A love letter to late developers… (plus a competition)

Dear Late Developer,

Hey, you! Sorry, was that too loud? I’ll whisper it then because I know Late Developers don’t like to draw attention to themselves. 

I just wanted to let you know that it’s all going to be okay.

Seriously. It’s hard to believe, I get that, especially if you were the girl who was the last one on the planet to get boobs or start periods. Even, confusingly, if you were physically an early developer because still, it freaked you out and like the late developers, you hid yourself in baggies.

As a ‘grown up’, too, when everyone else might have their careers or relationships or homes or even their damn make-up bags in order - plotted on a trajectory which soars upwards, forever upwards. On a graph, yours though, well, it flatlines with the occasional jump when you have dared to think IT’S HAPPENING and then plummets when you realise - or think you realise - that it was all a charade. That of course it was never meant to be good for you.

I know because this was me. Still is, actually sometimes, when the voices tell me I’m a flop at everything.

Academically, professionally and in my relationships, I spent my teens, twenties and thirties worrying and panicking that I was the one at the back, going nowhere. I was late to motherhood, to marriage and to being an author. 

And I still fail at ‘grown up’ things - I’ve no pension, I’m in denial that I’m no longer young, I drink too much, I find farts funny and I haven’t got a capsule wardrobe. Indeed, my best friend recently told me I’m like a teenage boy because I wear hi-top trainers, love Lego and my favourite food is cheese and crisp sandwiches.

But I’m beginning to see that my late development, like the heroine of my new novel The Late Blossoming of Frankie Green, was and is about self-esteem.

I’m far from being comfy in my own skin (it’s turning crêpey and wrinkly) but I can see now that comparisons are odious. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing - it’s down to me at the age of forty-one to be positive, accept my own circumstances and find the happy in what I have not the misery in what I lack. Take running, I did my first half-marathon aged forty. It is a blow to the ego that I’m classified as a ‘veteran’ in athletics terms and my times are appalling but they are outweighed by the reward of thinking that it was something I thought I could never do. The same goes for writing books. I got there, eventually.

Yes, it’s hard in our youth-obsessed culture, where flaws and mistakes are sins. Women bear the brunt of it too: experience in men is admired but for us, it’s a sign you’re a has-been. 

Well, I think it’s up to late developers to challenge that. 

To look at those women who have made it later in life as proof that life will not always be the way it is now. We must find things we enjoy and celebrate them even if we’re the only ones chanting ‘go, go, go’. 

Because when you do ‘arrive’, in whatever form it is, you’ll cherish it all the more. And remember it’s fashionable to be late.

Keep going, keep trying and keep believing. It’s all going to be okay. 

Love,

Laura Kemp, aged forty-one-and-three-quarters