Blooming Later in Life Has it's Advantages

Here's a blog post I wrote about 5 years ago that I thought would be a great first entry here as my business turns a sweet 16 this Spring. It's about finding my true identity, talent, vision and direction in my career later in life. Some of you might relate. Enjoy!

I always thought that being a late bloomer was a negative thing, like you missed out on so much because you achieved success later in life. I didn’t give my career much thought honestly. I floated along in life for a long time, oblivious to what career success truly meant.

I was one of the lucky artist-designers to get an early start on my career even though I had no clue what that was going to be. During the winter break of my sophomore year in college, the father of my high school BFF asked me if I was interested in being a summer intern at his advertising agency. Hello job-handed-on-a-silver-platter! 

That summer I learned how to key-line and do paste-up for an agricultural quarterly magazine, spec type for the typographer, operate the stat machine and lucigraph, prepare boards for the printer, and also get insights into the world of advertising. It went so well that I returned the following two summers interning until I graduated, and then became a full-fledged production/layout artist.

After 3 years, I discovered that while I loved laying out publications and working at the agency, I was not interested in agriculture, and decided to move onward to Kohl's Department Stores as a layout artist for their sale catalogs. That lasted 3 years as well due to losing interest in the repititive work.

I bounced around from one small design studio to the next in Milwaukee until at age 31 when I became restless once again. The winter weather had also finally wore me down, so I made the brave move to Tampa, Fl. I eventually landed a really great job at a large ad/design agency called West Group [which changed it's name a couple of times since then].

This time I was designing and producing an annual 90-page catalog/brochure created in 20 different languages for Royal Caribbean Cruises Int’l for the first 4 years, and then for Celebrity Cruises Int’l for 2 years.

I fell in love with the lifestyle niche there and then, and thought my career path was solid. It was the best place I had ever worked. Not going anywhere. Where’s the party?

Looking back, I never seriously thought about my future or had any real goals I wanted to reach, except just becoming a lead designer there, and partying with my friends. The only true growth I experienced at the agency was mastering layout design, learning how to handle the high stress [with yoga!], manage the designers who assisted me, and juggle 20 publications at one time.

By the time I turned 39, I was the master of creating publications, but my branding design skills were just ok. I wasn't really pushed to do great branding design as the work was more about information architecture design and how to fit a whole lotta content in 90 pages, and make it look good. After 6 years of that, I got burnt out.

Luckily an opportunity arose in Los Angeles when I was there for a press check, and I quickly made a decision to leave Florida behind—California was always my dream anyway.

10 months later of living in California, my life turn upside down when 9-11 happened, and I was left without a job. I worked on a United Airlines account and well, you know the deal.

But, this is where the real story begins—about finding my true self and blooming later in life at the age of 50.

I moved to Del Mar [San Diego] after visiting a friend in La Jolla. While it felt like home to me, I also felt lost and like I didn’t fit into the design community. It was a different market – more brand design based and lots of small studios. I couldn’t land a full-time position to save my soul. I knew I was good designer and hard worker, but I was either too experienced or under-experienced.

So I freelanced in order to get work and pay the sunshine taxes. I wandered for years and years—working part-time onsite and offsite. I did whatever I could to get by. Once in awhile I got a great project, but even then, it was not my best work.

I don’t know exactly what changed within me, but I do know my transformation from being an ok designer to doing my best work ever, was due to the mentorship from my creative business coach [RaShelle Roberts], and also from where I was at the time in my life when I was introduced to her. I had hit rock bottom—I was raw and broken, I was lost. How could I have ended up like this midlife? How did I let time slip by? I thought I was too old to be hired, and worried what would become of me.

I won’t go into the details of the process we went through, but I can tell you she made me dig deep—to find out who I was as a person, as a designer, what I truly wanted in life, and in my career. Lots of soul searching, reading, writing and amazing a-ha sessions with RaShelle over the course of 5 months.

I had come back to my business 100%. I had finally stopped the vicious circle of getting part-time gigs when my workload slowed down. That way of working would cause me to lose my focus on my business and have to start all over again when the gigs ended.

During the process [it's still a process] with RaShelle I discovered the niches that I loved to do and did so well at. My passion for branding design was reignited when I started creating infographics on a regular basis, and I also had the amazing opportunity to design an identity campaign for a new restaurant in Canada. I was on a roll.

Something shifted, something changed within me. I started to SHINE. I started to BLOOM. At 50 years old, I finally had confidence in my design abilities. I knew what I wanted, who I was, what I was willing to let go of, and what my focus was. Years later, my design skills are still top-notch—great design just flows out of me naturally, like a God-given talent. 

I am where I ought to be.

That whole journey of my career path led me to where I am today: A LATE BLOOMER. And there is nothing wrong with that. I am a successful, gifted and sought-after designer… happy to be a solo-creative working from my home studio on a variety of amazing lifestyle branding design projects for big clients!

It blows my mind... but at the same time, it just seems right.

Worth waiting for.