On April 11th of this year, a cheeky 47-year-old unemployed, single, cat lady who had cared for her dying mother took the stage on Britain’s Got Talent. Initially greeted by snickering and enough rolling of eyes to turn the building over, Susan Boyle blew away every cynical, judgmental, and painfully shallow audience member and judge when she gave an awe-inspiring and flawless voice to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables.
BCT’s Amanda Holden called Ms. Boyle’s performance the “biggest wake up call.” It should also be a wake up call to every person who assumed Boyle’s appearance was any indication of her talent. More importantly, it is a wake up call for those around the world who have talent: it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what you do for a living, or that you don’t look like a supermodel. If you have talent and you take that talent outside your shower (backyard, studio, or local theater), grand things can happen.
Our looks-based society often confuses beauty with talent. Many of those who were seeing but hadn’t yet heard Ms. Boyle’s voice assumed the way she looked (which was, for the record, well-kept and nicely dressed) was a fair measure of her talent. It was unanimously decided — before she was even heard — there was no talent before them that night.
Such is the stigma that meets the voices, talents, skills, portfolios, educations, and resumes of some of the most hardworking and industrious individuals on the planet. Taken at face value and without benefit of even the slightest chance to prove themselves, many an unfortunate is cast aside and out the door; their potential contributions lost in a sea of rejection that simply cannot compete with the irregular measuring stick that is our myopic obsession with beauty and youth – until now.
My peers (women over the age of 40) know all too well what compelled Ms. Boyle to the stage despite any fear, reservation, or hesitation that may have accompanied her. Those women still in their childbearing years would do well to take note.
Many women have willingly given to, given up, and given their all to their families and jobs for several decades. While men in their forties often look back with lament and regret when they suddenly realize they aren’t 25-years-old anymore, women knew they weren’t 25 anymore as soon as they turned 26. Women in their forties often look back and soothe their aching dreams with what they’ve accomplished and done for their families and in their jobs. There is also, however, the need to look to the future for the fulfillment of dreams that have brewed for many years.
There is certainly something to be said for not waiting, but there is also something to be said for waiting until it matters more to try than to risk failure. Whatever it is you do, do it well, keep doing it, keep practicing it, and for crying out loud, keep your chin up no matter what is said or who says it. The weight of your dream may be difficult to carry, but it is the very same weight that will keep your dream in place once you have arrived.
Steve Martin once said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Susan Boyle eloquently and energetically drove that message home for many hopefuls in the world.