Never Too Late

It’s never too late to make life what you want it to be. 

This week I had a great privilege to do some public speaking as a guest for two different events. Both great opportunities for me to continue in professional career development but also a chance to do what I love best…coach others by sharing experiences, stories and advice. 

One of the events was an invitation for me to do a “Lunch and Learn” with a group of male and female staff at the University of Chicago. They asked questions about my career journey, how to network, what to look for in a mentor, how to break the glass ceiling in the workplace, etc. It was fun and insightful for both sides in the conversation. 

When I arrived they shared a short list of questions to have me think about. The meeting ran more like an impromptu interview with questions shot my direction from anyone in the room. 

One question on the list that no ome asked but I wish they had. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

When I first read that question I got chills because it made me so happy. I am just 5-6 weeks from being 30 years old and totally LOVE that I can still be asked that. To me that means I don’t have to have had it all figured out by now in spite of what societal pressure tells me. 

I mean by some standards technically I’m behind the ball if I’m not in my lifer career, married with kids, owning vs. renting and the list goes on. But screw that because I am happy and free. 

Earlier today I was online and saw this great post that I wanted to share about where others were when they started success. Some of the most successful people started on that path late in life. 

No don’t use that to create excuses for what you are capable of creating and controlling NOW but think instead, it’s not too late if you haven’t figured it all out. It’s not to late to make changes in your life and create the life you truly want if you’re dissatisfied in even some small way with the one you have. It’s never too late. 

Whether you’re 18, 25, 30, 50, 75, 90 or anywhere in between. When was the last time you thought about that question. Have you made it to where you want or is there more to come for you. What do you want to be when you grow up? 

I will leave you with this other food for thought:

At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.

At age 24, Stephen King was working as a Janitor and living in a trailer.

At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.

At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.

Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at 40.

Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.

Samuel L Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.

Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at 52.

Louise Hay didn’t launch her publishing company, Hay House until she was 62.

This was also in the post and probs my favorite part.

“If you haven’t found your dream career yet, it’s not too late. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 30. Hell, it’s OK if you don’t even know what your dream career is yet. 

Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.

Never tell yourself you missed your chance.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.

Whatever you were born to do, You can still do it.”

I am so grateful to have people in my life who encourage me to dream big in that way. 

Me with one of my Professional Mentors, Laura Hoke

I took the road less traveled now where the **** am I?

Throughout many stages of my life, I was teased a lot for the way I speak. I was told I spoke too proper. I was often accused of ‘not sounding black enough’. I say it was accusations because it made me eventually open my eyes to the ludicrous statement that really makes. How I read that when I was young was “I’m different. I stand out but this is who I am so I just won’t fit in.” How I read it now makes me believe such small mindedness was introduced to box me up. Good thing I hate boxes.  I don’t want to fit in and do only what is expected. Live beyond the stereotype. Once I got older I thought about how those words used to hurt my feelings and was like wait, so I read books and sounded educated so was being smart and sophisticated not acceptable in my community?? Well of course not but that was how I felt. How dare anybody try to tell me that who I am is not enough.

I could launch into how I was raised in tough neighborhoods and even though my family made many sacrifices for me to have opportunities, we struggled at times. I’m grateful for how I was raised and where I come from. Yet It’s unnecessary to launch into those stories because my struggles and triumphs should mean nothing if the reason I am bringing them up is to prove who I am. I’ll pass, thanks.

For me and where I’m from, I made a lot of choices different than the norm. I played golf and made friends with many beautiful diverse human beings and lived abroad and kept choosing less traveled roads.

I accepted myself instead of trying to change who I was. I march to the beat of my own drummer and that’s okay. People can adapt.

I could have forced myself to conform when I was growing up but instead I chose the road less traveled in those days. I chose me over other people’s opinions of who I should be. I have been happy being me ever since. I found empowerment in my voice. I am skilled at knowing what behavior is appropriate in different situations because I have been in all those different situations. Now I hear all the time how people love my voice and how intelligent and mature I sound when I speak. I have been requested as a speaker on many occasions. I did nothing different. It reminds me of a quote by supermodel Iman “I don’t change the way I think; I change the environment.”

Along the way in this life I have taken wrong turns and u-turns but that is the beauty of this life’s journey. The hurtful words I used to hear in my youth don’t serve me. What they taught me was how being uniquely who I am – a beautiful mess at times – was how I would bring impact.

I have been called brave by many people’s definition for the roads I have chosen. To me, I’m just living my life and I’ve got a long way to go in figuring out even more things but I’m glad to live a life that serves me. I have no apology for that.

One of my goals is to poke holes in the boxes we place others/ourselves in. There is no ‘one way’ to speak, dress, travel, work, love or live that dictates who you are or should be. Be You.

It is amazing. I went to the Pride Parade for the first time today and the running theme through much of it was just that — Be You. Tonight I watched the BET Awards and the 3.5 hour show was filled with various entertainers, educators, business people and everything in between. Any award show provides a good examples of those who stand out amongst the crowd as unique. You have something to bring to the table that no one else does. No one has your story. May no one rob you of the confidence to live your story just as you need to.

I heard a young girl say something last week in London that really resonated with me. She said “You’re the person you have to live with your whole life. Make it count.”

So it turns out I know exactly where I am. I am opening up new doors. I am figuring out new paths. I am blazing new trails. There is no formula for life. There is no ‘one way’ to live it either.

Have you ever struggled with being yourself or finding your own voice? How did that impact you?