I’ll tell you, there is nothing better in life than being a later bloomer. I believe that success can happen at any time and at any age. -Salma Hayek
When I was a young girl I wanted to be an actress. And a singer. And a screenplay writer, a teacher, an interior designer, a psychologist, a journalist, a novelist and, ok fine, I wanted to be a model, too. For a brief minute I wanted to be a fashion designer, but that was just a phase.
By the end of middle school, I noticed many of my friends and classmates already attaching themselves to a single title. Pilot. Architect. Artist. Embalmer. Pediatrician. Nurse. Cake Decorator. Some of them were even already talking about college. While they were contemplating their choices- Rutgers, NYU, Montclair, Fairleigh Dickinson, William Paterson, Bergen (I grew up in NJ)- I was wrestling with what to name my newest barbie doll. Sharon, Melissa, Cassie, Vanessa, Sarah, Oooh, Whitney. I adored the name Whitney.
After my high school graduation, still not being pulled in any one particular career direction, and incredibly relieved to be out of school, I went to work at the mall. And then in an office. And then at a spa. And then at a health clinic. And then in a real estate office. I moved around- Florida, North Carolina, California, Germany. After 30, I started getting nervous. After 35, I was terrified. I’d read tons of books and explored various different interests, but still, nothing was calling me loudly. Nothing clicked. Nothing felt like the thing I was meant to do. Not yet.
I always felt at least a few steps, if not miles, behind other people my age. I played with toys until I was almost 14. It took me a long time to mature emotionally and intellectually, and I had to learn most of life’s valuable lessons the hard way. Throughout early adulthood, I was stubborn and was never willing to take anyone’s word for anything. I was the kind of kid and young adult that needed to see for myself, not one willing to learn from other people’s advice and experiences.
But it wasn’t all for naught. All the jobs, the zip codes, the relationships, the experiences of joy, of frustration, of disappointment, of hope- they all taught me things, great things. Things about myself, about life, about success and failure. Things I needed to know that would prepare me for doing the work that I am born to do. To identify the thing I was born to do. I thought the time would never come when I knew what that was, when I had a clear vision of what I wanted to be and how to get there. And though much later than many of my friends and peers, I finally saw it. It finally clicked.
Now I am grateful that it took until I was nearing 40. I realize that I needed it to happen this way. I can see and appreciate that clearly now. As the saying goes, timing is everything. In the case of being a late bloomer, nothing happens until we’re ready. And when we’re ready, it happens- the seeds of greatness within us blossom.
I’ve identified several ways in which we late bloomers, through our age and experience, are set up for success, and I’d like to share them with you. The 5 benefits of blooming late:
- Mortality Awareness: For me, it was just after I turned 30 that I thought for the first time, oh shit, I am getting older. I’m gonna die one day. Suddenly, I knew I didn’t have forever to just fuck around. My days were precious, and I had to live them the way I really want to. Of course, none of us immediately just stop wasting time and living every moment with intention and presence. But late bloomers realize time is precious, and it becomes a priority to be selective; to honor whatever time we have, because it will run out.
- Long-term Relationships: By now we’ve established trusting relationships and formed a tribe. We know exactly who our true friends are and who will show up for us. We also just generally know a lot of people and have a go-to person for whatever it is we need. This really comes in handy when we embark on something new- like a career or a business! We know we won’t have to do it alone. And if we don’t know someone who can help us, someone we know does.
- Self-Awareness: We late bloomers know ourselves quite well. We have identified and contemplated our strengths and our weaknesses, our beliefs and philosophies, our successes and failures. We also know by now what others see in us, because we’ve heard the same compliments over and over again. We know where we excel, and what we have to offer the world around us. We know what’s really important to us. We also have learned to trust our intuition, because we’ve been around long enough to know it’s always been right. All of this enables us to make wise choices, ones that are truly good for us, when it comes to pretty much anything. We don’t waste a lot of time trying to decide if something is right for us. We tend to know when it isn’t and can more easily move on.
- Less Risk Aversion: At this stage, we’ve gotten back up and dusted ourselves off enough times to know it’s never gonna be as bad as we make it out be in our minds. Whatever it is- a break up/divorce, getting fired, quitting, losing a bet, missing the bus, facing rejection… we’ve always survived, and we know we always will. We know that the only regrets we ever have are the risks we don’t take.
- Confidence: With experience comes knowledge and we have a good bit of knowledge on our side by now. Knowledge of our selves- our abilities and limitations. We know what we’re capable of. But we’ve also watched others rise and fall, and we’ve learned from their experiences. At this point in our lives, we know at least a little bit about a lot of things. There are very few things in life that are brand new territory for us. The direct experience and exposure to other’s experiences combined gives us the confidence to pursue new things because not much is totally unfamiliar. We know what we’re doing, more or less, most of the time. What we don’t know we know we can learn.
While less experienced people may be more paralyzed by fear of the unknown when opportunity arises, a late bloomer has the knowledge, resources, and relationships, as well as the courage, to take chances and seize opportunities. As long as we can be patient and keep moving, experimenting, and growing, we will bloom. We will become the people we are meant to be. We will do the work we are born to do.
While feeling behind for all those years caused me a lot of grief and anxiety, it was worth it. Many of my friends ended up going to college and starting careers in their 20’s only to decide they weren’t satisfied with the paths they’d chosen, and that caused them a lot of grief and anxiety, too. Some went in new directions, others stayed put because of the time and energy they’d already invested or because they were afraid to take the risk. Some are still searching, and a few chose well early and never looked back.
There are many different paths to discovering our purposes. No two paths are the same. We must honor our own path and trust its design and timing, because while some are prepared early, others need more time. We late bloomers need more time, and that’s totally okay. In fact, that’s fantastic, because there are so many unique and treasurable adventures and lessons along the way. It’s about the journey, after all. Along the journey, we collect clues to our own success. We get to discover exactly what success means to each of us individually and decide how to be successful in our own unique way.
Are you a late bloomer? Do you have anything to add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Some notable late bloomers:
Meryl Streep (actor), Alan Rickman (actor) Rodney Dangerfield (actor), Grandma Moses (painter), Carmen Herrera (painter), Colonel Sanders (business person), Jerry Lewis (film director), David Mamet (film director), Mary Wesley (writer), Charles Bukowski (writer)
Be you and enjoy it!