I never thought I’d be a late bloomer.

Growing up I always had great plans for my future. From movie star aspirations (not actress, mind you, movie star) as a little girl, to goals of being a great litigator as a young woman, I always thought I’d be able to answer the question “What do you do?” with great pride of accomplishment.

Of course, as often happens to the ideas of our youth, plans changed. Other roads were taken, other choices made. I have not made it to the red carpet, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed acting in community and regional theatre. I haven’t attended law school, but I am a great advocate and debater for causes I am passionate about.

I believed the choices I made were the right ones at the time, they very well may have been. I certainly don’t regret any  of them. But in the long run they haven’t contributed what one might consider professional greatness. If I held firm to the goals of my youth, who knows where I might find myself today. However, that statement can mean anything–I might have succeeded beyond my dreams, or I might still be laboring to accomplish them. And who can say, the pursuit might not even been an enjoyable journey.

Oddly enough, it seems that as our life expectancy increases, so does the pressure to achieve professional successes at an age that gets continually younger. Luckily, to inspire those of us who haven’t reached our full potential before reaching our third decade, there are a variety of role models for us late bloomers who achieved their life’s greatest successes well beyond the springtime of their years…


Julia Child was 49 when her groundbreaking cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was published in 1961.


Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) created 1,000 paintings before she died in 1961 at 101 years old. She didn’t paint her first until she was 76.


Oscar Swahn became an Olympic gold medalist shooter in 1908, at the age of 60. He competed in three Olympics (1908, 1912, and 1920) and won a total of six medals (three gold).


Stan Lee was 43 when he first created his iconic superhero, Spider Man.


Colonel Harlan Sanders was 66 when he established his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.


Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she published her first novel in the Little House on the Prairie series.


Robert Duvall landed his breakthrough role in The Godfather at age 40.


Raymond Chandler’s first short story was published when he was 45. Six years later at 51 his first novel, The Big Sleep hit the bookstores.


Martha Stewart published her first book Entertaining at age 41, launching her ascent as our generation’s hostess extraordinaire and multimedia maven. (Ok…she hit a bump in the road with a short stint in prison for financial crimes, but came out back on top).


Corazon Aquino was a middle-aged housewife in her 50s when she became the leader of the popular movement which overthrew the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos. She went on to become the first female president of the Philippines.


Helen Gurley Brown, influential editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, made a name for herself at age 40 with the publication of her book, Sex and the Single Girl.


Frank McCourt spent nearly three decades as a public school teacher until he penned his 1997 Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir Angela’s Ashes. He was 66 years old.


Dr. Ruth Westheimer had many and various jobs in her life. But while working for Planned Parenthood, the professor of education became interested in the study of sexuality. At age 52 her radio show launched her international success.

So while it’s easy sometimes to feel like we’ve not accomplished enough in our lives, I am encouraged by this list of people who never gave up and whose adult years were so very productive and accomplished. And even though my late bloom may never include international acclaim and fortune or celebrity status, I look forward to someday counting myself among them.


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