Listen to TED Radio Hour’s Late Bloomers episode.
When it comes to creating the life you want, it’s better late than never. Last month, we asked NPR’s readers and listeners to share what makes them a late bloomer. We received more than 50 messages about resilience and reinvention.
Your stories reminded us that there are a lot of late-in-life adventures out there.
Reader submissions have been edited for clarity and length.
Late Blooming antarctic Scientist
In 1969, I dropped out of college to marry the love of my life. Within a year, Jim was drafted. His soldier’s pay didn’t cover our expenses, so I started a series of interesting jobs. My first one was selling cemetery plots over the phone. Later, I was an apprentice meat cutter for Safeway. I still managed to graduate from college.
When I entered graduate school, my co-worker said, “Do you realize that in four years when you graduate, you’ll be 45 years old?” I replied, “And in four years, if I don’t graduate, how old will I be?” Earning that Ph.D. in bioinorganic chemistry has provided opportunities I never could have dreamed of.
At 54, I deployed to Antarctica with the U.S. Polar Program. The year I turned 62, I spent a nine month winter at South Pole. I hold the record for the oldest female to ever overwinter at South Pole.
Late Blooming Photographer
I’m a photographer and creative based in Nairobi, Kenya. I am in my mid-fifties and I started my photography journey six years ago, so a really, really late bloomer. Well, I would be considered a late bloomer, but I don’t think that I am, because I can’t imagine doing it at any other age. I consider myself a young photographer, even though I’m not young–I’m young at heart.
Late Blooming Children’s Book Author
Composite by Maansi Srivastava/NPR
I never thought of myself as creative at all. I had regular office jobs, then I was a stay-at-home mom for years. But at the age of 46, I started to noodle around with writing children’s books. It took a few years of rejections, but my first picture book was published with Penguin when I was 50. I’m now 62 and signed my 25th children’s book contract this year. One of my books has won a Caldecott honor. The best part of my job and of taking this chance later in life is that I get to spend a lot of time in elementary schools with young kids. We share the power of words and the idea that whether we’re young or old, we all have a story to tell.
Late Blooming Song Writer
In 2019, when I turned 70, the songwriting bug bit me. I’ve always loved music but I had never really thought of myself as song writer. But today at 73, my song production project called The Song Seeds Project has a catalog of 35 original songs. We’re living in a time when there is a need for songs that reflect the difficulties that we’re having: a weakening democracy, an unhinged political party, the dangers of ignoring climate change are just a few examples. Many of my songs reflect these themes.
Late Blooming College Drop Out Turned Professor
I was originally a college dropout. Later, I received my B.A. at age 28. I went on to become a college professor at age 37. Then I became a leadership and diversity consultant at age 44. Going from college dropout to a college professor, life really came full circle for me. I always tell my students life is not linear. Once you have a goal in mind, if you are determined. you will achieve it.
Late Blooming Sailor
I lost my career and my marriage–and my adult children had launched their own lives. I drifted, trying to salvage my career with an endless job search and failed interviews. So I enrolled in sailing school. I knew nothing, but I wanted to sail big sailboats offshore, blue water. Finally, I earned my qualifications and suddenly and beyond my wildest dreams, my life accelerated. I was chosen to curl a very fine sailboat, making legendary passenges through Tahiti, French Polynesia. I then sailed from Fiji to Australia.
I’m over 65 living my wildly wonderful life, in places I could only dream about. And I found a fresh love that I met during the pandemic, with a shared interest in boating.
Late Blooming Fitness and Wellness Coach
Since I was in junior high, I had a passion for health and wellness. But I didn’t see myself ever having a career in wellness, because I figured if I tied my income to my passion, I would learn to resent it. How very silly that was. So now, in my mid-forties I got certified as a yoga instructor and health coach. I coach women on how to neutralize their anxiety and stress.
Late Blooming Zookeeper
It took me 20 years to make the leap of faith, to chase my dream, which is ironic since I’ve known what I wanted to do with my life since I was ten years old. During family trips to the zoo and aquarium, I would see the guy in the water with the animals. I knew that was what I wanted to do.
So I finally gave myself an ultimatum. I got a seasonal six month temporary job across the country as an educator at a zoo. First day of training, I’m 10 to 15 years older than every one of my peers.
At the end of that season, unemployment was rearing its ugly head again, but I saw a help wanted ad looking for someone comfortable handling birds. I applied and I got the job. I took my slow, sweet time getting there. But here I am, living the dream.
Late Blooming Pastry Chef
About a month after my 50th birthday, I went to culinary school to study pastries and baking. After that I started working at Spago in Beverly Hills in the pastry department. Before then I hadn’t even set foot inside of a working professional kitchen, I didn’t even work front-of-the-house. I was a producer for online content before then. My life is still in an adventure and I’m still kind of figuring out what life has for me.
If you enjoyed these stories, take a listen to TED Radio Hour’s Late Bloomers episode.
This piece was edited by Arielle Retting, Sanaz Meshkinpour, and Julia Carney. You can follow TED Radio Hour on Twitter @TEDRadioHour and email us at [email protected]