Is it too late to run away and join the circus?

It’s been 16 years since we’ve seen The Greatest Show on Earth. That was the year my mother died, and she was our motivation.
Oh, but she loved the circus! She tried to look at all three rings at once. She shuddered when the high-divers exchanged places and the tightrope walker inched his way across the building. She laughed at the clowns.
She treated us to coffee and popcorn, and she wanted to stay ’til the last act was done.
But the highlight was the appearance of Gunther Gebel-Williams: “The Superstar of the Circus,” “Lord of the Rings,” “King of the Jungle,” “A legend in his own time.”
Gunther Gebel-Williams joined the circus at age 12 in Germany and he knew then that the Big Top would be his life.
As a young animal trainer and performer, he became the rage of the European circus world. In 1968, when the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus wanted Gunther, he had to purchase the entire German circus to acquire the animal trainer.
Each show, Gebel-Williams rode majestically into the circus standing on galloping horses or on an elephant. Although a diminutive 5’4”, he had incredible rapport with his animals—lions, tigers, elephants, horses, panthers, pumas, and giraffes.
He performed in more than 12,000 shows. Gunther Gebel-Williams found his life-time dream in the circus.
When Dr. Marti Smye wanted to write a book about people’s “second lives,” she asked a list of business leaders which title they would read. “The Joy of Self-Renewal.” “Re-engineering Yourself.” “Your Second Life.” “Empowering Yourself.” “This Time I Get It Right.” “Is It Too Late to Run Away And Join the Circus?”
A surprising 60 percent of them chose the title—“Is It Too Late to Run Away and Join the Circus?” And Dr. Smye asked the question, “Did it mean that the population of my Rolodex honestly wanted to wake up smelling the popcorn?”
No, she decided. They just found the idea of the circus more appealing than what they did every day. The critical words were “run away.”
What would you substitute for “circus?” Farming, painting, sailing around the world, writing your life story, running a gift shop, being a tour guide, building a log cabin in the woods.
So ask yourself the question, “Is It Too Late to Run Away and Join the . . . ?” And substitute your own dream for the word circus.
The subtitle of her book is “A Guide for Your Second Life.” Says Smye, “You have to find a circus that will deliver a daily dose of whatever keeps you rolling.”
Change is a given in the 21st century. “The future isn’t what it used to be,” says Smye. That’s why it is so important to have second and third lives. You no longer can depend on being in the same job for 25 or 30 years.
Even retirement has changed—from retiring at 65 to golf and travel to possibly never retiring and finding new forms of work and new adventures.
This book has lots of helpful goal-setting exercises to help you find your “second life.” What did you want 10 years ago? What do you have now? What do you want 10 years hence? And how will you get there?
If Gunther Gebel-Williams could live his dream, so can you. And always remember, whatever your age, it’s never too late to run away and join the circus.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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