6 Late Bloomers to Convince You That You’re Not ‘Too Old’
“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honour their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is ageing.” – Maya Angelou
You’re arrived at a career crossroads. You know the road you’re on like the back of your hand, but it’s also asphalt, dusty and dotted with roadkill. The other road looks lush and cool, shaded by native bush and filled with the screech and rasp of tui. You’d take that second path in a second, except, well, you’d really need some different tramping boots, and a bushcraft course… there’s a sign on that road. It says “Turn back! You’re just too old!”
STOP RIGHT THERE. As Rainer Maria Rilke said “You are not too old, and it is not too late.”* If a mystical German poet isn’t enough to convince ya, I’ve drummed up a bit of late bloomer inspiration to prove it’s never too late to trip over a passion that will set your soul on fire (in a beach-bonfire way, that is. Not the raging-forest-fire-destroying-homes-and-leaving-small-injured-mammals-in-its-wake type of fire).
Late Bloomer #1
Who: Julia Child, Cookery author & TV presenter
Late bloom: learnt to cook when she was 33, opened her first cooking school age 40.
Julia was famous for both her on-air ungainly charm, and for bringing French cuisine to the United States. So guess what she was doing before she learnt to cook in her mid-30’s? She worked for the forerunner of the CIA, helping develop shark repellent in a less-than-conventional route to foodie fame.
Late Bloomer #2
Who: George Eliot, Novelist
Late bloom: began her first novel at 37
George Eliot (real name Mary Anne Evans) was disappointed by the standard of novels written by woman that were getting published at the time. So, she decided to write one herself, eventually writing the important classic (that I have admittedly never read): Middlemarch.
So what was Mary up to before this? She was the assistant editor at a left-wing journal. Radical.
Late Bloomer #3
Who? Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha
Late bloom: started a spiritual quest at age 29, became enlightened at 35.
We probably all know this story (thanks, Keanu). Until age 29, Siddhartha lived the life of a prince. Then he realised the reality of human suffering, he pursued the spiritual life (abandoning his wife and children) that led to his awakening. Eventually, he became perhaps one of the greatest teachers who ever lived.
Late Bloomer #4
Who: Maya Angelou, Poet & Author
Late bloom: wrote her most significant works from age 40, got famous in her 60’s.
As a young adult, Maya’s early jobs included nightclub dancer, fry cook, sex-worker and stage-show performer. In later life she worked as an actor, journalist, director, film & TV producer and playwright. Maya is most famous for her poetry and autobiographies, the first of which, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she wrote at age 40.
Late Bloomer #5
Who? Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Environmentalist
Late bloom: started fighting to protect the Everglades at age 78.
Marjorie was a journalist, writer, feminist and advocate long before she was persuaded to spearhead the defence against draining and clearing the Everglades. She wrote an acclaimed book about it too. She continued to campaign for decades, almost until her death at 108.
Late Bloomer #6
Who? Jean Watson, Orphanage Founder
Late bloom: co-founded an orphanage in Tamil Nadu at the age of 61.
In 1984, a series of coincidences led Wellington writer Jean Watson to visit Tamil Nadu, India and meet a local man who ran an orphanage. Almost on a whim she began sending money back to Tamil Nadu to support the children. Soon Jean had co-founded an orphanage, that successfully continues to this day. Jean died in December 2014, just five days after returning from her last visit to the Ilam. You can read her amazing story in the autobiographical Karunai Ilam.
There you have it! Six amazing stories of late bloomers who have hopefully proved to you – and me! – that we’re (mostly) not too old and that it’s (mostly) not too late. See you later! I’m off to sign up for ballet…
*This is of course, an inspirational statement that does not (like many inspirational statements) always apply effectively to reality. Unfortunately, however much you wish it to be so, your chances of becoming an Olympic gymnast at 73 are slight. Perhaps Rilke could have said “”You are not too old for quite a large number of things, and it is not too late within reason.”