That's hard to believe. It's the kind of number that can be a bit intimidating. That can require a bit of reflection and thought. That keeps you adding "and holding" to your description of the age.
And with some of the other life changes that have happened this year, it could be a bit of a downer. A what have you done with your life moment.
But not for me.
Instead, I think of Stan Lee.
In 1961, Martin Goodman directed Stan Lee to create a comic book series about a team of superheroes. Lee who had served editor-in-chief and art director, as well as a dozen other roles in his two decades at Timely Comics and Atlas Comics, was a bit burned out of comics at the time. Lee was ready to call it quits.
Lee was ready to head to novels, to magazines, something. But he listened to the advice of his wife, Joan, who suggested that he write at least one comic the way he would want to write it, not the way it had been done before. Lee was then “determined to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books,” noting that “for just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading … And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and - most important of all - inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.”
Now there are the disagreements as to how much input was Lee’s and how much was penciler Jack Kirby’s. Regardless, the resulting combination proved to be a smash success, though quite unexpected. Lee had felt ready to leave, but the positive reviews persuaded him to stay on. It would be his most defining creation, in combination with the Silver Surfer, which launched fromthis comics magazine. He would go on to maintain a 102 issue collaboration with Kirby, on this the “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.” Lee’s contribution, treating characters as human as opposed to ideal archetypes, would become the standard for the industry.
From here, Lee would become a fixture in the comic scene. His engagement with the readership in letter columns and in his Soapbox column build a great sense of community with fans and creators. He introduced credits to the comic pages for not just the writer and penciler, but inker and letterer as well.
Lee would be editor in chief, head writer, and show runner for the majority of the 1960s Marvel line. He pioneered the pop culture of today. And his impact extended beyond his tenure at the company. He remained comics elder statesmen and the self-proclaimed greatest cameo artist of all time. He was Uncle Stan.
And the event that launched this career and fame. The year that started the pop culture phenomenon known as Marvel.
Lee wrote that when he was 39.
The great success of Lee’s career didn’t start until Lee was 39.
It was that point where he started following where his muse led him. He didn’t change fields, didn't really even change jobs, he just finally released himself from the trappings of the past, from doing things someone else’s way.
With all that is going on, I take solace in his life and story. With the idea that there’s no magic number as to when your life really takes off. It’s not that things weren’t good before, it’s just that it can always still take off at any point.
With the idea that this career transition, whatever it entails, could be the start of the absolute best part of my life. The most fulfilling part.
And that’s exciting to me.
Here’s to 39.
Here’s to that kind of life-changing, universe-defining, creatively fulfilling opportunity.
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