Never Too Late

"I didn't do anything real until I was 50."

In the spring of 2002, I attended my daughter Julia’s graduation from Smith College in Northampton Mass.

 

Obviously, the best and biggest part of that memorable weekend was about our wonderful Julia – our happiness for and pride in her. Like most of her classmates, Julia was just shy of 22.

 

But there was another great woman there that weekend (there were many actually) – but one was a really big teacher for yours truly. (It’s college, so learning needs to happen, right?)

 

Her name was Anne Martindell – a classmate of Julia’s. She too graduated with a B.A., but with a major difference – a 65 year difference – Anne was 87… that’s right… 87.

 

I should add, that at this time, we had just made a big move to California, and just shy of age 59 I was considering what I wanted to do with the time I had left, and feeling very like it was too late for me, for a new career – washed up at 59 – poor me…yada yada…

 

Then, just in time, just for me, (thank you Smith College) onto the podium, pops Anne.

 

She spoke. What a treat! I was riveted. She talked about her life. A few choice tidbits as I remember them:

 

“My father ripped me out of school because he thought that a career in the law was not for genteel ladies. His vision for my life was marriage and babies – that’s all.”

 

“I didn’t do anything real until I was 50.”

 

“I’m here to tell you ladies that you CAN have it all – family, career, all – but not at the same time. You have to have it sequentially.”

 

“I’m considering graduate school. If I do that, I could get a really good job.”

 

Anne died in June 2008 at age 93, almost exactly 6 years after “commencement”. I found her obit in the New York Times. Some excerpts:

 

“Anne C. Martindell, who entered politics in her 50s, found true love as ambassador to New Zealand in her 60s, earned a college degree in her 80s and published a memoir titled “Never Too Late” in her 90s, died on Wednesday in Princeton, N.J. She was 93.

 

“Her birth, her breeding and her iron-willed father seemed to have condemned Ms. Martindell to a life she later dismissed as utterly conventional — “I didn’t do anything real until I was 50,” she once told a reporter — but feminism and the 1960s changed all that.

“Her memoirs describe a pampered but miserable childhood. Her sickly, mentally unstable mother, the former Marjory Blair, was the heiress to a railroad fortune. Her cold and distant father, William J. Clark — an alcoholic, she later discovered — was a prominent lawyer who in 1938 became a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“After attending private schools in Manhattan and Princeton she entered Smith College in 1932.

“When, in her freshman year, she announced to her father that she intended to earn a degree and study law. He was horrified. By parental decree, she dropped out of school.

“She married George Scott Jr., a stockbroker, with whom she reared three children. The marriage ended in divorce after 13 years.

“In 1948, she married Jackson Martindell, the publisher of Who’s Who and had a fourth child.

“In addition to her children, she is survived by nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

“In the 1960s, dismayed by the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, she began raising money for the 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Eugene J. McCarthy.

“She then agreed to become the vice chairwoman of the New Jersey Democratic Party.

I was appalled at how women were treated in politics — good for making coffee and licking stamps, period,” she said.

“She pushed. Once, arriving at an important meeting, she was refused entry, lest she be offended by the four-letter words the men used. After using some profanity of her own. She said: “Now, let’s get in there and get to work.”

“In 1972, Ms. Martindell chaired George McGovern’s New Jersey campaign and  led the state’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention (the only woman to do so).

“In 1973, Ms. Martindell won a seat in the New Jersey Senate ousting a seemingly entrenched Republican incumbent. Her first act in the Senate was to prepare a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

“In her four years as senator, during which time she and her husband separated, Ms. Martindell focused on women’s rights, education and the environment. She helped create the New Jersey Division on Women, one of the first state-level offices in the country that addressed exclusively issues affecting women, including job discrimination and domestic violence.

“In 1979, she was named ambassador to New Zealand and Western Samoa.

“During her three years as ambassador, Ms. Martindell fell in love with New Zealand — and with one New Zealander in particular, Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston, a landscape painter better known as Toss, whom she later called “the love of my life.” He died in 1998.

“Her devotion to New Zealand outlasted her tenure as ambassador. In 1986, disturbed at deteriorating relations between the United States and New Zealand, which had banned American nuclear submarines from entering its waters, she founded the United States-New Zealand Council to foster closer ties and better understanding. The council is still in operation.

“At Smith, on graduation day, Ms. Martindell, then 87, also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. At that time, she was the oldest graduate in Smith’s history.

“I could get a really good job?” Ha! What a joke!

…And not too late for Larry, either:

"I wanted my guitar to sound exactly the way I felt."

South African ex convict, now Pop Star Larry Joe’s background and story, is as different from Anne’s as one can possibly imagine – with one very obvious and inspiring exception.

 

When Larry Joe was 13, his parents moved to a small house in Douglas. His father was unemployed and his mother struggled to make ends meet as a teacher. When he got home from school, there was no food. His sister would tell him that she had a headache for bread and cheese, but there was nothing to give her.

 

He started hanging with the guys on the corner, who talked about stealing, and then started doing it. “I saw guys coming with expensive stuff, you know, and they were bragging. I started walking around with them.” When he got cash, he sneaked it into his mother’s purse. She caught him moving stolen goods into the house and begged him to stop it, but by then he was addicted to Quaaludes and had to fund his habit.

 

At 17, he moved to Cape Town and fell in with a crowd of guys who drove fancy cars, wore gold jewelry and cool clothes, and did robberies, some violent. The police were on to him now, so he ran.

 

He ran for seven years, until his grandmother talked him into giving himself up.

 

Prison set him free.

"One is never too bad to be good."

“In prison you think about everything” says Joe. “I thought: all these years, I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I decided just to be myself. So I started behaving like a gentleman. One is never too bad to be good.”

 

He asked to be put into solitary confinement, where he spent many months, and he started to write songs.

 

“I started to put my feelings into words and music: “I wanted my guitar to sound exactly the way I felt.”

 

He strums his guitar and sings, his voice has been called “so sweet that it’s heartbreaking.”

 

“Crazy Life” was recorded in a single cell in the Douglas Correctional Centre. To improve acoustics, they piled mattresses against the wall. The album was released on 13th December 2010, the same day that Larry was released from prison.

 

Have a listen and a look.  I promise you a treat:

 

 

So…Anne Martindell and Larry Joe “on the same page?” You bet! They both understood that it is “Never Too Late” to achieve their dreams. They kept their eye on that. Then when they could, they acted.

Inspiration for every one of us.

 

Practice Tip: Looking back from 93

You are 93. You are looking back on your previous 25 years.

1.     What kind of life will you have wanted to live during that quarter century

2.     What kind of person would you have needed to be to make the most of that block of time?

3.     What relationships could you be open to, what projects could you launch to create that life?

4.     What new practices could you initiate right now to bring out these qualities in yourself?

5.     What actions will you take?

 

Dear Reader,

Please be kind to yourself,

Metta,

Michael

 

 

 

 

About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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