I have never been a fan of the term late bloomer. Late has a negative connotation attached to it. People generally tend to look down upon “being late” and wasting their valued time. True, people’s time is valuable, and you should not intentionally destroy it. That said, I’m a self-proclaimed late bloomer.

Regret over lost time. Whether you hoped to be a millionaire by age 30 or let the “one” slip away, there are thousands of choices we could spend our entire lives ruminating over. However, if you regret wasted time, then why would you choose to waste more? I know you are not intentionally wasting time, but by staying stuck in the past, you are not allowing yourself to move forward. So you’re different from where you thought you would be at this point in your life? Welcome to the world. One of my favorite song lyrics applies here (which I have referenced previously), “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” from “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon. We all have a hope or dream of how our life could turn out, but we have to remember those are not blueprints. Life is infamous for its countless, unexpected twists and turns. It is okay not to be exactly where you thought you’d be.

In my life, I have had several plans turn out completely different than I ever could have imagined. One example is college. Man, I could not wait to go off to college. I had conquered my high school mental health challenges, so I had no doubt that college would be the same, right? Boy, was I wrong? “Adulthood” hit me hard as I braved the cold Wisconsin winters at Marquette University. Like many young “adults, ” I fell into the temptations of the college “party” scene. I felt I had worked so hard in high school; wasn’t it about time I gave myself a break? And, yeah, that was probably right. However, I should have stopped then and there and said I was not ready for this, but I was a kid, and hindsight is always 20/20.

I downplayed my mental health as if that were something that could afford to take a back seat in my life. It was not. Treatment became inconsistent to non-existent, and I wondered how far I had come from where I had once been. I knew the concrete answer – partying heavily and stopping treatment don’t mix well. To me, that was a no-brainer, but the real question was, why? Why was I choosing that life? People typically do not desire that life unless they use it to cover up or numb their unresolved issues. I had a hard time admitting to myself that was what was happening. I tried to blame it on being a young college kid. I’d tell myself, “Well, everyone else is doing it, so it must it’s fine.” However, it was because I was too afraid to admit I was hurting. I knew it would open up a can of worms I could not close back up.

Days spent in bed, tears dried to my face, and the feeling of rock bottom crept in. I had lost all confidence in myself. What did I do? The only thing I knew how. I went home. I went back to my roots to figure out where the problem started. Back to therapy, medication, and a less thrilling lifestyle. Yes, at the ripe age of 22, I moved back in with my parents. (Talk about not being where you thought you would be.) As I watched most friends close out their senior years of college with diplomas and job offers, I knew I had my work cut out for me if I ever wanted to feel that same sense of pride. I applied to a local school and began with general education courses I had yet to take. What did I choose? College Algebra. Folks, I hate math. I know hate is a strong word, but it applies here. I will never be able to explain why I chose a class I hate. However, it helped me get my “groove” back (for lack of a better term). It reminded me of how I used to study. Slowly but surely, my work ethic began to settle back in.

I remembered how good it felt to work hard for something and obtain the desired result. This was mentally rewarding and made my self-esteem begin to increase again. I had to remember that I held the key to my success the whole time. It was not a matter of whether I could do it; it was whether I wanted to. Hard work can be draining, and if you do not give yourself proper time to relax and veg out, you might run into a wall, like me. Taking time off and putting your work away is okay and honestly healthy.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and am pursuing my master’s degree. Whatever it is in life you aim to do, know this: you can do it, it is not too late, and the only thing in your way is, well, you.