Midlife Rejuvenation

A Dream Revived

George Eliot said, “It is never to late to be what you might have been.”

Have you ever heard of “Rodriguez”? Unlike most of us, he didn’t have to do anything to initiate a full fledged reincarnation into what he might have been. But, he did have to step into it and make the new film, “Searching For Sugar Man” to get where he is now. He had to accept a new life.

I am talking about Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter, who signed a contract with producers from Motown Records in the late 60′s. They found him in a Detroit night club called the Sewer. Musically, he grew out of the protest tradition and was influenced by Tim Hardin, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan.  At the time, he made a couple of albums, sold almost nothing, and dropped out of sight.

In 2006, director Malik Bendejelloul, went to South Africa to find ideas for a new movie. There, he heard about Rodriguez. South Africans had made Rodriguez as famous as Hendrix, The Stones or the Doors. Long story short, after locating the singer in the bohemian Cass Corridor of Detroit, they made a film that won festival circuit awards and generated emotional responses in audiences everywhere it’s been shown. See The New York Times film section 7/22/12.

But, aside from the circumstances of this story, the most amazing thing about it was the attitude of Rodriguez himself. After his failed career, he became a construction worker tearing down and renovating buildings to support his three daughters.  He earned a college degree in philosophy, specializing in logic and ethics. He even dabbled in politics as a candidate for mayor of Detroit. Now, at 70 years old, he told The New York Times, “You can’t linger too much on your decisions, so yes, I chose to face reality. I’m a family person, and you make those choices. You have to embrace it, my father used to say. You don’t hold it over there, where it can hurt you. There’s no shame in hard work.”  In other words, you leave your decisions in the past. Don’t hold them out in front of you as something to regret and punish yourself about.

He’s a notably calm “serene” man who has accepted his failed career and reluctantly accepted his success. When confronted with the fact that he hasn’t made a dime on anything he’s done up to this point he said, “there have already been rewards just from the opportunity to do all this. I guess we all want to get there right away, but I believe it’s never too early never too late.”

It’s Never Too Late

It’s odd that Rodriguez and George Eliot had so much in common. No dream is really dead until you let it go. And the life of Rodriguez illustrates that even when you turn your back on those dreams, they cam be revived and help you be the person you’ve always wanted to be. Remember, it’s never too late.


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