There is a tremendous amount of pressure that exists to “have it all together.” A huge part of having it all together lies in having a career. And if that pressure wasn’t enough, just wait cause there’s more! Yes, there’s even more pressure to have all your stuff together by the time you reach adulthood–which depending on whom you ask, can be anywhere between 18-30. The 20s can be an incredibly stressful time because many spend this time trying to have it all together while simultaneously figure themselves out. There is a pervasive belief that one should definitely have it all together by the time one is 30. So it can be incredibly disheartening to find oneself at 30 (or beyond), still hoping to “arrive” at this place. I understand it all too well. I’m 37 and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. And for a long while, I placed a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to have it figured out. I expected that I should have this glowing career by now. And for a time, I felt inferior to others because I didn’t. Well, I now know that one of my first missteps was operating under the should mandate. You know that mandate. That’s the one that dictates how you are to conduct yourself as an elite member of the Worldwide Federation of Adulthood.
Unfortunately, we don’t realize that we’re setting ourselves up for extreme disappointment by hanging on to this mandate. By believing and abiding by the shoulds, we make it easy to become disappointed, depressed, and down right despondent with life. I know, because I’ve been there. I was depressed for years, due in part to the fact that I hadn’t arrived yet. I finally forgave myself and allowed myself to recognize that there is no place to arrive. As a wonderful woman I know said, “I am in a race with no one but myself.” And while that doesn’t mean I have all the time in the world this physical life has to offer, it does mean that I do have some time to figure things out and make them happen. Circumstances are so temporary, and where I am today is not necessarily indicative of where I can be a year or so from now.
It got me to thinking. Since we are all more alike than we allow ourselves to recognize, I figured I couldn’t be the only person in the world to gain success or walk into my passion later in my life. And you know what? I’m not. So here’s a list of fellow late bloomers. These are some people who are considered extremely successful in their line of work, and they all have a very common trait. None of them actualized this so-called success until later in their life.
Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was in her 40s and she didn’t star in her famous cooking TV show until she was in her 50s.
Alan Rickman (film star probably best known for his role as Snape in the Harry Potter movies) didn’t get his first film role until he was 46.
Stan Lee wrote his first comic, The Fantastic Four, right before he turned 39. He didn’t start writing his most well known comic books until he was 43.
Toni Morrison published her first novel (The Bluest Eye) at age 40 (and she was a mother who was single).
Morgan Freeman got his break out role (Glory) when he was 52.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when “Little House on The Big Prairie,” the first installment of her highly popular children’s books was published. The last book of the series hit shelves when she was 76.
Rodney Dangerfield’s big break didn’t come until he was 46, when he was booked as a last minute replacement for an act that cancelled on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Vera Wang didn’t start designing clothes until she was 40, after she had “failed” at a figure skating career, and even as an editor at Vogue magazine.
J.K. Rowling was 32 when Harry Potter was published. And this was after she was rejected by 12 different publishers.
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get an award-winning role (Jungle Fever) until he was 43.
While Steve Jobs formed a successful company in his twenties, he was booted from it. He didn’t find success again until he was in his mid thirties.
Actress Jane Lynch didn’t receive a noticeable role (Best in Show) until she was 43.
Harrison Ford was a carpenter who was hired to make cabinets for George Lucas before he was cast in the lead in Star Wars. He was 33.
Gene Hackman starred in his breakout role (Buck Barrow in “Bonnie and Clyde”) when he was 37.
Lucille Ball wasn’t popular until she created the “I Love Lucy” show at the age of 40.
Estelle Getty didn’t become a household name until she was 62, after starring as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls.
Kathy Bates was 42 when she starred in Misery and garnered mass attention for her acting skills.
While she’d been acting on Broadway for years, Phylicia Rashad didn’t gain notoriety as an actress until she was cast as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show at the age of 35.
Larry David was 41 when he collaborated with Jerry Seinfeld to craft one of the most iconic TV shows (Seinfeld) in television history.
Phyllis Diller was 37 when she started her stand up career.
Duncan Hines was 55 when he wrote his first food and hotel guide. He licensed the right to use his name to the company that developed Duncan Hines cake mixes when he was 73.
My Daddy. Oh how could I not add my Dad to this list? My dad was 33 when he appeared on Def Comedy Jam for the first time. He was 34 when he appeared the second time to perform his now famous “I ain’t scared of you!” routine. He didn’t begin his acting career until a year later at 35. And he was 42 when The Bernie Mac show made its television debut.
So if you’re reading this and you were feeling a bit down about your place in life, fret not. You are not alone. And you should count yourself fortunate. You have some pretty good company with you. I hope this helps you to remember that all is certainly not lost, as you are probably exactly where you need to be. Your place today is simply a stepping stone for you to create the life of your dreams. And know that you absolutely CAN go on to create the life of your dreams. So here’s to us: The late bloomers. Better late than never, my friends. Cheers!