In Praise of Life’s Late Bloomers

“In the garden of life, late bloomers are especially beautiful”-Susan Gale


In gardening vernacular, late-bloomers are flowers that show their glory just as other flowers begin to fade.  Can the same be said for people? We late-bloomers like to think so.

There’s at least one instance I can recall where being a relative newbie worked in my favor. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of playing with two ambitious and very unique players who were light years ahead of me in terms of experience and skill. Well, maybe “pleasure” is a word I can use only in hindsight. At the time, playing with them felt like flying on an amusement park ride with no “off” button and no belt.  Exciting, exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

During our break, the guitarist said that they wanted D. to be the one to  replace their drummer. D is one of the most well-known drummers in the area. “He won’t rehearse, though”, the guitarist lamented. “You”, he said to me,” are willing to do that. It’s great. You’re not jaded like other, more experienced players are. You’re like a blank slate.” In this case, being  an older “tabla rasa” with baby- level experience and skill wasn’t a liability. Aside from the roller coast-ery vibe of our jam, that’s what I took away from the session.

Why do we late-bloomers bloom so blooming late?  The reasons are probably as varied as we are. Life circumstances like education, exposure to experiences, and financial and social status can be factors. So can the level or lack of encouragement from those around us.  Fear. Lack of confidence. Trying to stay to the well-traveled path of life rather than veering off and following our own side trails.  Sometimes, though, it’s an epiphany that strikes later in life.

Singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne led a decidedly non-musical life before being struck by his lightning bolt at age twenty. He was working in a shoe factory when he awoke to the strains of Stephen Stills’ “Treetop Flyer” blaring through his clock radio at four in the morning.  He knew the course his life would take from that song on. Six years later, he recorded his first EP and in 2004 released his well-received album,”Trouble.”  Although one could argue that twenty is still a ‘kid’, it gives hope to us late-bloomers. Like the rest of society, we’ve been programmed to believe that you have to start really young in life in order to be successful in music.

Courage.  That seems to be the main ingredient, the fuel that drives the engine that moves us to act on our passion. Discipline, creating long and short-term goals, persistence, organization-these are all vital cogs.  But without courage, the machine will not move.  As writer Julia Cameron said, what often separates those who reach their goals versus those who stay in the shadows often has more to do with “audacity” than talent or skill. May those of us who have bloomed late gather the courage and the audacity to follow through.  When other flowers in life’s garden grow weary, our petals will just be opening.