There I was: 23 years old, unemployed, living at my parents' house in the suburbs of Jersey and watching my friends live what I idealized to be a glamorous life in New York City. It was my Oz: only 40 minutes away, but what felt like lightyears from my reach.
I spent the next six months pounding the pavement, taking strangers out for endless cups of coffee and email-stalking the sh*t out of anyone even slightly related to my chosen field of journalism.
Each night, for almost half a year, I ended my day with a massive pity party honoring my lack of hire-ability. I was miserable.
I felt like my friends had transcended to the next level of adulthood, and I would never catch up. The truth was, I was so concerned about the superficiality of what I wanted to be rather than whom I wanted to become. It wasn’t the first time, either.
In fact, I always found myself in the stereotypical role of the “late bloomer," racing to keep up with whatever stage my peers had already reached. I didn't speak until I was 3 years old, despite the average baby speaking by about 18 months.
I begged my mom to buy me a bra years before I needed one, simply to fit in with the rest of the locker room. While other girls were boldly flirting outside of the local movie theater, I lowered my red face and hid my sweaty palms whenever I saw a member of the opposite sex.
When fellow college graduates timidly entered the workforce, complete with tiny titles and big dreams, I ran away to teach English on the other side of the world. I, once again, wasn’t quite ready.
It felt like a character flaw each time I fell behind, like something inherently wrong keeping me just far enough behind the pack to see the gap the existed between us. Now, however, when I reminisce about each of those stages, I realize how much I gained by taking my sweet ass time to grow up.
Although I was a late talker, words later became my best friend.
I learned that once you need a bra, you count down the minutes to when you can take it back off. I eventually grew more confident around the male species (even tricking a few into dating me), but I now cherish those few extra years I spent acting like a silly little girl, playing MASH at sleepovers.
That year living abroad? It wasn’t always easy, but I learned more about my values and myself in that short time than I could have ever predicted beforehand.
I’m not alone in the later-in-life club. Helen Mirren didn't get her big break until she was 45, when she starred in "Prime Suspect." Winston Churchill failed high school three times and lived 65 years before he became Prime Minister.
Progressive fashion designer Rick Owens, known for shaking up the industry by debunking stereotypes and hosting a step team at his fashion show, debuted his first collection at age 41.
Even one of my icons, writer David Sedaris, started gaining recognition for his memoirs well into his 30s. Being a prodigy is great, sure, but being a late bloomer takes balls.
As for 23-year-old me, loafing around my childhood bedroom and eating Entenmann’s by the boxful, well, I did finally get a job. Sure, it took working double internships and a little ego bruising, but I eventually found a fulfilling position in an environment I loved. It was well worth the wait.
It was only until much later that I recognized something crucial about those six months that at the time, seemed endless: They were some of the luckiest months of my life. For one thing, I had a family that refused to let me take a job that would derail my path for a mere paycheck.
I discovered that turning a dream into a reality takes time, as well as effort, but most of all, I learned how to have faith in the journey.
Four years later, at the ripe age of 27, I find myself in familiar territory. As those around me seem to be settling into serious relationships, marriages, families and stable, lifelong careers, my future still looks like a blurry, unfiltered mess.
I’m still just trudging through the 20s trenches. I’ll re-download Tinder for the millionth time on optimistic days and settle into solo Netflix marathons on others. I’m no longer an ingénue in my career and am well past my prodigy days; yet, I still haven’t found a true professional path.
When I’m feeling low, I fear I’ll never be established in any regard. Then, I try to remember the beauty of the slow bloom.
I may not be able to see the big picture just yet, but I do believe in the process. I cherish my friendships and my freedom as a singleton, and I’m eager to explore the many new opportunities that lay before me. After all, if you can’t become yourself, then what’s the point in growing up?
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