I hadn't thought much about "Middlemarch" until just recently. Rebecca Mead has written a book called "My Life in Middlemarch," about the novel and her own experiences reading it. I've read several reviews (mostly good) & articles about the book. And then in today's Globe & Mail, this interview with her. I was particularly struck by these two paragraphs at the end:
Through her examination of the hold Middlemarch has over her, Mead – who has three children, including two step-children – reconciled her own feelings about ambition and the idea that it can, indeed, be too late to be the person you thought you might be. When she started the research, she was in her early 40s, in that uncomfortable place of new middle-age, realizing that doors of opportunity were closing.
But now, she is more hopeful about the happiness and satisfaction that lie ahead. Middlemarch attaches more beauty and romance to the accomplishment of enduring love rather than to the follies of young love, even though that’s what preoccupies many. “Whether we are married or have kids or not, most of what we do is humble and small, and yet it has a kind of incredible grandeur,” Mead says, offering a quote that Eliot herself might have spoken.So I haven't read the book (yet) -- but those last two paragraphs have got me thinking. Is it too late to be the person I want to be? It's definitely too late for me to be a mother. Yes, I know there are those who would argue that it's never too late, if I just persevere and never give up and spend enough money, somehow, somewhere, some way, I could be a mother...
Well, call me a pessimist or a quitter (I wouldn't, but that's your prerogative) -- but I think it's true that, as we age, we start to come to terms with the fact that we're just not going to get to do everything we ever wanted to do or thought we would do. There are some doors of opportunity that are indeed closing -- and, once closed, will never open again (or will only be pried open with great difficulty and at great cost). Our time, money, patience and other resources are limited, and that becomes more & more evident the older we get. It's up to us to decide how we want to spend those resources, where our priorities are -- and those priorities often change as we age & evolve. I am not entirely the same person I was when I first read read "Middlemarch" in my early 20s -- or when I was 37 and pregnant with Katie. or 40, when I decided I had to stop infertility treatments for the sake of my sanity. And I'll probably have changed again, in big or small ways, by the time I'm 60 or 75 or older.
That said, while it may be too late to be the person you once wanted to be, it's never too late to try to be a better person, to strive for something better. We might never reach that goal, but isn't the fun in the trying? The journey, vs the destination?
Our lives may not be the ones we pictured for ourselves when we were younger... but yes, there can be happiness and satisfaction and even grandeur sometimes (and I love that she mentioned "whether we have kids or not" -- it was probably that one line that provided the spark for this blog post).
Thoughts? Anyone else read "Middlemarch," Mead's book, or both?
I have to admit, I went out & bought a copy of Mead's book (I have "Middlemarch" on my e-reader, and put it on my to-(re)read list). I don't often re-read books these days, but I might have to make an exception here. I'll let you know if/when I get around to reading either or both. ;)