A tale of two numbers

Twenty-two. To Kabbalists, it is the number of paths in the mystical “tree of life.” It’s also the number of letters in the cryptic Hebrew alphabet. To numerologists, it is one of the “master numbers” containing the qualities of a “master builder.” Tarot readings are given using the 22 major arcana cards, which are thought to provide spiritual insight into one’s life.

Regardless of the truth of these theories, one thing is certain: The age of 22 can be one of the most significant years of one’s life.

That’s the premise of the book When They Were 22: 100 Famous People at the Turning Point in Their Lives. Author Brad Dunn offers a candid glimpse into the lives of those who were forever changed, for better or for worse, at age 22.

Sometimes, the moments were purely accidental. At 22, Marilyn Monroe crashed her car, which led to her meeting with the Associated Press photographer who later shot the photos that made her an American sex icon.

Other times, the change was quite intentional. For instance, 22 was the age when Jerry Garcia not only formed the Warlocks (known later as the Grateful Dead), but also had a taste of what would make the band’s music a psychedelic rollercoaster ride for so many fans: LSD.

Because each entry is so brief – three pages, at the most – and packed with little-known and surprising tidbits, it’s hard not to be intrigued by every one.

Did you know that Jamie Foxx was an aspiring classical pianist before he discovered his comedic talent? Or that at 22, Karl Rove was accused – for the first time – of “dirty campaigning, espionage and stealing votes” for his own campaign in order to be elected for National Chairmanship of the College Republicans? Coincidentally, it was the same year he fell in love with George W. – politically speaking.

Although the book sometimes reads like a “before they were stars” entertainment guide, its intention is not to curb your appetite for celebrity. The purpose is to show that as famed and successful as many of these figures were deemed later in life, they all started in a place of uncertainty that caused them to take risks that led to opportunities that would forever alter their path in life.

Life is bound to take you down some long, twisted and bumpy roads. This book proves that some of those roads, whether they are encountered at 12, 22 or 32, just may lead to your calling.