Being a late bloomer can be immensely exasperating. It’s frustrating to see your peers flourish and thrive while you struggle to find your footing.
However, finding your calling late in life has its upsides. No one wants to be the person who peaked too early, either professionally or personally. Pushing yourself 24/7 can lead to early burnout. And, often, it’s the people who take the time to experiment and know themselves deeply who set themselves up for sustained success. Just look at Julia Child, Toni Morrison, Morgan Freeman - the list of actors, writers and artists who found success late in life goes on and on.
Here are five reasons to be glad you’re a late bloomer.
1. You understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint.
It was true for Aesop and it’s still true today: Slow and steady wins the race.
Just look at Helen Mirren. Mirren began acting at the age of 18 with the National Youth Theatre in London, but she didn’t find mainstream success until her mid-forties with her breakout role in Prime Suspect. Since then, she’s nabbed four Oscar nominations and one win for The Queen.
“There are the privileged few who just seem to waft through life without having to ever meet any adversity or difficulty, which is really annoying,” Mirren told Gloucestershire Live. “The rest of us, we have to struggle and fight. We get knocked back and we have to come forward again.”
2. You fully appreciate your achievements once you’ve earned them.
Reed Birney, of House of Cards fame, won a Tony Award this year for his performance in ‘The Humans.’ In his acceptance speech, Birney acknowledged the years of hard work and disappointment he put in before his incredible big breaks.
“The last thing I want to say is I’ve been an actor for almost 42 years,” Birney told the audience. “35 of them were pretty bad...and that’s a lot of them, and I just couldn’t get anything going. So the last eight have been great.”
Unlike the people who find success early on in life, Birney understands exactly how long it’s taken to reach each new milestone. His road to success was littered with detours, but those can be the most valuable, instructive periods of the journey.
3. You know there’s no shame in failure.
In the moments when everything seems lost, late bloomers truly thrive.
In her mid-twenties, J.K. Rowling was a single mother struggling to support her daughter and get her work published. Rowling said she received “loads” of rejections before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. But by 34, Rowling was a literary sensation.
“Some failure in life is inevitable,” Rowling said in her 2008 Harvard Commencement Address. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
It’s not the failures that define you - it’s the moments you got back up and tried again.
4. You don’t torture yourself with an unrealistic timeline.
Julia Child is one of the world’s most renowned chefs and television personalities. But did you know that Child didn’t start cooking until her late 30s? She didn’t publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking until her late 40s and didn’t become a cooking sensation until her 50s. Her late blooming success means that Child reminds us again and again that success doesn’t come overnight, and that you don’t need to have it all figured out right now.
Like Julia, you don’t bother setting expectations on an arbitrary timeline. You’ll reach life’s milestones on your own time, and you won’t agonize over how long it takes you. In doing so, you’ll avoid rushing headlong into jobs and relationships that don’t feel right, just because the timing aligns with your schedule. You also won’t close yourself off to opportunities that come late in life, when most people stop expanding their horizons.
5. You don’t settle until you’ve found your true passion.
Morgan Freeman worked in the U.S. Air Force before his illustrious acting career.
“I had this very clear epiphany,” Freeman told AARP Magazine. “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.”
Even after Freeman began acting full time, it took years to break into movies. He didn’t become a true movie star until the age of 50, after his Oscar-nominated turn in Street Smart. Two years later, Freeman won a Golden Globe and earned a second Oscar nomination for Driving Miss Daisy.
Follow Freeman’s lead: don’t rest until you’ve found your calling. You know that a job or relationship shouldn’t just be a means of passing time; you should love every second of it.
In the company of these greats, anyone should feel proud to be a late bloomer.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that Morgan Freeman was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force; he was an automatic tracking radar repairman.