Late Bloomers

Photography by Caroline Hernandez

Photography by Caroline Hernandez

In a couple of months, the world will be treated to another opportunity to witness athletic excellence in the 2016 summer Olympic games. The frighteningly young women gymnasts will awe us with their athletic ability and poise as they strive to reach the podium. They never cease to amaze me. 

The 1976 Olympic games were particularly memorable for me. That was the year of the Romanian pixy, Nadia Comaneci. She was the first Olympic competitor to be awarded a perfect 10 with her performance on the uneven bars. She went on to earn the all-around championship in women's gymnastics although she was only a teen. You could say that Nadia was an early bloomer. 

In 1976, Nadia and I were both 14-years-old. What was I doing while Nadia was making her mark on the world? I was watching TV and trying to learn how to paint my fingernails. You see, although Nadia and I were the same age, we were miles apart. I’m what you might call a late bloomer.

There were the kids who bloomed in high school. You remember them - they were the ones that ruled the school, ended up in almost every picture in the yearbook. They were the athletes, the impossibly beautiful and confident teenagers, the ones who knew where they were going and how they would get there. I wanted to bloom in high school, but that was not my fate. I was hopeful that the next phase of my life would be my time. 

I was approaching my twenties, I felt certain that I would finally start coming into my own. But at 20 years old, I found myself married with a small child and a full-time job. While it was a wonderful time in my life, it was not the time for me to bloom. The next several years we added three more precious additions to our family. I spent the next two decades being "mommy", caretaker of my family, and loving (almost) every moment of it. 

My children grew and, one by one, they left home. My husband and I were left with only our titles still intact. In a moment of clarity, I understood that this was my chance. I asked my husband to stop calling me "mommy" and to start calling me by my first name. It was a hard habit for him to break but it made all the difference to me. I regained my own identity and the possibilities of what Darci would do next were unlimited.

I found that I still have the desire to do the things in life I am meant to do, and now I have the time. There are many notable examples of late bloomers. People who found their purpose late in life. I can't imagine what it would be like to peak early. What struggles would you have to overcome as you aged? I feel fortunate to be a late bloomer. I want to always believe that my best work is still ahead of me. It drives me to keep going, to keep exploring, to keep learning.

But maybe timing doesn't matter. Maybe just making sure that you bloom sometime, is the key. I would be happy to see my children and grandchildren find their purpose early on. But even if they follow in my footsteps, even if they come late to the party, I hope they find their own time and bloom.