When will a late bloomer’s career blossom?

“The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

— Mary Schmich
“Advice, Like Youth, Probably Wasted on the Young”
Chicago Tribune

 

I come from a family of late bloomers.

My mother went back school in her early 40s to get a nursing diploma. One of my siblings obtained a master’s degree in social work around the same age, another sibling switched lines of work in her 40s to become a holistic nutritionist, and a nephew found his passion for the culinary arts in his 30s.

Interruptions, procrastination, life. It happens. I get that.

After all, I’ve been dealing with career detours since my early 30s.

Maybe “later bloomer” is more apt for someone like me, but the label does little to salve the frustration I feel about my inability to produce any work of consequence. Despite continued weekend writing practice, I seem to be spinning my wheels in the muck of revisions and rewrites and ideas for new pieces. Maybe, this lack of career momentum is simply a matter of having too many side projects to my side projects. A side hustle is a side hustle. Leave it at that.

When it comes to my writing, I do not lack resolve, or focus, or discipline, and I have even semi-conquered the procrastination bit (what Steven Pressfield calls “resistance” in The War of Art), which is really just fear wrapped in a ten dollar word.

And while I’ve been writing regularly, and publishing in fits and starts, can I really say that I’m a late bloomer, too, if I have not flourished?

Family members where achieving their professional goals later in life, why haven’t? Isn’t lack of success commonly known as failure?

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For too long, I felt deficient in some way. A common trait for creative types, I suspect, one of whom introduced me to Margaret Lobenstine’s book The Renaissance Soul.

At long last, I could see how to gather my writing interests into a workable solution. Distractions did not illustrate defects of character, the book taught me, but a way to support creativity.

Those of us with many creative interests can fit these pursuits under one umbrella. My creative pursuits mix nicely—poetry, creative non-fiction, screenwriting, playwriting—fit nicely under one topic: communication, as does my day job as a technical writer, while other interests, like pottery, painting, and furniture refinishing take a backseat because these are hobbies that fill the creative well.

I stopped thinking of diversions as wasted time, and starting thinking of them as research. And I now think of non-writing projects as essential breaks.

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In her well-researched article Why Are Some People Late Bloomers? on www.laterbloomers.com, Debra Eve writes,”Curiosity and wonder drives many Later Bloomers.” Put your hand up if you have those traits?

“Plus,” she says,”as David Galenson discovered, they often learn through discovery and experimentation, so achievement takes longer.”

Achievement takes longer.

If that’s not reassuring enough, maybe you can recognize yourself in a list of attributes that Debra Eve quotes from Galenson’s book Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity. 

“Experimental innovators, on the other hand,” writes Eve, “are classic ‘old masters’ and late bloomers. According to Galenson, they:

  • need a visual objective;
  • work slowly and incrementally;
  • consider their creative endeavors a form of research;
  • value the accumulation of knowledge over the result;
  • become totally absorbed while pursuing an ambitious, vague and elusive goal; and
  • experience frustration that their goal may be unobtainable.”

Does that sound like you, or what?!

If I were looking for a common thread among family members, it may be a shared value of practical experiences and experiential learning.

For some, it’s about the journey.

One sister raised a family, another enjoyed a successful career in the legal field, a nephew exchanged one form of self-expression for another, and my mother showed her daughters that it’s never to late to get an education when she obtained a master’s degree at age 70.

Some of us are still finding our way.

It is true that not all who wander are lost.