Late Bloomers

I’m a late bloomer… in all things. And I’m discovering that blooming later in life is great. You know what you want and have better base of support to draw on.

The Benefits of Blooming Later in Life

But don’t we all love the story of a prodigy? A young genius software programmer who drops out of school to create a billion dollar business, a 10 year pianist playing Carnegie Hall, an teenage gymnast capturing Olympic gold, a 22 year old winning Academy Award, a 23 year old with multiple Grammys, a 13 year old chess champion. We marvel at their skills and their drive, and maybe look at our trajectory with a little embarrassment. When I was 22, when I was 26, when I was 28, I was still figuring out how to make something happen. No one was looking for me when it came time to give out awards for excellence. I bet a lot of you are like me… just now getting to IT.

Maybe because of the paths I’ve chosen and maybe because I didn’t hit puberty till late teens or reach my full height till 23, I’ve always been more inspired by the stories of late bloomers finding their path, purpose and, even, success later in life. Because of our collective obsession with youth, we don’t even realize that people in most fields don’t start hitting their stride till their mid-30’s. In this country especially, maybe because of Hollywood consistently making stories for and about people in their teens and 20’s, we seem to have a fixed idea of when success is supposed to happen and when talented people are supposed to be recognized. And then we write off the very people who are most likely to help change the world, late bloomers.

George Clooney didn't hit it big till ER, in his 30's

The valuable lesson a late bloomer learns is that resilience and hard work are bigger contributory factors to success than just being born a great runner, good actor, pianist, or a computer genius. In fact, blooming early can stunt growth. To paraphrase George Clooney, many women’s favorite late bloomer, the age you become famous is the age you’re stuck at… So if you’re famous and celebrated at 22, you’re going to be stuck emotionally and mentally at 22 for the rest of your life? I see his point, if you’re given everything at a young age, it must take a Herculean will to continue to grow, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. In the face of all those yeses, how do you say no to yourself?

So why is being a late bloomer a good thing? Well, first of all, there’s nothing holding you back from growth. You’ve got limitless room to expand. There are no expectations of greatness stopping you. People stopped expecting you to hit it big, right? And second, we’re living a lot longer these days, and it feels good to build, build, build towards something and enjoy the sweetness of success later. Delayed gratification makes it that much better. Third, most of us only improve as we get older. Our skill set broadens and deepens; we’re more compassionate; we make better decisions, and we’re more open to collaboration. And dig this: “Ability can take time to develop. The contribution that genes make to ability doesn’t determine everything; rarely is it laid out in one burst. ‘The genes don’t act all at once, but can take years to unfold,’ says Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist at University of California at Davis. ‘We know that the genes are partly responsible for brain organization, but we also know that the brain is not completely organized until well into adulthood.'” (from an article in Psychology Today by Scott Barry Kaufman) So we just get better.

“Achievements that require complex abilities like creativity or leadership, which comprise many different traits and thus the alignment of many different genes, are years in the making. As Simonton points out, there is only one way of becoming an early bloomer, but there are an infinite number of ways of being a late bloomer. The more complex a trait, the more ways a person can become a late bloomer for that trait.”

Connie Britton, image from NYTimes.com

Look at Connie Britton, in her 40’s, successful actress, the lead on a hit TV show, and finally seen as a hot commodity in Hollywood. How much better is her work onscreen, how much more nuanced is her character because she’s in her 40’s? I reckon that Connie Britton is like a lot of artists, who hit their stride when they’re actually meant to-in their 30’s and 40’s. And because of her age she’s more accomplished and more talented.

“The fact that genes come online at different times opens the possibility for the tortoise to overtake the hare. Researchers often refer to the ’10-year rule,’ according to which it takes 10 years to master a field. What may take the average person 15 years to master may take later bloomers only five once their genes sync up; even though they started later, progress can be rapid and make up for lost time.”

And what about happiness? Well, that increases too. We get happier as we age. And what a boon that is! I’ve a friend, Lea, in her 80’s, and she’s been happy her whole life. But she says she didn’t really start having serious fun until her 50’s and from there it only got better. Each decade was happier than the one before. (This despite heartache and loss, which is a constant in most of our lives as.) Now that’s my kind of late blooming.

In my 30’s now, I’m having more fun and finally doing work I really enjoy. I know what I want, and I’m getting better and better at what I do. In light of this, maybe 40’s and 50’s don’t sound so bad. And if I can do it, so can you. I guess the point is that we can all be late bloomers; we can all find success a little later than conventional wisdom dictates.

We can carve our own path at any time. We can have encore careers, pursuing what we love, what we’re good at, what we care about. It’s really never too late to start something new. Don’t write yourself off just yet, there’s always time to create something new. And if you’ve bloomed early, you can do it again and again; you can always reinvent yourself. Who knows you might just be the next success story of our age, inspiring 5 year olds and 55 year olds. Sometimes in life, it only gets better. Give yourself the space and time you need to blossom.

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About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.

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  1. […] I wrote a piece once about Late Bloomers. I’m a late bloomer -- sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever blossom into whatever it is I’m hustling towards -- and that’s ok. I wrote that being a late bloomer is a lovely thing. You get the time to learn who you really are and what you really want in life. And when you do blossom, you’re fully realized. You’re you. […]