The Miracle Of A Late Bloomer

Are you a late bloomer?

We all want to bloom and blossom, but we don’t always have control over when.

Late bloomers are generally accepted and often embraced with compassion in the American culture and society. But not as much at the time and place where I grew up.

As a middle child with an older brother and a younger sister, surrounded by super competitive students and always-comparing parents throughout my adolescent years in Hong Kong, I had observed how we were evaluated not only by our accomplishment, but also by speed. I remember feeling shameful if I were branded as  “slow”- a label that would invite mean bullying or casual teasing by friends and family. I was too thin-skinned to handle any of that. To survive socially and culturally, I had subconsciously put a ton of pressure on myself to perform and to deliver results – not just in time or on time, but ahead of time.

My warped sense of time and speed however, served me extremely well in my previous deadline-driven career in TV network news. But that further impaired my approach in other aspects of my personal life. I’ve developed bad habits of judging a person’s talent and capabilities based on a short period of time, or judging a book by its cover (plus the first and last couple of pages). I also tended to give up hopes on any living object or person if I sensed that their potential for growth didn’t comport with my time frame.

But last week, I became a changed woman by my 12 year-old house plant!

For the first time ever, “Tree”, as I call it, suddenly unexpectedly sprouted a tiny whitish yellow flower at the top! plantI was shocked, stunned and frankly shamed by the beauty of the sight because I know how much abuse and neglect my “Tree” has endured. 

Miracle of Time

For the past twelve years that I’ve had “Tree” – a tropical African plant named Cornstalk Dracaena, I had never expected it to blossom. I was happy with the way “Tree” looked – tall, trimmed, tightly shaped and laced with a crispy fresh leaf fragrance. I watered it whenever it felt dry to me, and I must have moved it between apartments more than a dozen times whenever I needed my next-door neighbor to take care of it during my long and frequent periods of travel.

Miracle of Test

Every time I’m away and back, I always notice “Tree” looking a bit gaunt and sad.

Each and every time, I tried to talk to it, water it and even smooth the wilted leaves with olive oil hoping it would turn around. Each and every time after I rendered a touch of tender loving care, it rebounded – looking glossy, happy and perky again. That always gave me hope that it’s still alive and well. But on this bright breezy morning after my yoga practice when I looked up and noticed it miraculously started blooming with multiple corn-like buds, I felt not just happy, but guilty that I knew nothing about the nature of “Tree.” I scrambled for an explanation. I googled “Tree” and discovered that it is in fact, a slow growing shrub that can tolerate a wide variety of conditions from full sun to low light. When I came across the Wikipedia description that “Tree” is “very tolerant of neglect,” almost instantly, I was overwhelmed with a heart epiphany, thinking to myself, “Wow…Tree is tough and beautiful. Who cares if it took 12 years to blossom!?”

Miracle of Transcendence

“Tree” sudden burst of growth has inspired and awakened me to a new reality about the natural world, the physical universe and humanity. I‘ve learned that I need to see through what meets the eye. “Tree” demonstrates that it not only can pass the test of time, but also can endure and transcend prolonged and unpredictable circumstances of abandonment to bloom – at its own time, on its own terms and in its own way. That truly amazes me.

As I contemplate my previous attitude about late bloomers, I realize it’s really rooted in my bias against slow growth, my compulsion to control and predict when good things can happen. Now I’ve learned to let go of that mindset so to see beyond the here and now, and to experience more surprises!

Mable, New York

Mable Chan

Mable Chan is the founder of China Personified. Her contact is