Self Expression Magazine

Never Too Late

Posted on the 18 May 2016 by Sofia Essen @SofiaEssen


Hello there!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Some kids know the answer to that question. They shout it out with absolute conviction. Fireman! Singer! Policeman! Actress!

Me? When I was a little girl, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. My parents put me in ballet classes so I would say that I wanted to be a ballerina. I knew my parents liked hearing that answer. But I also knew that I didn’t really want to be a ballerina.

Fast forward a few years, and then I was taking horse riding lessons. I adored being around horses. I understood them and they understood me. I couldn’t say the same thing about people. Back then I was painfully shy, introverted, and insecure. But when I was in the saddle, all my insecurities vanished.

My riding instructor said I had an innate talent for dressage. What’s dressage? It’s a competitive equestrian sport. Horse and rider are expected to perform a series of predetermined movements. Funnily enough, it’s commonly referred to as “horse ballet.” And I was really good at it. So, during my teenage years, I told people that dressage was my future if they asked me what I wanted to do with my life.

That was a lie.

Hanging out with the horses was a dream come true for me. I loved taking care of them, exercising them, and training them. But, at that time, I didn’t have a competitive bone in my body. I dreaded the competitions. Given the choice, I would rather have had a molar removed without the benefit of anesthesia than compete. Yet I told people what they wanted to hear. I dutifully said, “I want to be the World Dressage Champion.”

Obviously, I didn’t become the World Dressage Champion. When the horse I grew up with passed away, I decided to leave horse riding behind, competitive and otherwise. That horse had been my whole world. I needed to do something entirely different.

So what did I do? Well, I spent my early twenties doing a little of this, a bit of that, and some of the other. I drifted rather aimlessly through life, without a real passion or any well-defined goals. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.

In 2009 I started writing. I had recently left the hustle and bustle of Singapore and relocated to a tiny village on a Greek island. This Greek village had a population of about 250 people. It had very little to offer in terms of entertainment. So I started writing because there literally wasn’t anything else to do with my free time, not because I had a particularly burning desire to become an author. I’d been a bookworm my entire life. Why not try to write a book?

I finished my first novel and sent it out to more than 100 literary agents. All of them rejected my manuscript. Eventually, a small ePublishing company offered me a three-year contract and published my book. Only fifty copies of that book were sold over the three-year period. When the publishing contract ended, I was equal parts disappointed and relieved. Disappointed because my book hadn’t become a bestseller. Relieved because I felt that I could bury the disappointment and move on now that the book was off the market.

I resumed my aimless drifting for some time, growing increasingly dissatisfied. I would see posts from people I used to know on social media, notifying their online friends about engagements, upcoming weddings, brilliant new jobs, and the arrival of their first child. Me? I was twenty- nine years old and I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Then I turned thirty and something happened. I consciously acknowledged that I was stuck in a rut and that I was dissatisfied. I hadn’t admitted it to myself before.

Of course, part of me knew that I was stuck and wasting my life. These thoughts would enter my head in the dead of night when there were no other distractions to focus on. But I hadn’t said “I’m stuck” out loud in broad daylight. Once I made the confession and said the words out loud, things began to change. I began to change. I began to take charge of my own life.

Finally, I knew what I wanted to do. And what was that? I discovered that I did have a burning desire to be an author after all. It was quite the surprise.

Every writer has heard the phrase “write what you know” at some point. So that’s exactly what I did. I wrote what I knew. I knew what it was like to be stuck in a rut so I wrote a book about a woman who was stuck, lost, and wasting her life. That book is called Ariel and it was published on the 1st of April 2015.

Now, as I’m writing this, I have completed three works of fiction. And I plan to write one new manuscript per year in the future. Not bad for a former aimless drifter without defined goals or ambition!

These days I’m writing because I’m 100% sure that it’s what I want to do. It’s no longer a case of “Why not write a book?” because I don’t have anything else going on. “Why not” is never a good enough reason to do something.

Do You Know What You Really Want?

I was a late bloomer in terms of finding out what I really wanted to do. What I’ve discovered since Ariel was published is that I wasn’t the only one. There are many late bloomers out there. And then there are people who thought they knew what they wanted but now they’re just not so sure anymore. I’ve spoken to people from the ages of 18 to 80 about this topic. It turns out that many people go down a certain path for years quite happily… until they’re not happy with the direction they’re going. Suddenly, they want something different but what exactly that “something” might be often eludes them.

So, let me ask you again, do you know what you really want?

Ask yourself these two questions:

1. What Do I Enjoy?

The first step to finding out what you want is asking yourself what you enjoy.

What do you like doing? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work?

Maybe you enjoy writing like me. Maybe you love working with animals. Or maybe you have a knack for photography. The point is to figure out what you love to do, and then do more of it in your free time.

2. What Do I NOT Enjoy?

What don’t you like doing? What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job? Maybe you hate meetings and you’re forced to sit through six hours of them every day. Maybe you dislike your boss. Or maybe you used to enjoy your job but now it bores you.

Be honest. Pretending that you enjoy something you actually hate is a hard act to keep up long-term. It’s exhausting. And lying to yourself won’t get you any closer to finding out what you really want.

If you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads us to one more question:

How Hard Am I Willing To Work To Get What I Want?

Unless you have a fairy godmother or a genie in a bottle stashed in your back pocket, getting what you want isn’t easy. It’s going to take commitment and hard work. Lots of hard work. You will probably have to step out of your comfort zone. But as the saying goes, “No guts, no glory.”

My Final Tip

It’s never too late. If you’re not satisfied with the direction you’re going in, it’s never too late to change course. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s too late. And remember that knowing what you want is the first step towards getting it… then you just have to keep going, one step at the time.

That’s all from me for now. I wish all of you a great day!

– Sofia

Never Too Late

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