Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book and building my speaking career! 

You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up. 

You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in age from 20's to 80's. Actor Luke Perry, my middle-school celebrity crush, recently died at 52. Life is short. If there's something you've been wanting to do...DO IT!  Don't trip off of your age---go for it. Our society is so ageist. Internalizing that ageism hinders some of us from pursuing our dreams because we're expected to achieve by the end of our 20's. That's not a reality for a lot of people, especially in this economy. And you know what? That's okay if you have to get started on your dreams in your 40's, 50's, 60's, etc. It's your life. It's your path. Do you. 

I want you to meet a few people: 

Destiny Muhammad

Destiny Muhammad

Destiny Muhammad
dreamed of being a harpist from the time she was a kid in Compton. It wasn't until her 30's when she decided to leave the barber biz and take a leap of faith. She moved to the Bay Area and learned to play the harp. Now she plays on stages all over the Bay Area and is a beloved artist. Listen to my interview with Destiny about her journey to the harp. Trust me. If you're looking for some inspiration, listen. 

Fantastic Negrito

Jenee Darden/Cocoa Fly and Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito is one of my favorite artists. He got in the music game back in the 1990s. Then he almost died in a car crash and later his label dropped him. He gave up on music, but came back over 20 years later. Guess what? I attended his second Grammy party the other night. That's right! The brotha has TWO Grammys. He joked at the party that he's a middle-aged man who dresses funny, but he has the freedom to be the artist he wants to be. His detour to his dream is part of why he's such a great artist today. Read my throwback Ebony interview with him

Oakland model Helen Peppers 
Helen Peppers

I first met Mrs. Peppers at the hair salon while getting my hair pressed. She was 77 years old and I was just getting my start in journalism. My hair stylist told me I should interview Mrs. Peppers. I did. Mrs. Peppers was a model. I saw her at local fashion shows helping to raise money for different causes. Honey, the woman could dress. She stopped the show, stole the show, snatched our edges, and stayed etched in our memories. I can't remember how old Mrs. Peppers was when she started modeling, but I know she started hitting the runways long after she raised her seven children. When I interviewed her for the NPR website, she told me her secret to beauty.  "Beauty is touching someone else's life," she said. Mrs. Peppers passed away in January. She was 91. I'm going to miss her, but I'm so happy that she got to live her life to the fullest. I'm sure she strutted into Heaven with style.

Don't Just Dream, Do

I don't know what your dream is. Travel? Write a novel? Play a sport? Art? Cooking school? Bodybuilding? Farming? Whatever it is, go for it. Sometimes life takes us on paths that we think detour us away from our dreams. But they actually prepare us for our dreams. It took me a long time to learn that. The hardships and losses I've dealt with over the last nine years made me a better journalist and writer. Sometimes our dreams come true, and they may not look like how we envisioned. Cocoa Fly put my voice out there in a way I didn't imagine. I don't have the high number of views like other bloggers, but Cocoa Fly has taken me to greater heights.

You may have to take different steps to your dream. Maybe you want to be a published writer, and should try to get an article published before a book. Maybe you want to travel more, and can't afford a plane ride. Go by bus or the train instead. Maybe you want to model in Paris, but need to start modeling in your hometown first. Whatever is in your heart, I hope you answer it. We all have a passion, a purpose. I would hate for you to leave this planet without tending to that passion. Whether you start at 19 or 90, live your best life.


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