Blooming Late and Loving It

Kids want to grow up fast. Do what adults do. Feel powerful. Unfortunately, most adults don’t feel so powerful. They feel helpless, burdened with responsibility but not so much authority.

A true late bloomer: this organ pipe cactus blooms at night.

A true late bloomer: this organ pipe cactus blooms at night. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

I skipped grades when I was younger, got out of high school early and college really early. It didn’t make any difference, of course.

Every job made me “start over” and “prove myself.” For years, I thought this was a lack of ability on my part to show I was smart and capable. It took years to figure out that all the proof rested on thorny cultural facets–that women deserve less pay, that women need to prove themselves more than men, that women as seen as weak and hysterical.

Worse, I was a late bloomer. The youngest in my class, and slow to develop curves, I had to use wit, humor and smarts to negotiate my life. Unfortunately, I was also impatient, perfectionistic and, well, angry at all this nonsense.  Why couldn’t employers just use my skills? That attitude didn’t help.

As I got older, I began to see the advantage of being a late bloomer. You draw different battle lines in different places. You waste less energy. You spend more time solving the real problem–the underlying problem, rather than the superficial drama. In fact, you don’t care about the drama so much any more. You’ve seen so much drama, little of it fresh, and most of it is not about you.

As a late bloomer, you give up the need to prove who you are by words, and focus on doing. What you do becomes your proof statement, and people interested in results begin to pay attention. People interested in externals still shrill loudly, but it matters less, because there are those results. (My favorite was the woman who looked at my generous hips and hissed, “If you can’t control what you put in your mouth, how can you control the people who work for you?” to which I replied, ” Not a problem, as I wasn’t planning on eating them.”)

Now that I own my business, I am grateful to have been a late bloomer. I know how to pace a project, I know how to separate “urgent” from “important.” I stay calm when others amp the histrionics, as I’m not interested in the attention. I get work done. I work with a better quality of people. Yes, many years were spent fraught and living in disappointment. But I’m a late bloomer and life is good.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She travels the Americas, teaching.

16 thoughts on “Blooming Late and Loving It

  1. I just printed this out for my daughter (It will make a bigger impression in print than on a screen! Trust me, I am that sort of doc.) Lots of girls live this problem and never figure it out. They blame the rest of the world and scream for equality while it is right there in their palms. Oops, soapbox again. Sorry.

  2. LOVE your attitude! Obviously, you are a strong woman and should be very proud of your accomplishments no matter if they were early or late.
    And besides, who determines what the “right” timing is anyway..

  3. Well here in the Late Start Studio, blooms come and go changing all the time with the season. Some wither quickly and before they’re admired by others but it doesn’t affect its beauty. None of that “if a flower blooms unseen in the garden is it beautiful?” nonsense around here!

    So you go ahead Quinn and bloom late and proud and I’ll applaud, all the while doing my thing and knowing that another plant is just about to break the surface.

  4. ahhhh….Quinn. You would have made a great partner in the bra burning days! And my mother could have used a friend like you when she was raising six kids by herself and not getting the pay men were for the same job.
    You’re forward thinking and witty personality make you a winner in my book. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to make people look more closely at themselves in such a way.
    People have tried to define me by my appearance too. I often proved them wrong and just as often did not. What I wouldn’t have given on many occasions to have your wit and one-liner on the tip of my tongue.
    You are a champion and so generous to share your experience with all of us.

    • I have had a varied and colorful life. I could grouse about it (used to do a lot of that), but getting wiser also means seeing how ill-suited I was to work in corporations whose values were so far from mine. I’m grateful that I am no longer so afraid of risk, and very grateful to have opened my own company. I never burned my bra, I shot off my mouth instead!

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