Like many of you, I enjoyed Susan Szafir’s post “Confessions of a Self-Professed Late Bloomer” because it calmed my almost-forty-and-essentially-unpublished nerves. In fact, lately I have been spending a lot of time calming those nerves, and to hear someone like George Saunders say it’s okay to be on the other side of 35 was a good reminder to breathe and keep on keeping on.
Over the weekend I read this great article in Rolling Stone about child prodigy Lena Dunham, whose stunning success has made a lot of us feel a bit…inadequate. Dunham’s TV show Girls has been called “the smartest show on TV,” and Dunham’s been featured in every publication I’ve picked up in the last couple of months–The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, even The New Yorker. How old is Lena Dunham? A mere twenty-six.
It feels very normal to be envious of someone who’s having this kind of success before she’s hit thirty. We have all been there. But instead of opening that ugly can of worms, I decided to ask myself what I could learn from Lena Dunham. It’s all well and good to have George Saunders or Malcolm Gladwell reminding me that 40 is the new 30, but what would a successful writer in her twenties have to teach me?
To be ambitious.
Late in the article, Dunham reveals that after her grandmother died she decided to just get serious. She works tirelessly. Despite many weirdnesses, she comes from a family of artists who always encouraged her to be smart and focused, and she is just that. She doesn’t seem to let her hangups about not being good enough get in her way. She seems to take her success in stride. While I don’t wish upon myself anxiety dreams and the inability to take a break (something I might teach Lena Dunham: balance) I nonetheless admire her for, simply, doing her work. Yes I have a three-year old, yes I have to work, yes I have a hundred other commitments to attend to–but I can harness some of that younger woman’s energy, put aside some demons, and be a go-getter.
So thank you, Lena Dunham, for reminding me that you don’t have to be 26 to be weird, smart, talented, and ambitious.
And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write a book.
More newsy bits for today: