You’re never too old to try something stupid

By Richard Ploch | Mar 19, 2014

When I retired, I decided to let my hair down and have fun. When a quick look in the mirror reminded me there wasn’t any hair left to let down, I decided instead to have fun finding paraprosdokians. They are wise sayings that are unexpectedly on target with a happy surprise at the end. Socrates was said to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” But my wife, Carol, who is wiser and a lot more fun, turned that upside down with, “It’s really the unlived life that’s not worth examining.” That’s why I cheered when I came across the refrigerator magnet that reminds me that we’re never too old to try something stupid. Let’s worry less about examining our lives and go out and try new things we never thought we could do. Someone once told me that we should never grow up; we just learn how to act in public.

I went back to the John C. Campbell Folk School in March for a weekend of watercolor painting. I’ve always believed that art is a God-given gift that was not on the list of my gifts, but I also knew that I had not taken an art class since my elementary school years in the 1950s.

“Why not now?” I thought, especially when I saw the clever title of the folk school class, “Get Your Feet Wet in Watercolor.” I like water and I like color and off I went. By the end of the weekend, I said to my fellow class members (who, while claiming to be beginners like myself, I’m sure were professionals from the Art Institute in Chicago) that as a watercolor artist, I’m not a bad woodworker. Yet, I’m producing something every day at home now and have a new craft to enjoy. None of my work is for you to see, and that is fine. Someone once said, “To be sure I hit the target, I shoot first and call whatever I hit the target.” That’s true for my art projects and I’m having the time of my life. It’s never too late to try something I’ve never done before, although skydiving is not on the list. Remember, you do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

More than 150 years ago, my favorite American wiseman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” He also said, “Hitch your wagon to a star,” a saying I put on my high school bedroom wall.

Now on my list for spring and summer adventures are more days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place I realize I may never have visited (I’ll take my sketch pad and watercolors) and keep looking at the folk school catalog of classes for my next quest. Maybe the best stupid thing I could do this year is to take a dance lesson. It’s never too late.

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