Thomas Jefferson (born 1743) was 33 years old in 1776 during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. James Madison (born 1751) was 36 when his ideas formed the core of the US Constitution. There are a fair number of other people who did some of their most impressive work in their thirties – it seems to be an age at which you’ve done enough to actually have a significant depth, although perhaps not a breadth, of experience in at least one or two areas.
While I harbor no illusions about being a Jefferson or Madison, it’s interesting to be at the same age as when they made arguably their biggest marks on history. Personally, the mid-thirties is the first time in life at which I’ve worked regularly on specific subjects for multiple decades – my first computer program was written more than 20 years ago; my first photograph was taken almost 25 years ago.
Everyone dreams that they will do important things in life, but for most people something gets in the way – a job, lack of motivation, or just a sense that things can always be done later; days go by slowly, but years somehow fly by. There was a line at the beginning of Dead Poet’s Society from a Walt Whitman poem: “that the powerful play goes on, and that you will contribute a verse”. To which Robin Williams’ character asks: “what will your verse be?” At this point in life there’s a mild fear of missing the chance to contribute that verse, although with several endeavors in various states of completion there is also optimism that some day an entry like this one won’t be about hopes, but will instead be about accomplishments. Granted, those accomplishments won’t end up as centerpieces of the National Archives, but not everyone is cut out to be a Founding Father.