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Better late than never! Take it from these late bloomers who followed their dreams

Rick Clingman jamming
Rick Clingman
Rick Clingman jamming

Listen to TED Radio Hour's Late Bloomers episode.

When it comes to creating the life you want, it's better late than never. Last month, we asked NPR's readers and listeners to share what makes them a late bloomer. We received more than 50 messages about resilience and reinvention.

Your stories reminded us that there are a lot of late-in-life adventures out there.

Reader submissions have been edited for clarity and length.

Susan MacGregor

Late Blooming antarctic Scientist

Susan MacGregor with an Emperor penguin in Antarctica
/ Thomas Cohenour
/
Thomas Cohenour
Susan MacGregor with an Emperor penguin in Antarctica
Susan MacGregor entering the terminal at Christchurch, New Zealand, for flight to McMurdo and then on to South Pole
/ Cassandra Hui
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Cassandra Hui
Susan MacGregor entering the terminal at Christchurch, New Zealand, for flight to McMurdo and then on to South Pole

In 1969, I dropped out of college to marry the love of my life. Within a year, Jim was drafted. His soldier's pay didn't cover our expenses, so I started a series of interesting jobs. My first one was selling cemetery plots over the phone. Later, I was an apprentice meat cutter for Safeway. I still managed to graduate from college.

When I entered graduate school, my co-worker said, "Do you realize that in four years when you graduate, you'll be 45 years old?" I replied, "And in four years, if I don't graduate, how old will I be?" Earning that Ph.D. in bioinorganic chemistry has provided opportunities I never could have dreamed of.

At 54, I deployed to Antarctica with the U.S. Polar Program. The year I turned 62, I spent a nine month winter at South Pole. I hold the record for the oldest female to ever overwinter at South Pole.

Mumbi Muturi

Late Blooming Photographer

Mumbi Muturi's Self Portrait
/ Mumbi Muturi
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Mumbi Muturi
Mumbi Muturi's Self Portrait
Sinnita
/ Mumbi Muturi
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Mumbi Muturi

I'm a photographer and creative based in Nairobi, Kenya. I am in my mid-fifties and I started my photography journey six years ago, so a really, really late bloomer. Well, I would be considered a late bloomer, but I don't think that I am, because I can't imagine doing it at any other age. I consider myself a young photographer, even though I'm not young--I'm young at heart.

Barb Rosenstock

Late Blooming Children's Book Author

Barb Rosenstock
/ Mary Clare Glabowicz
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Mary Clare Glabowicz
Barb Rosenstock
Some of Barb Rosenstock's books
Composite by Maansi Srivastava / NPR
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NPR
Some of Barb Rosenstock's books

I never thought of myself as creative at all. I had regular office jobs, then I was a stay-at-home mom for years. But at the age of 46, I started to noodle around with writing children's books. It took a few years of rejections, but my first picture book was published with Penguin when I was 50. I'm now 62 and signed my 25th children's book contract this year. One of my books has won a Caldecott honor. The best part of my job and of taking this chance later in life is that I get to spend a lot of time in elementary schools with young kids. We share the power of words and the idea that whether we're young or old, we all have a story to tell.

Rick Clingman

Late Blooming Song Writer

In 2019, when I turned 70, the songwriting bug bit me. I've always loved music but I had never really thought of myself as song writer. But today at 73, my song production project called The SongSeeds Project has a catalog of 35 original songs. We're living in a time when there is a need for songs that reflect the difficulties that we're having: a weakening democracy, an unhinged political party, the dangers of ignoring climate change are just a few examples. Many of my songs reflect these themes.

Kimberly Harden

Late Blooming College Drop Out Turned Professor

Kimberly Harden
/ Erica Daniels
/
Erica Daniels
Kimberly Harden

I was originally a college dropout. Later, I received my B.A. at age 28. I went on to become a college professor at age 37. Then I became a leadership and diversity consultant at age 44. Going from college dropout to a college professor, life really came full circle for me. I always tell my students life is not linear. Once you have a goal in mind, if you are determined. you will achieve it.

Cecilia Zoltanski

Late Blooming Sailor

Cecelia Zoltantski at sea
/ Frank Delfer
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Frank Delfer
Cecelia Zoltantski at sea

I lost my career and my marriage--and my adult children had launched their own lives. I drifted, trying to salvage my career with an endless job search and failed interviews. So I enrolled in sailing school. I knew nothing, but I wanted to sail big sailboats offshore, blue water. Finally, I earned my qualifications and suddenly and beyond my wildest dreams, my life accelerated. I was chosen to crew a very fine sailboat, making legendary passenges through Tahiti, French Polynesia. I then sailed from Fiji to Australia.

I'm over 65 living my wildly wonderful life, in places I could only dream about. And I found a fresh love that I met during the pandemic, with a shared interest in boating.

Cathy Perez

Late Blooming Fitness and Wellness Coach

Cathy Perez
/ Ernie Ohlson
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Ernie Ohlson
Cathy Perez
Cathy Perez teaching a remote yoga class
/ Cathy Perez
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Cathy Perez
Cathy Perez teaching a remote yoga class

Since I was in junior high, I had a passion for health and wellness. But I didn't see myself ever having a career in wellness, because I figured if I tied my income to my passion, I would learn to resent it. How very silly that was. So now, in my mid-forties I got certified as a yoga instructor and health coach. I coach women on how to neutralize their anxiety and stress.

Kenneth Reese

Late Blooming Zookeeper

Kenneth Reese with two Macaws
/ Kenneth Reese
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Kenneth Reese
Kenneth Reese with two Macaws

It took me 20 years to make the leap of faith, to chase my dream, which is ironic since I've known what I wanted to do with my life since I was ten years old. During family trips to the zoo and aquarium, I would see the guy in the water with the animals. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Kenneth Reese swimming with dolphins
/ Katie Abram
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Katie Abram
Kenneth Reese swimming with dolphins

So I finally gave myself an ultimatum. I got a seasonal six month temporary job across the country as an educator at a zoo. First day of training, I'm 10 to 15 years older than every one of my peers.

At the end of that season, unemployment was rearing its ugly head again, but I saw a help wanted ad looking for someone comfortable handling birds. I applied and I got the job. I took my slow, sweet time getting there. But here I am, living the dream.

Cher Lytle

Late Blooming Pastry Chef

Cher Lytle with her whisk in the kitchen
/ Cher Lytle
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Cher Lytle
Cher Lytle with her whisk in the kitchen

About a month after my 50th birthday, I went to culinary school to study pastries and baking. After that I started working at Spago in Beverly Hills in the pastry department. Before then I hadn't even set foot inside of a working professional kitchen, I didn't even work front-of-the-house. I was a producer for online content before then. My life is still in an adventure and I'm still kind of figuring out what life has for me.

If you enjoyed these stories, take a listen to TED Radio Hour's Late Bloomers episode.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.