Lately, I’ve been feeling like I used to when I would race at County Championships and place 2nd to last.

I was the 5th fastest runner on my school’s cross country team. I was the fastest in my events on our track team. My freshman year, I was captain of both teams. I was fast. I have the medals and trophies to prove it. I worked hard and always pushed myself. Yet, for whatever reason, whenever the Gwinnett County XC Championships were held, I sucked.

The problem was never arbitrary. It wasn’t the unnaturally cold weather. It wasn’t the fact that
I was unlucky and my shoe came off while I was racing. It wasn’t because the course was unnaturally hard. It was because, on the competitive Gwinnett County level, I qualified to run, but I was slow.

The problem with placement is that it is relative. You can be amazing in comparison to one group and utter trash when placed in competition with another.

It’s the same with college. In high school, I was an overachiever. I was extremely involved, held multiple leadership positions, and graduated with a 3.8. In college, I have a 3.4, a job, and no leadership positions. I am not particularly good at my job (if I can be called good at all). I have been rejected from every other thing I have applied to and am ineligible for the majority of scholarships that would make it possible for me not to have to work. I have no other viable options and given my current repertoire, my future competitiveness in the job market is shaky.

On the flip side, I attend a competitive university and have an acceptable GPA. I have a source of income. I am a published writer. I have friends I love and live in a community that provides me with opportunities I would never be able to dream of having otherwise.

I’m still qualifying.

As a junior, I feel like I am still at the starting line, surrounded by freshmen who are moving faster than me.

College is the County Championships of my life so far.

I’ve always been a late bloomer. I have always spent more time observing than being, thinking than vocalizing, building courage and energy than making use of it. I worry I do not have the time nor money to train myself into the front of the pack.

You may have mistaken this for a post that would culminate into some super positive “it’s OK to be how you are,” “love yourself,” “the world is still your oyster,” “*insert list of older people who became successful* This can still be you” article. It is not. It is not because those people are anomalies. Those people had a skillset and area they excelled in, they simply had to wait to be recognized for this. In reality, being one of those people is becoming less and less realistic.

I say all of this not to be pessimistic. I do not mean to scare or guilt or shame anyone, nor myself. I say this as inspiration to do something about it. If you don’t have a skillset, get one. Network. Find the thing within yourself that is delaying your progress and kill it. Or at least turn it into something useful.

There is a thin line between characteristics of who you are and characteristics of who you are right now.

The line is the decision. Nothing can define you besides what you allow to. If you can't live your life in first place, it's because you chose to accept second.

Dear Late Bloomers: This is a caution against complacency. You should love yourself. But you should not love yourself so much that you stop trying to improve.

“External circumstances will not change until internal belief systems change."
- Myles Munroe