When I started first grade, which is when kids used to learn to read, I was put into an oft-teased remedial reading group. It wasn't happening for me. Even though there are only five of them, I just couldn't wrap my head around vowels - much less cruel words like "phonics" which are not pronounced the way they sound. I wasn't exactly ready to read.
When I was in middle school I was far more interested in reading and re-reading Jurassic Park than making out with boys. For this, I was soundly abandoned by all of my friends due to the threat that I might be a lesbian. In high school, the first boy I ever "went out" with broke up with me almost immediately because I wouldn't "hook up" with him in the trees behind where we worked. I really wasn't ready for all of that.
When I graduated high school I was completely lost with what to do with the entire future that had just been unceremoniously handed to me via a fake diploma (because kids might misbehave if you give them real diplomas at graduation, don't you know). I procrastinated all that summer before eventually enrolling in college with a vague notion of becoming an actress, using student loans to supplement the next two years of unrest and indecision. I was not ready for college.
When I got my first "real job," I turned out to be woefully inept in the corporate world. I struggled with every single aspect of my job, I was a dumb kid who owned one cheap polyester suit, waiting for the day that I would get fired when everyone realized that I was dragging the whole team down. I wasn't ready for the real world.
When all of the people I grew up with started having babies I nervously held their children at arm's length, cringing at the very real possibility of having another human being spew the last thing they ate all over me. I was not ready for children.
Undeniably, I spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact that I am, by nature, a late bloomer. I wondered what was wrong with me, what planet was I on? What planet was everyone else on, so I could just go there already?
I've been called immature. Weird. Impossible.
Of course, eventually, it all came together. As my mother was finally wheeled into the OR for a c-section, I said "oh yeah, guys, I'm here, put the scalpel away," and there I was, screaming, naked and ready to take on the world. Once I wrapped my head around those darn vowels I became an avid reader, finding my happiest places buried deep within the paper-back confines of my beloved fiction. I figured out the boy thing, went after a guy that I really liked and now we've been married for 5 years. The passing of one and a half presidential terms coincided with me finally getting my bachelor's degree, which turned out to be a useless if not honorable accomplishment. I shook out the wrinkles in that damn suit and eventually my job declared that I was so "not terrible" that I could be the boss of other people. Twenty-nine years after I'd made my own belated entrance to the world, my son was placed into my arms - and I knew exactly what to do. Finally, I was ready.
Most importantly, and I was obviously late to this revelation, but I figured out that there's nothing wrong with me. Just because I've always been a person who's always enjoyed the lingering journey rather than the arrival doesn't mean that I won't eventually get there and the benefit is that I've picked up some interesting stories on the way.
I've figured out that just because we late bloomers are not in a rush to get to the end simply to prove that we have the ability to get there doesn't mean that our path is flawed or our destination is somehow made less valuable by the wait.
What's the rush? Maybe if you feel like your life is a rat race you should stop hanging out with rats - they run too fast anyway.
To my kids and anyone else who may just feel like they might be a little off-schedule: Good. What would you rather be? A fragile, transparently pastel bud that can barely withstand the first few days of spring? Or a vibrant, deep flaming red flamenco skirt of a bloom that seems to consume everything in its whirling radius?
It takes a lot of time to build strength and depth - but how can you deny it's worth it?
Maybe it's taken me a little extra time to get here, but I'm totally ok with that, because so far, waiting has worked out really well for me.