A late bloomer in every way

The most consistent thing about my habits is that I am always late.

I have trouble internalizing that time moves in only one direction and that the future will ask for me whether I am ready for it or not.

I am a late bloomer in every way. I don’t grow up on schedule, and I take longer to feel like I am where I’m supposed to be. I didn’t wear a training bra until I was 12. I got my driver’s license at 18. I got my braces off two months before I turned 21. And I’m still afraid to be alone in the dark. There are average ages for the landmarks of human development, but I have always been late.

I was late to my first day of kindergarten, so I suppose I was destined ever since to never arrive at the same time as everybody else. When I walked in that day holding my mom’s hand, I saw what I had missed out on. All the other kids had already claimed their apple-shaped name tags and their designated seat on the rug. I arrived to my first day of school ever nameless and placeless. That’s the thing about being late: When you get there, you are just in time to see what you were supposed to be.

But the world knows of my kind and was built to give us chances. In high school, I took a math class where the teacher offered to clear our tardy marks if we bought donuts for the entire class. A year’s worth of arriving late meant redemption for me was deep-fried and provided at a discount from the family-owned 24-hour joint on Garvey Avenue. I mention the 24-hour part because I had to buy the donuts late the night before I signed up to bring them into class.

It’s comforting to be in 24-hour places. There’s no such thing as a “last minute” there. 24-hour is the number of forever.

My sophomore year of college, I thought I got smart and scheduled myself to end my winter break a week and a half early. I wanted to leave Los Angeles sooner so I could return to Berkeley and organize myself and my work. But when I got off the plane at Oakland International Airport, my grandma was rushed to the hospital. She got better after a while, and I decided the next time I could see her would be at the end of March. That was the only upcoming break we had in the academic calendar, and I wasn’t brave enough to think around it. She died right after the Lunar New Year in February, and it took her funeral to bring me home. I was too late.

I got notes for missing lectures and extensions on all of my papers. I pushed time in the only direction I knew it moved: further into the future.

When I returned to school after the funeral, I had friends who advised that I stop crying and focus on my papers. There was no extension period for grief. It didn’t fit into the school year, and I was pushing its stay. Oftentimes, I find that I still am.

Being late means being last. When you’re never on time, you’re always off it — misaligned, out of sync and left out.

In my last semester here, I have two “incomplete” grades to make up for. Once again, I am reminded that the world was built to give me second chances for the moments I could not deliver according to schedule. Unfortunately, donuts for the entire College of Letters and Science will not clear me of my shortcomings, so part of my past weighs heavily on me while I try to get to my future — and on time, at that.

Being late means you always feel like your finished product is worth less, even if you got the same results but just took more time to get there. I regret just as much as I am grateful that my professors will grade my work past its due date and time. Knowing you are late means you work harder at it. The weight of lost time pushes on you, reminding you that you are different, a nontraditional kind of go-getter.

They say not to do things at the last minute, but sometimes it just turns out that that is the soonest I can be ready. I bloom late. I don’t grow at the same speed the world expects me to.

If my academic career were prose, I put commas and asterisks where periods and end-stop marks should’ve been. At every continuing mark, I make up for the times I could only turn in empty pages. I make new endings in unexpected places.

I bloom late, but I am growing all the while. Being late just means that I could not have been predictable.

When it comes to college, graduation is my very last minute. It is the scheduled endpoint of four years of undergraduate schooling: May 16 at 10 a.m. When I get there, I will rejoice in ending. Endings can be redemptive, and graduation means all of my lost, deferred and postponed time will have amounted to something. There, for once in my life, I will bloom on time.

Jennifer Wong is the summer 2015 assistant opinion editor. She joined the Daily Cal in summer 2014 as an arts and entertainment reporter and was an opinion columnist in spring 2015. She will be graduating with bachelor’s degrees in English and media studies.

Contact Jennifer Wong at [email protected]