The more time I spend stalking my successful ex-classmates on Facebook, the more I wonder whether or not I’ll ever be able to become the producer/writer/director/JLaw bestie that I’ve always wanted to be. With young Hollywood starlets popping up left and right, and middle schoolers competing for the Nobel Prize, I can’t help but feel that every hour I spend watching Boardwalk Empire is another hour that I could be using to write the next great American novel or pen an Emmy-winning TV series. Then again, not everyone gets a six-figure paycheck before they get their first pimple. In fact, some of the most successful people had to wait a few decades before they started getting noticed. For example:
1) June Squibb was 84 when she was nominated for her first Golden Globe.
Though June Squibb has been acting on stage since the 1950s, the Nebraska star didn’t take her talents to the screen until 1990, where she landed the role as Hilda in the Woody Allen film Alice. (She was 61 at the time.) After a few stints in television, Squibb finally snagged the part of Kate Grant in the 2013 film Nebraska, a role that won Ms. Squibb her first Golden Globe at the age of 84.
2) Peter Roget didn’t invent the Thesaurus until he was 75.
You know that book that you pull out whenever your English teacher has scribbled the dreaded “W.C.” on your paper five or six thousand times? That book didn’t exist until 1852. A few more days and it might not have been invented at all, considering its creator Peter Roget was 75 when he decided a collection of synonyms might be helpful for the greater population. At an age when most people decide to play bingo or die, Roget was busy changing the history of the English language, as if he wasn’t days away from losing his dentures or welcoming his first great-grandchild.
3) Frank McCourt didn’t start writing professionally until he was 65.
Anyone who survives the kind of horrors that Frank McCourt did deserves some recognition, which he got in 1997 when his book Angela’s Ashes won the Pulitzer Prize. Though the Irish author had taught at numerous institutions until that point, he had not seriously pursued writing until the release of the autobiography, which many consider to be one of the most riveting stories ever published.
4) Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at 64.
In an effort to bring in more income, Laura Ingalls Wilder released an account of her pioneering days titled Little House in the Big Woods. Though the book was expected to fail (families recovering from the Depression did not place “buying storybooks” high on their priorities list), it became a massive success and inspired the writer to expand the series. The sequel, Little House on the Prairie, has since become one of the most popular, disgustingly quaint stories of all time, even earning itself its own TV series in the 1970s. Contrary to what I originally thought, it has nothing to do with prairie dogs or midgets in small houses, but it’s still worth watching.
5) Colonel Sanders didn’t launch KFC until he was 62.
Before he was handing out fried chicken by the barrel, Colonel Sanders was selling tires for Michelin and slaving away on various western railroads. When, in 1930, Shell Oil Company gave Sanders a service station in Kentucky, the man began perfecting his chicken recipe, right up until 1952 when he started selling his chicken product around the country. The colonel and his wife opened the KFC headquarters in Shelbyville in 1959, making Sanders a millionaire at the age of 69.
6) Alan Rickman landed his first movie role at 46.
Alan Rickman, everyone’s favorite hair-flipping wizard, didn’t join the world of film until well after his 40th birthday. After experimenting with various theater groups (I’m not talking about experimenting with drugs, though I’m sure that happened too), Rickman settled with the Royal Shakespeare Company, earning a Tony for his role in RSC’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He was 41 at that point, still more than a decade away from the magical role that would launch him into superstardom. That is, the role of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, which he landed at the ripe old age of 55.
7) Stan Lee didn’t invent Spiderman until he was 40 years old.
Here’s a story that continues to boggle my mind. After years of working in run-down comic shops and publishing companies, Stan Lee revolutionized the comic industry with the invention of Spiderman, a supernatural hero with the ability to shoot half-dried glue from his wrists and sew his own colorful outfits. (That’s what I took away from the movie, at least.) What’s more? He released the first Spiderman comic in 1962, when he was just 40 years old. In other words, Stan Lee started releasing successful comics right around the time most people have their first mid-life crisis.
Next time a baby passes you on the ski slope or a fetus announces its run for the Senate, just remember: not everyone can be an early bloomer. Sometimes, genius needs a few extra years to brew. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the journey.