I am a late bloomer all the way - and here’s why I am more than okay with it.

Let me be honest. I wasn’t born with a lot of confidence, nor am I there yet. I am not your strong, confident, bold woman who says what she thinks all the time. I think a lot about being her, but I know it’s a long way till I get there.

No, I am not there yet. A year ago, if someone came to me and asked, “What would your best friend describe you as?”, I would probably say kind-hearted, sweet, sensitive, or some other words relatively nicer than “a pushover”.

26 years after being on this rock, and knowing that I am here for a purpose, even if I have no clue of what that purpose is, still makes me feel good.

Which brings me to the highlight of this article you’re about to read —I am a late bloomer.

And here’s why I am more than okay with it.

This generation’s obsession with achieving success as early as possible and portraying a certain image out to the world is one of the biggest drivers of escalating anxiety and depression among people around this age group.

If you’re 25 and still not famous, then what’s the point? If you don’t have at least a million followers on social media, then are you even living your good life? If you’re not rattling off early age startup ideas by the minute, how will you ever match up? You still don’t own a car? How are you surviving? Where’s your big yacht with a mini fridge full of expensive liquor?

Despite studies showing us how much negativity this kind of obsession with early achievement can have on our lives, we continue to believe in doing more, having more, buying more, and just more of everything. We convince ourselves that life is only better with alternative realities, greener grasses, and fuller glasses.

This shortchanges us into believing that there is a certain age limit, a certain academic degree, a certain kind of partner, a benchmark of beauty, a level of acceptable behaviour, a list of materials to own that defines our rate of success in life.

That somehow precocious achievement is the norm, and not an exception to the rule. Children, teens, even us in our twenties, have this longing to be wunderkinds living our biggest possible dreams, all within that age limit.

Somehow we convince ourselves that our level of intelligence, creativity, skills, and the ability to learn will start to diminish year after year as we age. That after a certain age we must choose to accept circumstances as they present themselves in our lives, blaming past choices and present tribulations. But perhaps the worst of it all, is the epic proportions of self doubt that is produced in each of us, owing to overarching expectations from our parents, families, and peers.

Contrary to this, however, research shows that our brains continue to develop well into our adulting years as do our capabilities. All of us perceive, advance, adapt, and mature at different rates.

Psychologists term this maturity and level of understanding as executive function. It’s not a measure of one’s IQ. It’s one ability to plan, focus, and handle multiple tasks at once. Something we learn to do as young toddlers and only stop when we’re about to breathe our last breath.

We come across stories of late bloomers from all walks of life.

Toni Morrison published her first book at the age of 39.

Abdul Kalam was elected the President of India at the age of 71.

Colonel Sanders discovered the famous fried chicken at the age of 65.

Susan Boyle rose to fame as a singer when she was 48.

Alan Rickman worked as a designer until the age of 42.

Julia Child joined culinary school at the age of 37 and went on to write a cookbook for French cuisine that inspires many to this day.

Rajnikanth worked as a coolie and a bus conductor before becoming a household name in South Indian cinema.

Walt Disney proved to us that no idea is too childish when he opened Disneyland at the age of 54.

The list is never ending. Here are some ordinary people who found themselves in situations that demanded extraordinary actions.

Most of them found themselves on a path they were never meant to walk on, yet they blazed through and discovered opportunities that they could have never dreamed of.

What’s important to realise is that our talents and passions may emerge as a result of our personal circumstances in life at any given age. What’s even more necessary is for each one of us to accept that our formal education system focuses on a rather narrow scale of achievements than we could possibly know growing up.

Our obsessive drive for early achievement and the shame that taints us by not achieving has only led to the squandering of real talent and stunted creativity.

All of us have been victims of this. All of us know, care, and love someone who feels this way. We need to remember not to give up on ourselves or those that surround us — our loved ones, our friends, family, peers, and anyone who we can help.

In a society that’s always telling you to catch up, be your own person and be good.

Believe in your journey. Believe in yourself.

Life, as I know it.

Garden

The view from my garden.

Life, as I know it today, is a slow ferry ride compared to the swift hustle of a metro ride that it was just a few weeks ago.

I sometimes look outside the window, taking a moment to marvel at the sunlight falling on the patches of grass in my garden. I hear birds chirping and insects buzzing. I also see the occasional butterfly fickle-mindedly moving from one flower to another, before finally settling on the yellow hibiscus.

Yesterday, I happened to discover a small ant hole that I am convinced is housing a legion of ants. I see a long line of them moving in a hurried pace, never swaying from their path, and I am again reminded of the metro station. These clever little fellows have started to prepare well in advance for the monsoons.

Lost in several different thoughts, I hear a familiar ping on the laptop screen. It’s a calendar notification. The Google Calendar app is as annoying as it is efficient. And notifications are the new adversaries of mindless distractions. There, I said it. With the world working “from home”, every little thing can be distracting.

I hear my mom screaming from the living room, asking if I want some coffee. If only she spent a few days with me at my workplace, she would know never to ask me that question. I never say no to coffee. And if you tell me, there’s a time and place for coffee, I will happily unfriend you. “YES!”, I scream back. This is one of the privileges of working from home. Home-made coffee served in the living room.

I look at my phone. It’s only 1PM. Seven, maybe eight more hours to go. My fingers are working fast, thumping keys across the keyboard. I move from tab to tab, screen to screen, a click here and a thump there. If you didn’t know me better, you’d think I was in too deep.

I keep a small mirror on my desk. It serves the purpose of reminding me to workout and also because, who doesn’t love tiny mirrors?

And at the risk of oversharing, I also use the mirror to check for facial hair and hair otherwise. Even in quarantine, the need and desire to maintain overpromoted standards of beauty has been ingrained in the minds of us women.

And before I know it, it’s 2:30PM. Time for lunch. I don’t really do lunch these days. The periodic intervals between meals is now a blurred concept. I eat when I am hungry. My appetite too is a lost concept. But a lunch break that may or may not involve lunch is a necessity when you work nine to ten hour days.

Another ping. The thirteenth one today. With most of us working absentmindedly, not knowing which day of the week it might be, I open the calendar again to check if there is a meeting or a call where I am needed. Nope. Just another reminder.

On an average day, this would be the normal way of life. Wake up, dress up, go to work, drink a gallon of coffee, work hard, rethink life’s choices, scroll social media apps, regret the small but important tasks you put off, eat food, brush your teeth, and try to catch some sleep.

But there is no normal now. Now, we live in a different reality. One, where we’ve all been forced to live a certain way. Work-Life balance? Get out of here! It never made sense then, it doesn’t make sense now.

And while this is the life we never wanted, maybe it is the life we needed. Because we needed to learn. To spend time instead of money. To give love instead of things. To hold on to memories instead of holding onto insecurities. To know that no one is above anyone else. We are all in this together. And to never forget those that really matter, and will continue to matter.

And more importantly, how it took a pandemic for the world to sit up and take notice.

“Coffee’s getting cold!”, Mom screams again. Out in the living room, with everyone seated around the coffee table, we watch the news on the television. Every now and then, in a house so full of people, there comes a moment when everything is still. And in that moment there is hope.

We enjoy this peaceful quiescence, knowing that life would soon return to its usual, hurried pace.