Mark James Miller: Courage is standing tall against the odds

Miller, Mark James

On Sept. 15, 2021, I wrote “It’s never too late to make your dreams come true,” on these pages, pointing to the excitement I felt with the publication of my second novel, "The White Cockade, A Novel of the American Revolution", coming out just as I was turning 70 years old.

The reviews were mostly positive: “The author’s meticulous attention to atmospheric cultural details and descriptions of period weaponry add up to a narrative win.” ─ Kirkus Reviews.

This was followed in December last year with the publication of the novel in audiobook form, by Beacon Audiobooks.

As fulfilling as all this was, I also wanted to convey to people the often spoken of but not-so-often put into practice idea that age need not hold you back from following your dreams, whatever they may be.

This coming Thursday, March 23, the sequel to The White Cockade will appear: "The Summer Soldiers," also published by Black Rose Writing in Castroville, Texas.

Once again the reviews have been favorable: “Captivating, entertaining, and mesmerizing.” ─ Pacific Book Reviews.

This is a heady tonic for someone who did not see his first novel in print until he was 64, but the larger point is your dreams do not have to fly away just because your hair is turning gray and your face is becoming wrinkled.

I hit 71 last year, and I’m still going strong, busily at work on the third novel in this Revolutionary War series, "The Times That Try Men’s Souls," and more planned after that.

And what I can do, others can do.

“Laughter is timeless,” said Walt Disney. “Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.”

People are living longer these days. In 1950, the year before I was born, the average American could expect to live 65 years. That increased to 69 in 1960, 70 in 1970, 73 in 1980, 75 in 1990, 76 in 2000, 78 in 2010 and 79 today.

The picture of retirement as oldsters playing shuffleboard or feeding pigeons doesn’t have to apply to everyone. If we can’t avoid getting older — and we can’t — then there is no reason those years can’t be exciting, happy and productive.

The road to achieving your dreams might be a rough one to travel. For an author, putting your work “out there” and not knowing if it will be received favorably, negatively, or even be received at all (too often writers, budding ones as well as more established, send out their work and hear nothing back. It’s as if your manuscript has gone into a black hole).

But as Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

The journey can be just as exciting as reaching the goal.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm,” said Henry David Thoreau. If we can hold on to our enthusiasm as the years go by we can stay if not young in years at least young in spirit and in heart, and continue to get meaning and joy out of life.

As French author Jules Renard said, “It’s not how old you are. It’s how you are old.” American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson put it another way: “The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles!” Dream on!

Mark James Miller is a Central Coast novelist, teacher, and president of the Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College.


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