Not A Late Bloomer, Creating a Legacy
A few years ago, when Phil Mickelson, at the age of 50, won the P.G.A. Championship, he became the oldest golfer to win a major championship. Sports media told us that he was a part of a growing number of sports stars who have defied traditional retirement ages for athletes, proving that careers can last into middle age. Although I do not really follow sports, the headlines caught my attention because I was turning 55 that year.
Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Inc.’s 35 Under 35, the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 and others lists could cause one to believe that life ends at 40. In the U.S., youth is presented as a badge of honor, with captions like youngest CEO in company history, publishing a novel at 20, or creating a startup with the potential to be the next Google, Uber, or Amazon before 30. We live in a society where parents and kids are obsessed with early achievement from getting perfect SATs to the U.S. Admissions scandals.
Where does that leave the rest of us? Well, here are some great reminders that we should not be defined by age:
At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.
At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a single parent, on welfare and clinically depressed to the point of contemplating suicide.
At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
The term often used is “late bloomers”. A late bloomer is defined as a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. But who gets to say that our forties or fifties is late?
Viola Davis is a Julliard trained actor who created a substantial body of work during her career. However, she did not truly make her mark in film and television until she was well into her 40s. She became a household name at 51 years old thanks to her lead role in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, which led her to become the first African American actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Julia Child was 49 years old when her 1st cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was published. At 51 years old she gained television fame with a cooking show, which premiered in 1963.
Vera Wang was a competitive figure skater, a journalist, and a fashion editor in her early career, but it was not until she was 40 years old that she flirted with the idea of becoming a fashion designer, launching her now iconic bridal line.
Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic until he was 40. Samuel Jackson landed his first major movie role at 40 and Morgan Freeman at 52.
In my twenties, I bounced around from job to job, never satisfied with my career. It was not until I took over a non-profit at the age of 34, that I really began to feel fulfilled in my career. When I was 40, I was running my own Allstate Insurance Agency, soon realizing that my heart was not in it. After accepting a teaching position at the at the University of Maryland, I found myself teaching in a women’s prison.
From that experience, I wanted to help incarcerated individuals begin the process of preparing for reentry into their communities as soon as possible, and not wait until a few months before release. In 2014, I established the Maryland Reentry Resource Center to focus on improving the quality of life of families and individuals that are a part of the criminal justice system through informal, participatory, educational programs, case management, and mentoring. Although the organization was formed in 2014, it was not until 2019 that I launched the organization.
So, for me, it is not about how long it took or how old I am, it is about walking in my destiny and establishing my legacy. Legacy is about life and living. It is about learning from your past, living in the present and building for the future. My life experiences have prepared me to lead Maryland Reentry Resource Center. My journey with its twists and turns, successes and failures has equipped me to help our program participants reach their potential and not give up.
Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. It is okay if you don’t know what your dream is yet. But never tell yourself you’re too old to make it, you missed your chance, or you aren’t good enough because you are the age you need to be to take the chance you need to take to fulfil the dream that sets your soul on fire.