I’ve always felt behind–in work, in school, in relationships…my life seemed to move in slow motion while everyone around me moved at a breakneck speed. I was that kid who finished the mandatory school mile last (ironically I just finished my first half-marathon in pretty good timing, if I do say so myself.) I hit puberty when most of my peers were already halfway through that hormonal rollercoaster of acne and braces –I grew an inch in college and didn’t lose my baby fat until a year ago, although I was recently told by a bartender that he thought I was sixteen (I’m twenty-three.) While my friends were entering relationships with soon to be ex-boyfriends, I was still collecting American Girl Dolls and pretending to be a Revolutionary War hero with my gal pal Felicity. I remember lying about having my first kiss during a round of truth or dare when I was fifteen because admitting I was a kissing virigin would be social suicide. I might as well become a nun, I told myself. Time was running out.
The older I get, the more I worry about being “behind.” Looking around and seeing my friends or other people my age get engaged or land their dream job set off some internal timer that led me to fast-forward certain parts of my life so I could feel “caught up.” How can she already have all that while I have nothing? I found myself asking after stalking some Instagram influencer who just bought a house after travelling the world. Rather than letting her achievement inspire me, I succumbed to a discouraging spell of internal doom. It’s too late for me, I sighed in my millennial melodramatic fashion. The distance from where I am to where I want to be seems terrifyingly long and the time to get there feels impossibly short. All the could’ves and should’ves and maybes and what if’s hounded me like the Grecian furies as I lie awake at night asking the same questions:
- “Why is everyone else so far ahead of me?”
- “Is it too late to completely start over?”
- “How can I get to where I want to be as quickly as possible?”
Eventually I started looking for shortcuts. I did things carelessly and apathetically because I was in a rush, only to find that it set me back to the starting line. Ever head the saying “there are no shortcuts to any place worth going?” Wise words. The older I get, the more I actually start to believe them. We want everything fast and we want it instantly–dating apps promise us quick relationships, detox teas magically give us flat stomachs, same-day delivery gives us everything we want at the press of a button. Much to my surprise, life isn’t like Amazon Prime and I do not get what I want in guaranteed two-day delivery. Bummer.
I’m still learning to accept that time is not the enemy, that there are no expiration dates on my dreams, that half the fun of the destination is in the journey. But that’s really hard when you compare your story to everyone else’s. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Furtick is “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” We see the beautiful mansion but we don’t see the work that went into laying every brick. Maybe some people can lay bricks faster than me, and that’s ok–it doesn’t make me any less valid or successful. I remember the first time I drove up a steep mountain in Wilma. Wilma is my little Acura TSX and let’s just say that, with almost 300,000 miles on her, she’s not as fast as she once was and I certainly don’t feel comfortable slamming the gas while making sharp turns on the edge of a mountain. While I was moving at a pace that I felt was safe and normal, a truck ran up on me and started tailing me. I grew anxious and even embarrassed–I sped up dramatically to keep him off my ass, but knew I would be reckless to keep going that speed. I slowed down and reminded myself that there’s no need to rush, we’re both going to get where we’re headed, and better yet, we’ll get there alive. Eventually I found an overlook to pull over at and let the truck pass. All my insecurities and fears about time feel like that truck pushing me into things that I know aren’t good for me–decisions that may be reckless or sloppy, things that I may not be ready for yet but will be eventually.
My mother used to call me a late bloomer, a label I scorned for most of my life because it only inflamed my insecurity. Now I wear that label proudly and playfully as I laugh while finishing last place. I’m learning to appreciate my own journey, the ebb and flow of it in all its setbacks and victories, the slow momentum of change from baby steps to miles. A song called “Late Bloomer” by the Secret Sisters came on my Spotify shuffle the other day and it’s become an anthem of mine. The ending line of the chorus goes, “It doesn’t matter when you bloom, it matters that you do.” I know I will, someday.
Keeping track and counting down again, I’m overdue
Watching everyone around get there before I do
Looking in the mirror at this body that we trace
But looking out the window, late bloomers on parade