Heard about the 55-year-old trying out for the Dallas Cowboys' cheerleading squad?
Sharon Simmons, a Carollton, Texas, grandmother of two, sashayed over to Dallas last week, along with hundreds of other (younger) hopefuls, because she figured a dream deferred is better than a dream abandoned.
Indeed, why not now? When I read about Simmons, I gave my computer monitor a high five. Huzzah, huzzah. Though cheerleading in the NFL is not my ambition, Simmons is certainly the kind of woman I admire: tenacious, fearless, optimistic and confident. We should all take a page from her playbook.
Granted, Simmons is not your average 55-year-old. She participated in her first fitness competition at 50 and has written a book, "Triple F: Fifty, Fit and Fabulous." Check out her abs on her website, fitnessanyage.com.
Neither you nor I look as fit and toned as she does, and it's likely that many women half her age don't, either. But we could, if we wanted it badly enough, if we tried hard enough. And that's the point, isn't it? That's what George Eliot, a famously scandalous female writer who used a male pen name, meant when she wrote that it's never too late. Surely it's what poet Langston Hughes thought as he wrote: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore -- then run?"
In this youth-obsessed society, we still admire the late bloomer, the person who refuses to lose sight of the horizon even as her dinghy bravely rides the tsunamis of life. We celebrate the conqueror who was overcomes drudgery, the success who never gave up as others around her did, the winner who forgot to tally all the previous losses. There is, after all, no sweeter vindication than wresting hope from the clutches of time, that merciless thief of dreams.
Sharon Simmons has taken her dream back, whether she makes the Cowboys squad or not. So did Dara Torres. Remember her? At 41, she became the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team. At 15, she had set her first American record in the 50-meter freestyle and never gave up. Her story kept me glued to the TV during the 2008 Olympics. Both women inspire me to write The Great American Novel, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, at 5 a.m., before a full day of activities begins at 9.
Holding on to a dream through the years is not rare. Grandma Moses began her painting career in her 70s, and Bill Traylor, who was born a slave, started drawing at 83. Colonel Sanders launched his finger-lickin' franchises in his 60s. Harriet Doerr, granddaughter of a railroad magnate, published her first novel at 74, and "Stones for Ibarra" went on to win the National Book Award.
Last spring, I read about a retired businessman and World War II pilot, Richard Smith, who received his PhD from Florida International University at 87. A mere babe, that Smith. Up the road, at Florida Atlantic University, 90-year-old Menachem Henri Hager earned a master's. Both managed to snatch back an education interrupted.
Impressive feats, yes, but I doubt either man needed a college degree to understand this verity: It's never too late to be what you might have been.
(Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.)