November 19, 2019

The Case for Late Success

“Joanne, 54, is a late bloomer. Her teenage years were unstable and unhappy. Her mother suffered from multiple sclerosis. Her father earned enough money to support the household, but he was too emotionally frozen to deal with his wife’s illness. Joanne and her father barely spoke to each other.

In school, Joanne blended into the background. She earned above-average grades but hardly good enough to earn high honors and distinction. A teacher recalls Joanne as bright but unexceptional. An introvert, Joanne passed through high school with few remembering her. She was rejected by the elite college of her dreams. At her fallback college, she kept up her practice of acceptable mediocrity. She was good enough to get by but little more.

Typical of many reasonably bright, unfocused college grads, Joanne entertained thoughts of grad school, perhaps in teaching English. But her first swing at full-time employment was more humbling: a low-level administrative job. For a while, she was a secretary at the local chamber of commerce office.

Bored, Joanne impulsively married a man from a different country. The marriage didn’t survive two years, despite having a child. At nearly 30, Joanne saw herself at a dead end, with no job and a dependent child. Perhaps not surprisingly, she began to spiral down. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, which prevented her from working much and earning money. She hit an economic bottom: “I was as poor as possible without being homeless,” she says. Making matters worse, her ex-husband began stalking her and her daughter, forcing her to seek a restraining order.”

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