Ladies, we’ve all been there. It’s close to midnight, five of your friends are huddled on your bed eating popcorn, and it’s the sixth rom-com of the evening. There has always been something magical about young adult sleepovers. Whether you’re a senior in high school on the verge of starting your adult life or a college junior in existential crisis after changing your minor a third time *cough ME cough*, nothing cheers any girl up more than eating carbs and laughing with friends as you watch the sun rise.
As my friends and I finished 50 First Dates (which is actually the deepest rom-com in the entire world, it’s a scientific fact), we swapped our own first date stories. While everyone on my bed was a completely different person with diverse interests, aspirations, and tragic backstories, it seemed like we had all suffered a terrible evening with a boy in our romantic past. One friend talked about a guy who constantly called her his ex’s name. I told them about a freshman who refused to pay for our meal unless I promised I’d come back to his apartment.
The joys of millennial dating, am I right?
When it got to the last girl, we were excited to hear her worst first date. The game had us reeling with giggles as we finished off another bottle of cheap gas station wine. However, our friend looked down at her lap and took a few seconds to start talking. We all thought maybe she had a tragic first date – something she didn’t want to remember while watching Adam Sandler movies and drinking Barefoot.
Instead, she told us she had never been on a date.
Here were five accomplished collegiate women with impressive grades, leadership positions, and career aspirations that would make a high school guidance counselor sweat. But in that moment, one of us felt incomplete because of outside forces she couldn't control. You can’t make a boy like you. You can’t make someone ask you on a date. And though she tried hard every day to be successful, not experiencing what she assumed to be a rite of passage in to womanhood caused her to alienate herself from the rest of us.
“That’s okay,” another friend said. “Some people are just late bloomers.”
As the unofficial liaison for late bloomers everywhere, I’m about to drop some knowledge on the girl who has never been on a date. The guy who is going to graduate a year late. The 30-year-old who still hasn’t gotten married. Anyone who hasn't been kissed. The couple whose funds aren’t large enough to buy their first house. The graduate that still doesn’t know what they want to do.
Late bloomers don’t exist.
What the term “late bloomer” implies and why it doesn't make sense
We are all familiar with the ideal timeline of life. You start dating at 16-years-old. Develop a healthy, active sex life at 18. Graduate college debt-free at 21. Immediately move out of your parents’ house and in to an “MTV crib-style” apartment. Meet your soulmate before 24, then subsequently marry them at 25. Have children before 30, then live inside a movie-montage of endless promotions and grandchildren until the credits roll.
If you’re a human from planet Earth, you’d understand the likelihood of this perfect timeline executing flawlessly every time is… zero. In fact, this ideal life rarely happens.
However, the way we’re supposed to be educated and the relationships we’re expected to form have been shoved down our throats all our lives. We see teenage parties depicted on television as a regular part of high school. There are entire movies that revolve around 29-year-old women sobbing they only have a year to get married before society casts them aside like old maids. And while we’d never judge anyone for living at home during college or not finding their true love immediately following graduation, we personally scrutinize ourselves.
She has a boyfriend that posts #wcws every week, we say. He just told me he can’t believe anyone would take a year off to ‘find themselves.’ I must be different. I must be falling behind. I’ve been living wrong my entire life and I don’t think I can catch up. I’m a late bloomer.
Take a deep breath.
There is no such thing as falling behind in life. Life is complicated and messy and exciting and tragic. Some of us know exactly what we want to be the first time our pre-school teachers ask us to talk about it for show-and-tell. Other of us work cashiering jobs and live at our parents’ house because college isn’t remotely a possibility. There are some of us who get married at 19 because we’ve always wanted to be someone’s spouse and a smaller someone’s parent. Others find comfort in the platonic relationships of friends and family; never desiring the compromise of marriage.
When you realize there is no perfect order to do anything in life, you’ll free yourself from the bondage of the fake one society has been selling.
Stop comparing yourself to others and start building the best version of you
Everyone is guilty of wanting someone else’s life. When you imagine the part of yourself that seems the most behind, the reason you envy that person is usually because they have that part of themselves in order.
Whenever you feel yourself judging something specific about your life – maybe you feel embarrassed you’ve never had a boyfriend or haven’t found your passions – give the advice someone else would need to hear. Would you have ever told my dateless friend she wasn’t going to find someone because she never had an awkward middle school first date? Would you have told your friend constantly changing majors that she might just not be good at anything?
No, so stop telling that to yourself.
There are no late bloomers. It is something I’ve realized the older I’ve gotten and seen my friends head in all different directions. Some areas they excel in, I’m lacking. On the other hand, I know there are aspects of my life they envy and I completely take for granted.
If you keep your strongest traits growing, you can build the best version of you. Your empathy, kindness, intuition, academia. These are the parts of you that no one else can take away. By staying true to them, your own perfect timeline will come in to focus.
Have patience and stay strong, fellow late bloomer.