Last week-end, I devoured Phyllis Tickle's Prayer is a Place. I read it years ago when it first came out. At that point, I had just recently discovered her 3 volume version of the Liturgy of the Hours, The Divine Hours. Years ago when I read Prayer is a Place, I was fascinated by her discussion of the writing process of those texts.
This time, I noticed how much of the book revolves around Tickle's post mid-life career. She has a full career as an academic, teaching and being a dean. Around the age of 45, she quits those paths to found a press that has multiple focuses and is fairly successful, especially as small presses go.
Then, around age 58, she gets the call that will change her life. She's asked to be the editor-in-chief for the soon-to-be-created religion section of Publishers Weekly. She gets to read books, meet authors and publishers, and go to huge festivals and conferences. In short, she has my dream job.
And here's what made me most hopeful: she got that dream job late in life.
We're surrounded by stories of young stars. We're inundated by stories of Ph.D.s that have an expiration date. We're swamped by stories of mid-life and later job seekers who can't find anything.
I loved reading Tickle's memoir because it reminded me that those stories are not the only stories. A world of stories exists where people find that doors open when they need to, that a human that you knew briefly decades ago will come back into your life when you need that person, that there's a shape and a pattern to life that isn't just chaos theory and apocalypse.
I also noted that Tickle often felt like she needed more and more writers. She recounted one story of hiring a woman who sent her an unsolicited resume and that woman became one of her strongest employees. Note to self: don't discount sending off my resume/CV/information to places where I'd like to work, even if there are no published openings.
And then, even later in her life, she wrote The Divine Hours, the project she considers to be the reason she was put on the planet. It's been wildly successful. It's not a project that anyone would have forecast to be wildly successful, but several people had a shared vision, and thus, success.
Literary historians might remind us of many similar trajectories, especially when we consider the path of women writers and artists of all sorts. Just because you haven't produced your most successful work by the time you're 25 doesn't mean that you won't. Lots of people have done their best work at midlife and beyond.
Last week-end when I reread Tickle's book, I had been writing about St. Jerome and thinking about the big projects that God calls us to do. I like being reminded that it's not too late. And St. Jerome reminds me of all the tools that we have that are available to us to get it done.
feeling the feelings…
11 months ago