Raise your hand if you consider yourself a late bloomer. Well okay, I can’t actually see you raising your hand right now but I’m willing to bet that more than a few of you are. Me too! And, oddly enough, I’m proud to say so.
I have literally shown up “late” to the party in almost every aspect of my life: relationships, career, home…you name it. It even took me a full decade to get my G driver’s license! I was 26. I do not mess around when it comes to being a late bloomer! It’s a good thing I never had to RSVP to any of this stuff!
Always a Bridesmaid…
But growing up, I wasn’t so fond of my late bloomer-ness. In fact, I hated it. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have a boyfriend (and when you’re a teenager, this is a huge deal); why no one ever found me attractive enough to want to date me. Every one of my friends seemed to have no problem getting boys to like them. When is it going to be my turn? I’d cry to myself. It just seemed so effortless for everyone but me. When I look at the photos below, I cringe. Not because of how I looked, but because I remember how I used to feel about myself back then.
During my adolescent years, I was a very self-conscious little girl. Developing at the young age that I did (ironically, my growth spurt was about the only thing that I experienced before everyone else!) certainly didn’t help the feeling of displacement I felt among my peers. I longed to be like all the other girls in my grade, with their athletic-looking bodies and small frames. Me, I towered over both the girls and boys in my class by at least a foot. I felt fat with my large chest and thick body, hating how different I looked from everyone else. It wasn’t until I joined my high school’s rugby team that I began to embrace my large figure and, even then, it took me a long time to become fully comfortable in my own skin. Heck, even at 29, I’m still learning!
I was in my early 20s when I began to seriously date. By this time, I had gained enough confidence (and a boatload of experiences) to put myself out there. And, most of the time, I felt like a fish out of water. It was a period of constant self-doubt! When I look back on this time in my life, I can only smile and laugh at how much I used to worry! I literally had no idea what I was doing! But, in all honesty, I’m happy that I’d waited. I was mature enough to understand and appreciate the delicacy of being in a relationship and I knew what I wanted (and didn’t want) from my own. I’d had a lot of examples from those around me to draw from!
Now, after many years and many heart-wrenching fumbles (live and learn, right?), I live in a tiny apartment with the man I envision myself growing old with. We put as much money away as possible for our future and talk about all the things we’ll do together in the coming years. I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. I suppose the anticipation from all those years of waiting have made this realization that much sweeter. It is a gift I can never wholly express my gratitude for. Do we drive each other crazy every now and then? You bet we do!
Career? What’s that?! Am I supposed to have one of those?
Guys, I’m still trying to figure this one out! On my worst days, I still kick myself in the butt for never having been as career-driven as some of my classmates. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have more money every month! But then I never would have experienced the amazing things that I have had it happened any other way!
When I’d finally had that diploma in my hand, all I wanted to do was just be. I’d spent the last five years of my life in a program that I’d literally put my blood, sweat and tears (lots of tears!) into, all the while knowing that journalism didn’t make me truly happy. Now, I had time (and a lot of student debt!) to figure out what I actually wanted to do in life. Uh oh! Now what would that look like?! I was terrified!
Truth be told, I felt very discouraged after graduation. It seemed like everyone had a plan except me and, if not a solid plan then the drive and determination to make something happen for themselves. I got tired of searching job bank after job bank, trying desperately to find anything related to my field that didn’t require years and years of work experience. It seemed like the five intensive years I’d spent at Carleton, graduating with High Honours, didn’t mean a lick if I wasn’t willing to work for no pay. This was a frightening reality and I quickly realized how difficult it might be to compete with those who did have the experience. Luck, timing and connections never really seemed to work in my favour either!
It took a LONG time, and so many odd jobs that I’ve lost count, to finally land a full-time gig. It is by no means my dream job or even one that requires me to use the skills I honed in university, but it is a massive stepping stone for the things I want to accomplish for myself and I am beyond grateful. The constant struggle for long-term employment has taught me how to adapt, in every sense of the word. I have gone from an administrative assistant to a food service helper to a bartender to a cleaner. I have had to push past those feelings of nervousness – in a new setting with new people and new skills to learn – so many times now, that starting from scratch has become almost second nature to me. Our generation is all too familiar with the plight of the short-term contract and in living in this environment, I have taught myself to be stronger and more resourceful than I ever thought I was capable of.
Learning to Trust the Process
Sometimes, we just need to trust the process. Be proud of the decisions you’ve made for yourself thus far and forget about what you’re “supposed” to be doing. Life does not come with a “one size fits all” manual or template. We are all wonderfully different from one another. Whether you’re a rock star in your industry (that’s amazing!) or someone who doesn’t have a clue as to what they’ll do in life, what does it matter? Whether you’re married with three kids or (like me) living in a tiny apartment feverishly saving for the future, it’s the journey that matters most. And it’s okay that you don’t have all the answers! Who really does?! I definitely don’t!
I used to feel like I was lagging behind, not ticking those boxes early on: career…house…kids…husband. But that’s not the case at all. I’ve lived and studied abroad, explored new countries, met amazing life-long friends, made a bunch of silly mistakes, have persevered and problem solved and truly felt the weight of my own independence. These are things that have made me the woman I am today and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
It took me a long time to get there; to realize that life’s not a race to be “won.” It’s taken a lot of experience to realize the very important truth that everyone develops in their own time. I still have to gently remind myself of this every now and then, but not as often. One day, I’m sure I’ll pass this lesson on to my own children and they’ll probably roll their eyes at me, all the while thinking I have no idea what I’m talking about. I can only hope so.