Today's post is about late bloomers. Even though I've been writing for decades and been a serial entrepreneur, I don't yet feel as though I've bloomed fully into my life purpose. I've had my share of small blossoms here and there that have been beautiful and sweet with fragrance, but the whole tree hasn't opened up, limbs to the sky, bearing an abundance of fruit. I'm getting there, one baby step at a time. I've even had glimpses of what the ripening will look like. And yet there is this thing of timing--waiting for the right conditions before the fruit is ready to drop or be picked.
I've been patient , but let me tell you this long, winding journey to fulfillment isn't always easy. I love this quote by Malcolm Gladwell, "On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure." How true. I've lost track of how many times I've been filled with self-doubt, second guessing myself and of course, judged by others.
Failure is a heavy word, but I do my best to temper that by remembering the measure of it is subjective.
When the going gets tough, I also remind myself that I'm in good company. Many great inventions, successful business ventures and extraordinary works of art were created by late bloomers. Here are a few examples:
Helen Mirren– actress, was cast in Prime Suspect at 46
Ang Lee– director, launched his first English language film at 41
Charles Bukowski– author, published his first novel at age 51
Toni Morrison– author, published her first novel at age 40
Morgan Freeman– actor, didn't become an international star until his 50s.
Grandma Moses – painter, began painting at 76 and continued painting until age 101
Alfred Hitchcock – director, directed his best films between the ages of 54 and 61
Diana Nyad – U.S. swimmer, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage when she was 64.
Julia Child – chef, didn't learn to cook until she was over 40.
Tim Zagat – corporate lawyer, started the Zagat Restaurant Guide at age 44.
There are dozens and dozens more. Some of us just seem to need A LOT more time to bloom than others. Metaphors about food and alcohol come to mind: ripeness, seasoned, cured, aged, cultivated, simmered and so on. It's just particularly frustrating when you know you're getting close to breaking through, but keep encountering delays and obstacles that tell you "not just yet". So I take many deep breaths and continue to "do the work". I stay in the day doing the next right thing, trusting that before long I will be released from the cycle of compromise and enter with joy into the land of doing what I love for a living.
I've been obsessed my entire life with living life on my terms, determined to make as few compromises to that mission as possible. Given that I was married and parenting in my early twenties I often fell short. I did my best to work at home, flex my hours, start and run groups, write columns for newspapers, teach motivational workshops--ALL in the cracks and spaces that existed between my parenting and household duties--plus, working on my undergraduate degree and bringing in income however I could through a wild and crazy patchwork of doing massage therapy, taking care of neighborhood kids before and after school, doing part-time grant writing for my husband's employer and eventually marketing communications. I don't know how I did it, but most of the things I did then--for money and for free--laid the foundation underneath EVERYTHING I'm doing now, which means I've been doing these things for over twenty-five years! This was WAY BEFORE anyone else who is now making a living doing coaching, writing and e-courses was doing them. I was working in a yoga studio/new age book store as a massage therapist WAY BEFORE massage, yoga or new age books were popular.
By now, you'd think I'd be WAY AHEAD of those who began doing the work I do much, much later than I did. Yes, you'd think. But I'm not ahead...I actually still feel behind, like I'm still catching up.
So what happened?
Life happened. I had my sons ten years apart, which stretched my parenting out an extra ten years. That slowed things down quite a bit. Then when my oldest was in the heat of his teenage rebellion, my youngest was having challenges in school AND my marriage was unraveling. By that time, I'd gotten quite good at creating things in those little gaps and spaces in between all of my obligations. I started my first blog during that tumultuous time and also began to open spiritually at a very deep level that was so intense I barely slept or ate anything during those years. SO MUCH stuff was downloading, I could barely keep up with it. It was as if my soul was on an accelerated trajectory to make up for lost time, catching me up so that when the time was ripe, I would not only be strengthening my gifts and skills, but I would also have the inner foundation in place--the character to hold those gifts.
It all makes sense now, but wow, it's felt as though I've lived a hundred lifetimes since I became an adult. Geez, that's a lot of prep to fulfill one's life purpose, don't ya think? Well, I've let go of almost everything (and everyone (multiple times) and been stretched, tested, scrutinized and brought to my knees a few dozen times. I honestly don't think I could be any more ready to bloom than I am right now.
But...the universe/God is intelligent and knows best.
As a good friend once said, "Rejection is God's protection.” I would add to that failure is also God's protection. From what? From the torment of an inflated ego and an over-exaggerated sense of identity that has nothing to do with who you are on a soul level.
So I wait and trust. And I listen and follow my inner guidance.
When the buds can no longer contain the energy of inspiration and the longing for the light, they will break open sharing their essence with those who happen to be nearby.