept; I know Grandma Moses started painting at age 80 and look where it got her. That’s great. But how many of us have that sort of success? How should we quantify success?

Maybe a better way to think about all this is not in “reinventing” yourself, but perhaps to “rediscover” yourself. I’m equating this to playing the piano regularly again after a 35 year hiatus. I’m not the same person I was when I took lessons all those years ago. I feel like I’m playing with someone else’s hands, which are far less agile than I ever imagined they could be. But there’s an amazing rush when I can get through a song without stumbling through it.

Maybe it’s really all about the journey. This is a tough concept for those of us who are goal oriented. But trying to recreate that feeling as you go through life is really the goal. And that’s an amazingly good dream.