The Beauty of Late Bloomers

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When I think of roses, I think of June weddings, kittens frolicking in the garden, and balmy summer evenings. I don’t tend to think of Indian Summer, apple pie, or the approach of fall.

Yet that’s exactly what I was thinking of when I found these roses (above, and below) in our garden last week.

Over the last two Indian Summers, I’ve noticed that we always get a few late-bloomers. It’s pretty startling to walk out of your house in a jacket, your breath fogging as it hits the air, and still see baby roses as you pass your flowerbeds.

While the other roses are dying on the vine, a few still dare to show their blooms. That takes considerable tenacity, courage and a marvelous disregard for the “order” of things—even for a flower.

How much more for a human being?

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Over the years, I’ve begun to suspect I’m as late a bloomer in the garden of life as the flowers in the garden beneath my front window. Maybe you can relate?

Younger friends seem to succeed faster, and with less pain. Friends our own age have found their stride, we’re still searching for ours. While others hone the specialization they’ve already chosen, we’re still tinkering and tailoring, exploring new interests and whittling away at long-term projects that never quite seem to be done.

When I first began writing I was full of optimism for a speedy “discovery” in the artistic world. My belief was bolstered by many people. People like a writing mentor, who once told me, “Lisa, when you get discovered, it’s going to be big.”

I appreciated her generous confidence and secretly (foolishly?) took it as a sign.

But that was before the long “slough of despond” that set in when I discovered Asperger’s and began to realize that in addition to learning how to write fiction, I had to learn to write fiction for human beings—with whom, it turned out, I had had trouble communicating all my life, even though I didn’t know it.

My dreams of early blooming began to fade as quickly as those June roses.

A few years later, I had even less faith that I would ever accomplish my dreams. More friends were selling scripts. Getting agents. Winning awards. Doing all the things I dreamed of doing—with far less effort and considerably more grace. And they weren’t battling the labyrinth of Aspergers.

Fortunately, around that time another writing mentor saw my discouragement and shared a life changing article by Malcolm Gladwell. Asking the question, “Why do we equate genius with precocity?” Gladwell’s New Yorker piece follows the lives of several great artists: some who experienced unbridled success in their teenage and early adult years, others who toiled most of their adult lives before releasing work that (finally) resonated with the world.

Late Bloomers by Malcolm Gladwell

There are many takeaways from Gladwell’s observations . . . but for me a crucial (and earthshaking) realization was that it’s okay to be a late bloomer. Our hurry-scurry, hustle-bustle world may not celebrate the Indian Summer rose, but just because it’s not the cultural trope-du-jour doesn’t mean it’s not real, precious, or beautiful.

I’ve clung to that revelation for several years now, using it to fuel continued hard work, exploration, and faithful living of the creative life despite my seemingly-delayed timetable of contributions.

So last week, when I saw that we had late-blooming roses once again, I smiled.

I also got to thinking.

Nathan and I expected abundant roses in June, and we got them. But there were so many, I could not take time to appreciate each one. As June rolled into July, I became a bit desensitized to their beauty. I could pass them by on my way up the porch stairs without a second thought . . .

Until one day, in the throes of August heat, they were gone.

Now that they’ve  been withered for a few weeks, the sight of a bright new bloom stops me in my tracks. I can’t help but marvel at its beauty, if not for its unusual timing, then for its rarity.

How much more value, then, can be found in my late blooming life—and yours?

How thankful I am that life does not run on the cultural timetable! Every moment of toil, every moment of pain, the setbacks, the “failed projects,” the seeming dead-ends and hard-earned wisdom: all of it matters.

One day, when our flowers bursts open in the chill, bold and brilliant under a crisp autumn sky, it will be worth it. And it will be beautiful.

Until then, let’s grow quietly, nurtured inside the bud of a faithful creative life.

Because in the garden of life, beautiful blooms are never out of season.

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What about you? Do you sometimes feel like a “late bloomer” in your creative work, your career, your relationships or other aspects of life? 

9 thoughts on “The Beauty of Late Bloomers

  1. Beautifully put, Lisa. I’ve felt the same way as I work on my novels. I’m off to St. Louis in 10 days to try and catch an agent. Will it happen? I don’t know, but I will continue to toil even if this isn’t my moment to bloom before the world.

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  2. Great sentiment, Lisa. My wife mentioned that Gladwell article to me, by way of encouragement with my endeavors as well. I’m glad that you have drawn some succour from it. BTW, I am left-handed and also was diagnosed with ADHD well into my 30s…so I understand struggling with minor things (Aspergers) that can have major impacts on our life. Very encouraging.

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    • So glad it was encouraging! Yes, it’s amazing how sometimes those minor things do have major impact. I wish I could say I was more patient with the process of working through those challenges … I guess maybe that’s part of why they’re there. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

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  3. Very well expressed … thanks from all us late bloomers! I like to think of the beehive of activity that must be going on inside that first bud before it blooms, that which is hidden to the eyes of others. The doubting, the first glimpse of possibilities which then
    become dreams and then the steady chipping away at the doubts, the slow unfolding of petals and the final burst of color and scent to announce you have arrived. Late bloomer but loving the process.

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    • What a great point! There is so much going on internally that most don’t see. In our hurry-scurry age, it’s great to be reminded that the best things take a lot of time to develop. I’m with you: “Late bloomer but loving the process!”

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing this post! I am in college full-time at the age of 53, toiling away for a degree in Special Education as well as pursuing my dream of writing. I waited until after my kids were grown to pursue these dreams and sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for doing so. My husband gave me a book on one of my birthdays that was about people who hit their strides late in life. I need to get it out and read it again. Well said, Lisa! Write on!

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