I know many others, however, who either aren’t content or who veered away from the norm. Many of us were late to adulting in the traditional sense of the word. And we’ve had to overcome the stigma of late learning and find our way towards a personalized type of success.
Brendan and I are both “late bloomers” in the true sense of the word. I did attend college right after high school, earning my BA in a respectable 4 years. Then I lost my dad after an 18-month battle with cancer, the August after I graduated. I had to field questions that summer of “what are you doing with your degree?” In many adults’ eyes, the question made perfect sense no matter what was happening at home. You make a plan, you pursue and achieve it, and you’re going to be okay. I sometimes wonder if this prescribed path satisfies adults’ sense of well-being more than the kids who follow it.
In mourning my dad, I dated the wrong guy, partied, settled for temp agency jobs that paid my bills, travelled, camped, hiked and put life planning on hold. I eventually landed a job geared towards my degree, that paid nothing and did little to foster my self-esteem or coming into my own. My parents were hippie entrepreneurs who followed the beat of their own drums, but I didn’t have the confidence to venture out and ask for what I wanted. I had an idea of it, but couldn’t or wouldn’t move towards it. So I escaped, went to concerts, played pool in dive bars, and waited.
Brendan veered far from the perceived plan to success surrounding him in Long Island. He pushed away from the norm and ventured out on his own right after high school, searching - like my own dad had done in his early 20s - for something beyond. He traveled to Virginia, South America, Thailand, hitchhiked through Australia, lived in a tent on the North Shore of Kauai, motorcycled across the country, taught snowboarding in Telluride, and basically lived a life I only dreamt of, biding my time in Seattle.
When we met at 24 (me) and almost 29, were were ready to be equally swept off our feet. A year and three months after we met, we married and moved to Hawaii. We both got our MAs, then traveled to Arizona for a “desert adventure” while he studied for his NMD. He was a late starter at school, already over 30, surrounded by a lot of “kids” who hadn’t taken a breath in between high school, college, and med school.
When Liam was born, I had just turned 29. Our baby’s illness and diagnosis rocked our worlds and turned any plan towards late-blooming normalcy upside down. I couldn’t go back to my terrible job as a copywriter; we took out additional loans to help us live while he finished school and started the practice on sheer talent and grit.
I joined a moms group and honestly don’t think many of the moms knew what to make of me. We were “still” renting, were broke, had a tiny sick kid, but determinedly carried on. I still spoke of the future with an exclamation point, as I had total and complete belief - even with PTSD and in survival mode - in our capability to create a meaningful life.
I remember a few flippant comments made about us renting instead of owning a home, and recall thinking that people who found career-bound jobs and bought homes at 24 were beyond my scope of experience. The comments stung, but didn’t define us because we knew. We knew that some people need life to simmer before making a move. My parents taught me this and I never doubted that life means more than a paycheck and a mortgage. Sometimes it means floundering and wandering and failing.
Fast forward past two more babies, building the practice and many chapters of therapy and personal growth. We joined the conventional path at last and bought out first house in 2013, signing the title papers on my 39th birthday. Part of us felt redeemed, that we had “made it” on that level. And honestly it felt great, like coming home. But we had “made it” in other ways way beyond a conventional timeline, on our own messy terms.
I firmly believe not only in second chances, but in later-in-life learning. Being a late bloomer enabled me to face failure, co-dependency, low self-esteem and more in the trenches and not run away. I felt tempted to, many times, but Brendan didn’t let me. I didn’t allow him to escape his issues, either. Intuition I believe guided us to take our time, to feel out our struggles before jumping to the next step.
Thank God we did. We avoided the housing crisis and found new beginnings with our careers. I’m a proud “adult learner,” and so is he. At 41, last year, I started my yoga business and earned my Health Coaching degree. This last year blessed me in many ways with confidence and purpose, and I found what I’m meant to do. I always have desired to help people, but I couldn’t do that before I knew myself. I love seeing patients and teaching yoga and don’t let the bumps of failures define my decisions.
Brendan’s entered a new phase of his career, now in his late 40s, writing a book, training new doctors, changing people’s lives through videos, the unique way he practices medicine, and lectures. He excels at it. I feel like a true partner with him, sitting here reflecting on this new yet familiar feeling of contentment.
If you took your time finding your groove, good for you. Don’t let “middle age” stop you from switching directions. My dad in his 40s before he got sick, having owned his own business for 15 years, talked about going to naturopathic medical school. A scholar who dropped out of college to find his way, he always had a servant’s heart. I believe wholeheartedly that he would have succeeded, had he not died at 49. He would be 70 this year and I know would still be an amazing, intuitive doctor changing lives. Just like Brendan.
How bittersweet and beautiful that I married someone with similar goals and dreams, that we created our own successful business/practice, and that I myself am now helping people on their road to health, at the “young” age of 42.
He would be proud of us taking our time and taking risks. I raise a glass to you, dad, and to all of you out there wondering if you should go for it, whatever “it” means. Even though you are 35, 40, 45, even 52.
Go for it. Trust your intuition and prepare for where it will take you towards your own joy, guiding you in leaving your mark on the world.