04.25.12 Truth & Wisdom

Late Bloomers

Late Bloomers

BY Shannon Fitzgerald

A psychic I saw in my early 20s told me I’d be a late bloomer in both love and career. This made no sense to me at the time; I had always been the youngest person in the room (neophyte journalist at the magazine, the Doogie Howser of my professional improv troupe, etc.), no matter what I was doing. At the time of the reading, I was on my second serious long-term relationship, convinced he was THE ONE. So the idea that I would find the two most important things known to man kind late in life seemed unfathomable.

However, time progressed and I soon found myself the same age as everyone else in the room. Now I’m almost always the oldest. Damn – when did I become the elder statesman? I liked being the prodigy so much better. Or at least my ego did. Eventually I discovered my true path – producing/writing/directing TV and movies – in my early 30s, though I had circled the entertainment field in various forms since I was a kid. Okay, so late bloomer in career – check. And here I am, very much single, dating and wondering when the hell I get to take myself off the market. Late bloomer in love – check. I need to find this woman and ask her what stocks I should invest in.

So she was right – I’m a late bloomer! SO WHAT? I’m a late bloomer because I’ve been busy my entire life trying things on for size, experimenting with curiosities that piqued my interest, and playing outside the lines. I never followed the beaten path. Ever. I played hockey at a time when girls didn’t do such things – so much so the local newspaper printed a full page spread on my ice-bound adventures. I quit school at 16, moved to London on my own just because I wanted to fully indulge my Anglophilia once and for all. I fronted an indie rock band, modeled, acted, wrote for noted music magazines all over the world and essentially walked through any interesting door that opened. Logic would dictate I had no business pursuing any of these things for I did not have experience, education or even rudimentary knowledge of the very things I was embarking on. Not many people would start a band only knowing three chords on the guitar. Well, I did and ended up being pretty successful, I might add. And I’d do it again now if a similar urge struck me.

Looking back, it’s easy to say I took those kinds of chances because I was young. It’s not nearly as difficult to do when there’s not much at stake. “You can always come home,” Mum said, if it didn’t work out. The thing is, I never did come home. Well once, briefly, when I finally got tired of the dreary limitations of the UK – not to mention all that bloody rain – and had to press reset on my life for a minute. But I was soon out the door again and off on the next adventure. Of course, that safety net lessens as the years progress – parents get older, you have a family of your own who depend on you and of cours,  the humiliation of having to ask for help over the age of 25 – making it even harder to entertain the notion of moderate change or heaven forbid, a self-imposed exile from your life. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

Indeed, that sense of adventure gets knocked out of us when we turn a certain age. What that looks like is different for everybody. You know the drill – “Reality sets in.” Or, “I just had to finally grow up.” These are the biggest lies you will ever tell yourself. Believe me when I say, they will kill your insides and rip out your soul. I still take chances. ALL THE TIME. I believe in trying new things. I am a flag-waving advocate of taking risks on a regular basis. It’s good for the brain, the soul and the Holy Ghost. Initiate a sense of adventure into life’s often dull and dreary proceedings, take your daily routine by the gonads and pinch them hard until it brings tears to the eyes. I’m not suggesting giving up all sense of responsibility, a steady paycheck or leaving the life you’ve painstakingly worked to build. It doesn’t have to be Eat, Pray, Love, for God’s sake. But what about injecting one new thing into your weekly grind? Learn Spanish, mentor an at-risk teenager, take apart a car engine and put it back together – I don’t care. Just don’t buy into the notion that as we get older, it gets harder to change and learn.

I started playing tennis two years ago and it’s changed my life. As a former athlete who accomplished many, many accolades in pretty much every sport I tried, it was not easy to put my ego aside and stand beside 8-year-olds who hit the ball better than I did. But I was curious and interested and tired of the sports I had been playing all my life. So I started training with a coach a couple of times a week.

When I wasn’t dreaming about hitting the perfect kick serve, I watched endless hours of my favorite players on TV, even attending tournaments all over the world just to get my fix. The hard work paid off. My brain engaged, my body lithe, the ego firmly in check, I am fast progressing into a real tennis player. What’s almost as rewarding as being able to beat folks who have been active in the sport 10 times longer than I have is that I had the courage to look stupid for a while. I hate being a novice in anything, but had I listened to that GROWN ADULT logic whispering in my ear, “Oh, you really have to start when you’re young. It’s just too hard to build muscle memory at your age”, I would have missed out on what I can genuinely say is the love of my life.

My “reality check” still hasn’t kicked in because I won’t let it. Better yet, I’ve managed to find an incredibly rewarding career at MTV, one that all these unorthodox adventures has prepared me for, maybe even more so than the folks who followed the tried and tested path. As far as love goes, all those fumbled dalliances, failures, lessons, therapy and moments of pure bliss have brought me to the point where I actually feel like I have something real to offer.

There are no rules, kids. Just ask Julia Child, Agatha Christie, Martha Stewart, Madelaine Albright, Hilary Clinton, Amelia Earhart and Helen Mirren – just a small sampling of fabulous folks who found their calling later in life. So how about starting your own, personal revolution?

Image via kennymatic on Flickr

Canadian born Shannon Fitzgerald started her career as an actor and model then transitioned into a television career in London, England at the BBC. She later moved to Los Angeles where she built an extensive background in feature films as well as scripted and reality television (The Simple Life, Nanny 911, Big Brother, Ashlee Simpson Show). She also discovered the Kardashian family and executive produced the pilot of Keeping Up With The Kardashians with Ryan Seacrest Productions. 

Currently she is Senior Vice President of Series Development, East Coast at MTV in New York where she creates new series for the network in both the reality and scripted genres, including Savage U, It Gets Better and the upcoming Hoods and The Heights (working title).  She also has a number of feature film projects in development, and a prime time scripted drama with JJ Abrams and Warner Brothers (Fake An Alibi.).

Fitzgerald is currently writing her first book , a non-fiction memoir aimed at the millennial generation loosely based on her popular blog The Accidental Executive.

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