Permission to Pursue Happiness
I started my baseball career just before turning forty-eight. I yearned to play the ball game as a young girl, but the school softball team was the closest I got. Baseball was not a popular Australian sport, nor was it an option for girls in the 70’s and 80’s. And forty years on, my desire to play had never waned.
While training a group of young upcoming advisers (financial advisers, accountants, and lawyers) during lunch, I chatted with the female associates. After making small talk and bantering about life, I learned these clever women were busy little beavers with full lives. They commented on their long work hours, hefty study commitments, bustling social agendas, strict workout routines, and being devoted to their partners. They were in their mid to late twenties, without kids.
I could sense their busyness as they spoke about their hectic schedules and the sighs when they mentioned spare time was strictly for sleep or Netflix.
When the conversation turned to me, I excitedly shared how I had finally pursued my lifelong ambition to play baseball. I figured it was more interesting than sharing more ‘busy’ talk. I explained how baseball lit me up from the inside out. How free it made me feel and how it lit a fire in my belly whether I was at training, playing the game, or just having a casual toss of the ball. Although I had to move mountains to fit my schedule, it was worth every bit of inconvenience.
As I continued, I noticed the curiosity rise in their faces. They realised I was no spring chicken (I was old enough to be their Mum) and knew that I ran two financial services businesses with two sons in primary school. I explained that although there is never enough time to do all you want, my dream to play baseball would become more unlikely the longer I left it.
I wasn’t getting younger, and life wasn’t slowing in the foreseeable future.
On top of that, I had a raft of legitimate excuses to justify why it was never the right time to start. Genuine reasons like no time, young kids, work commitments, too old, unfit, unskilled etc. And if I’m honest, I was riddled with fears like I’ve never played before, I don’t know anyone at the club, I’ll make a fool of myself playing at my age. I was a broken record of,
“I’ll do it when the kids are older, when I reduce my work hours, once I’ve practiced it bit.”
Any excuse you could think of, or fear you could conjure up, I had it, and believed it.
When one of the women asked me why I finally took it up when I did, I revealed it was thanks to a newly adopted mantra, ‘if not now, when?’ It changed my perspective on life. I started applying these simple words to all I did and a whole new world of possibility opened. It was liberating. It helped me weigh up what’s important and stop the endless procrastination around things that make me happy.
A few months after adopting this mantra, I saw a Facebook post about a local women’s baseball club welcoming new players. I believe it was the universe’s way of letting me know the time was now. So I joined the Bonbeach Lady Jays baseball team the next day, a few weeks shy of my forty-eighth birthday. I’ve never looked back. And as the typical story goes, I wish I had done it sooner.
The greatest revelation from this leap of faith was not limited to baseball. It was the unexpected impact it had on my life. Doing something that lit me up so profoundly had a flow-on effect that made everything better. It made my long work hours more bearable, my parenting responsibilities more enjoyable and put a new spin on conversations when asked what I’ve been up to. I met new lifelong friends and felt a sense of belonging and fulfillment that I had not imagined. I also realised I could be responsible, diligent, and happy at the same time. And that it is never too late and you’re never too old to learn or do something new. Who would have thought?
After listening closely to my story, each woman started reflecting on what they would do to entertain the ‘if not now, when’ approach to life. One reminisced about her days growing up on a tennis court and how much she’d love to hit a ball again. Another always wanted to get back into hockey as she had given it away at school when it clashed with her academic commitments. One wanted to learn about money and investing so she would never have to depend on her partner for financial security. Someone else shared her desire to sing more as it was the one thing that made her feel truly alive. And one gave a dramatic account of her days on stage as the lead in their school production. You could feel how much she still yearned to perform.
The stories continued. Everyone contributed. Some were about hobbies, others were related to studies, finances, and careers. Some were even as simple as habits they’d like to start or to change, such as being a more diligent saver or mastering how to make budgeting more fun. Nothing was out of reach. The only thing stopping them was themselves.
There was so much energy in the room as each woman spoke about what would light her up. Things in their lives that were on the backburner waiting patiently for the elusive ‘right time’. Once the excitement in the room settled, there was a peaceful silence. I slowly lent into the space, facing the group, and with a steady encouraging voice I asked, “if not now, when?”
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