There is a myth that needs to be dispelled. This falsehood has created a communal anxiety among women for decades. It is the myth of the Late Bloomer.
Many of us over 30 have heard some variation of this fallacy for much of our adulthood. Most commonly, we are told that if a woman reaches a certain age and has not yet found what brings her joy (“settled down”), or if she makes a drastic life change to go in pursuit of whatever her joy may be, she is a Late Bloomer.
To start, the idea that women should have life all figured out by age 30 is fairly ridiculous. Feel free to ask any woman over 30.
It also does a great disservice to all the work we’ve done in our lives and on ourselves up to that point. It negates the strength required to consistently seek out spaces where we feel empowered enough to pursue genuine happiness. It erases all the years we’ve spent learning and building and growing.
Surely, we’ve been blooming in our lives for all the decades prior. How are we suddenly late?
But worst of all, it implies that we — Black women in particular — are not perennial: “lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.”
If that is not the very definition of our existence, I don’t know what is.
Ava DuVernay has famously shared that she didn’t pick up a camera until age 32. Her first milestone film, Selma, premiered when she was 42. The announcement that she would direct A Wrinkle in Time — making her the first Black woman director to helm a $100M film — came when she was 44.
In 2018, she told Refinery29 “When people tell [my story], it’s about race and gender — ‘Black woman director’ — but my story’s also really about age.”
After making a name for herself in public relations (and never having attended film school), she chose to pursue her greatest joy without regard for whether she was “too old” to do so.
So take note, women over 30: there is no such thing as a Late Bloomer when it comes to living your fullest, most authentic, and joy-filled life. We should all be so fortunate as to live multiple versions of who we are during our time on the planet.
The years you spend on the journey to where you belong are not wasted.
Feel free to read that again.
Ava’s advice: “Whatever path you’re on right now is not necessarily the path you have to stay on. If you’re on a path that’s not the one that you want to be on, you can also pivot, and you can also move, and age doesn’t make a difference. It’s about putting one step in front of another, about forward movement to where you wanna be.”
I am a woman who has made an art of the pivot — up to age 30, I was on a consistent rotation of performer-writer-publicist. I lived all the dreams I had in the moments I had them. As a performer, there were national ads in magazines and on TV. I hosted a show on a major network. As a writer, my words and photographs were published in magazines and contracted by prominent brands. As a publicist, I moved to New York from Chicago with a job at a major PR firm and had Grammy-winning clients.
I was 32 when I left the only city in which I’d ever lived. I often say I was born and raised in Illinois, but I grew up in New York.
At each step, I learned what I love and what I don’t. And when I didn’t love something, I continued to pivot.
I first encountered Ava in real life in 2014. My pivot had taken me back to journalism as the Managing Editor and Director of Social Media for a well-established entertainment site. I covered a conversation between Ava and Q-Tip at the Tribeca Film Festival. They discussed depictions of the Black community in arts/entertainment and the roles we play in creating it.
During that talk and in many conversations after, I took note of the ways in which Ava described herself and her work. She told women to stop asking for permission to be great. She didn’t say she “aspired” to or “hoped” for something — she told us her mission. She encouraged us to sit firmly within our magic, well before it was a popular hashtag for us Black girls.
In the years since that first encounter, I have leaned upon and embraced those ideas throughout my own pivots. As someone who proudly wears the titles of Storyteller, Writer, Producer, and “the Beyoncé of getting shit done” (thank you for that one, Bassey), I can clearly see how each step of my journey has led me to where I am today.
And as my mother has often told me, everything happens right on time.
No matter your chronological age, you can choose to pivot. Reject the myth. You can live your best life, be a good human, and pursue happiness wherever you are right now.
No late fees apply.
[This has been a Note to Self Production. Thank you for joining.]