Thought you’d be a bazillionaire by 30? Have 19 kids and counting, and a 10,000sf Cape Cod in the Hamptons prior to hitting the big 4-0? Discovered a cure for cellulite before lunch?
Our culture has made it easy for us to focus on the stuff we haven’t accomplished rather than all the things for which we should really be proud, such as getting out of bed when it’s raining, and not slapping Time Warner “team members” although they mostly deserve it.
I look at just about any reality TV show and start feeling bad about myself because I don’t have a $35,000 Birkin bag, a closet just for my shoes, or my own reality TV show.
Then I ask myself, is this what I really want?
Okay, so I’d rather have world peace, a dog farm, and a recipe for fat-free/sugar-free/no carb/paleo/made-from-clouds-but-tastes-like-frozen-custard, frozen custard.
The reality is that I, like you, racked up quite a few accomplishments along the way—just not exactly the things for which I thought I’d become rich or infamous. (I find infamy preferable to fame. It just seems like it would be more fun, and way cooler in a Wikipedia profile, or an obituary.)
While some, like, illiterate mollusk with lips bigger than brains tried to break the internet with her oily butt, you and I were likely making someone’s day by holding a door, smiling at a stranger, dispensing a random compliment, or *knocking a pedestrian out of the way of a speeding taxi.
(*This might have been heroic had the taxi not veered at the last second, and I tackled a falafel vendor for apparently no reason whatsoever. My heart was in the right place, which it turns out is a viable defense strategy.)
We have trained ourselves to measure self worth against what other people have rather than what they’ve done, which brings us to the concept of the late bloomer.
Mother Theresa was 36 when she got “the call within the call,” leaving the convent to live among Calcutta’s poor. Although she improved the lives of millions, Theresa lived by one simple credo, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” She never owned a Birkin bag.
America’s most celebrated primitive artist didn’t pick up a paintbrush until the age of 75. On the occasion of her 100th birthday, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared it “Grandma Moses Day.” Today, Grandma Moses’ paintings hang in the White House and every major art museum in the country. She died at the age of 101, still painting. Never had Botox.
Peter Roget suffered from an extreme form of OCD. The only thing that calmed him was to make lists. When he retired from medicine at the age of 61, he would spend all day every day making one huge, all-encompassing list of all the things, ever. At 73, he published his list as a book, Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases—otherwise know as “the thesaurus.”
While the Kendras, K-dufuses, and housewives from Hooterville try to tell us we are nothing more than the sum of our Twitter followers and collagen injections, I believe, that for as long as we may live, what defines a real person of real quality is the dents, dings and wrinkles that show we’ve been in the trenches, and have emerged victorious. We made the world a better place, if only one smile at a time.
The turtlehead pokes through the earth in the springtime after the thaw, and remains but a bud until autumn, just before winter sets in. One of the loveliest flowers of all, the turtlehead is a spectacular late-bloomer.
Here’s to all we beautiful turtleheads!