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The Road Not Taken – ‘Til Later

The Road Not Taken – ‘Til Later
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Photo Credit: Neil Merkl


Once in a while, something good can come out of a TV commercial.

Last January, my 22-year-old son Luke began an engineering internship in Seattle. When planning his late June return, I suggested that he drive his red Mustang back to NYC with my husband Neil as co-pilot. I was inspired by a car commercial where the adult son tells his father he quit his job to drive cross-country. The father looks annoyed, at first it seems so because the younger man was being irresponsible; the reality is the older gentleman is regretful because he had never done that himself. The last scene is them zooming down a highway together.

Neil and Luke chose the northern route for their road trip across America via Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Billings, Montana; Rapid City, South Dakota; Sioux Falls, then Des Moines, Iowa; New Buffalo, Michigan; and Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with stops along the way like Mount Rushmore, The World’s Only Corn Palace, and Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, and then some.

Neil has travelled our nation many times on business as an attorney, spending an entire summer once going back and forth to Ohio, another all over the mid-west taking depositions, and who could forget when he flew all the way to Alaska to spend fifteen minutes making his case before a judge.

This though was his first multi-state vacay, and I’m glad it happened later rather than sooner. If he had done it when he was a young man with his college friends, he probably wouldn’t have remembered half of it, as I’m sure beers and frat house antics would have had a prominent place on the agenda. Making this enviable journey with our son is something neither one will ever forget and a treasured memory they’ll always have.

Opportunities come when they come, and not always when one is 25. The important thing is to act on them when they appear – whether they are personal or professional.

Although there is a certain cachet to having yourself described as “so young, so successful,” not everyone can handle that kind of responsibility in their youth; others need to pursue another path and get it out of their system, before they can turn their attention elsewhere. Also, a lot of ideas can come only from past experiences; you have to have lived a life to rack up those.

Here are some 50-plus success stories who prove my point.

  • Betty White, one of the most award-winning comedic actresses in show business, didn’t become an icon until 51, when she joined the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
  • Ray Kroc was past 50 before he bought the first McDonald’s, which he ultimately expanded into a worldwide corporation.
  • Kathryn Bigelow, a director of a few small, fairly successful action movies, gained widespread recognition at 57 helming, “The Hurt Locker,” for which she won the Oscar for Best Director.
  • Jack Cover was a scientist at NASA and IBM, then at 50 became a successful entrepreneur when he invented the Taser gun.
  • Julia Child made her television debut in “The French Chef” at 51.
  • Taikichiro Mori, an academic cum real estate investor, founded Mori Building Company at age 51 and in 1992 became the richest man in the world with a net worth of $13 billion.
  • Patricia Field, a noted NYC stylist and Greenwich Village boutique owner, became an Emmy-nominated costume designer at 54, when she met Sarah Jessica Parker who hired her to work on “Sex and the City.” Field has also dressed the casts of such hits as “Ugly Betty”and “The Devil Wears Prada.” She currently styles for “Younger.”
  • Tim and Nina Zagat were lawyers who published their first collection of restaurant reviews when they were both 51. “Zagat” is now a mark of culinary authority.
  • Last, but not least, me. My first novel was published when I was 51. When I think of the people I knew in my early adulthood with whom I would have been sharing my success had it come sooner rather than later, I’m glad for the delay. Having Luke and his younger sister Meg there to be part of the celebration is worth more to me than any kudos from past acquaintances.

If life is a highway, don’t discount what could happen on the second half of the journey.



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