the lady luck
A peer friend of mine married around the age of thirty-nine, after several long-term relationships and years in the dating wilderness. The man she married was among her circle of college friends. He was a widower; otherwise, I’m sure he would have been married with children at that point.
After some fertility struggles, they went on to have two children. He’s a professor, so although money is somewhat tight, he is able to stay home with the kids several days a week.
I was still dating from thirty-nine to forty-one, but I either didn’t feel the situation was right or the man I was dating didn’t, and so I became childless-not-by-choice.
It really seems that were it not for them encountering some lucky breaks, I’d have a couple of friends in my same situation.
There is a theater designer/artist whose career/life/everything I am so amazed and envious of. I recently read a in depth interview with her. Yes, she is innately supremely talented and intelligent, yes she is driven, passionate and works hard. But in my opinion, the revealing fact of how she achieved her massive sucess is that she she had an older boyfriend who supported her during (at least most of) the first 11 years of her career when she doing highly acclaimed and extremely poorly paid jobs. She goes as far as to say in the interview that no one expected her to make money.
Is it possible that she would be where she is today without the boyfriend support? Sure. But it certainly was lucky for her she didnt have to worry about money.
I do believe in the saying ” the harder I worked, the luckier I got.” But anyone who denies how much plain old stupid luck plays a part in our lives is fooling themselves.
I am posting a part of the article where Es Devlin states she was so lucky. The article is long and really about her work with Kanye West but will post link if interest.
Devlin (her first name is short for
Esmeralda) grew up rarely going to the theater, though once a year her godparents would take her and her siblings to an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. In her teens she studied to be a musician before earning a degree in English from the University of Bristol. At 23 she took a one-year theater design course in London, where she finally felt at home. “I didn’t think about a career—I was so lucky,” she says. “I had a boyfriend who was much older than me, and no one ever asked me to make any money. I just thought that my role was to make good things.”
Upon graduating she won the Linbury Prize for stage design, one of the field’s highest honors. The award included her first commission: to design a stage set for Edward II. Despite the early acclaim, Devlin didn’t make a penny of profit for the first 11 years of her career. At such venues as the Barbican and Almeida, subsidized by U.K. government funding, artistic standards may be high, but the wages are too low to pay for an office and staff.
I can’t see where it says her boyfriend supported her for some or all of 11 years. It does however say he was much older, that “noone ever asked me to make any money” aka maximise profits, and that she “didn’t make a penny of profit for the first 11 years” aka covered her costs including most likely a modest salary for herself.
I’m with Allie on her understanding of this. It pretty much reads as: “I didn’t think about a career….I had a boyfriend who was much older than me and no one ever asked me to make any money.” If the much older boyfriend wasn’t supporting her financially, there would be no point in bringing him up when discussing not needing money. What would otherwise have been the point in mentioning him just then?
Alternatively had she said “I didn’t think about a career, and no one ever asked me to make any money” I’d assume her family had money and was supporting her. She did not say ‘it’s more important to me to make good things and just cover costs rather than to make a profit’. She indicated that money was of no consequence to her, as opposed to being of little consequence.
Most people aren’t directly asked to make money, they just have to in order to pay the bills just to live. Evidently making money was optional for her. She admits it herself, she was lucky.
Hmm … I think the sentence in front of “I didn’t think about a career …” is the most important one:
“At 23 she took a one-year theater design course in London, where she finally felt at home”.
“I didn’t think about a career—I was so lucky,” she says. “I had a boyfriend who was much older than me, and no one ever asked me to make any money. I just thought that my role was to make good things.”
She was really young at this time and some of her peers would have been under pressure to persue or voluntarily following more money making educations and careers e.g. finance, law, medicine. I read her luck as finally finding a place she felt at home, not being pulled into this pressure or evading it, an older boyfriend, who while offering her perhaps some financial buffering, emotionally supported her decision to follow her passion and having few responsibilities as is appropriate for her age. Many art students live on buttons and do just fine.
Interesting how a single paragraph can be interpreted so differently by people.
I agree with Allie and MissM, the key point being made is that when the media highlights a woman’s career success (and this can be in any endeavor – business, the arts, politics, sciences, etc.) what is often left out is the level of help she had, or did not have, behind the scenes.
Even when the details are available, they are ignored as an element to her success. Women who are “less successful” are made to feel that they have somehow failed to achieve their full potential, without any consideration whatsoever about the differences in their own circumstances.
The fact is that life circumstances and luck are a key elements in success, not just “raw talent.” I have a friend who is intellectually brilliant but who instead of going to college married at 18 a man who went on to become a very successful entrepreneur. He never asked her to work, told her it was “optional.” She used her time at home to become a first-class Martha Stewart homemaker, to learn several foreign languages, and become an expert in a particular area of philosophy where she has written two books. She also sews and is a gourmet cook. She is one of the most cerebral and accomplished women I know (despite the lack of college degree)). She did all this while I was working my way through school and working non-glamorous jobs.
Nancy Pelosi is another example. She is held up as being pioneering, yet she was already the wife of a wealthy businessman when she entered politics. Other “very successful” women had fathers who nurtured them with attention and high academic expectations and who paid for their college education and graduate school.
I know several women who were “given the option” to go back and work part-time once their children were school. These women were allowed to work for self-fulfillmen and not carry the responsibility of funding a household.
My point being, often the support going on in the background for “successful women” is both financial and emotional. Women who lack both these forms of support have an entirely different mountain to climb. But this is never acknowledged or discussed because of course one of the key axioms of Western life is “If I am more successful than you it’s because I deserve it because I worked harder and am more talent than you.”
I don’t begrudge anyone’s success, but I resent when people who have had a lot of help pretend that they are better than other people when the truth is that in addition to being talented, they themselves were very, very lucky.
Other “very successful” women had fathers who nurtured them with attention and high academic expectations and who paid for their college education and graduate school.
One of the reasons I admire Condoleezza Rice is that when she gives interviews she routinely refers to the support she received from her parents from a very young age (attention, nurturing, piano lessons, ice skating lessons, French lessons, high academic expectations).
By contrast, a lot of accomplished women project an in-your-face “I did this all myself” vibe (even when it is not based on facts), as though to acknowledge reliance on others would reveal a weakness.
I am in total agreement with you on this Autumn. The failure to acknowledge the part support and good fortune play in a person’s success, is a trait that can be quite irritating. There was a time when having some humility and modesty was seen as a good thing, but these days hubris and narcissism seem to be what’s in favour.
Even worse is the flip side of the “If I am more successful than you it’s because I deserve it because I worked harder and am more talent than you” thinking, which is that should a person end up in a situation that is “less” successful, it is purely their fault for being a person of lesser quality, and victim blaming ensues. I understand that it bolsters the the idea that one’s own success is all due to being a superior person, but at the end of the day, victim blaming is merely kicking a person when they are already down. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone needs to make someone else feel bad in order to make themselves feel better.
I don’t mean to diminish es devlin’s talent in any way. And to her huge credit, she did waste her opportunity of perusing her passion.
This brings me back to ranty’s post about the luck of her peers. I too had a friend who went through many dating dramas. When she was 39.5, she had finally broken up with a man who had 7 months earlier called off their wedding. Out of desparation, she paid for therapy for them in the hopes of working it out. A couple weeks after that relationship was over for good, she was set up on a date with friend of a friend who knew her and always liked her.
I remember my husband (yes I am married but we have no children, another story for another time) telling her after the final break up to take a break from dating for a couple of months, to get her head together. Wasted words, she was already hooked into this guys. And yes, they did get married, six months after first date and she was pregnant within four months.
So was my friend lucky that she found her soulmate after so much heart ache or was it all just lucky timing, both being single at the same time and willing to fast. Or was it a case of my friend just willing to settle on who ever wanted her that met basic requirement? Who knows, but even in the settling situation, there needed luck to even have a guy to settle for.
Yes my friend was lucky, but part of that was taking an opportunity and making the most of it.
I am curious Ranty. The men you dated between 39-41, if you really wanted, could you have married one of them?
^^ did NOT waste!!
Allie – I’
Allie – I’ve seen this first hand.
“So was my friend lucky that she found her soulmate after so much heart ache or was it all just lucky timing, both being single at the same time and willing to fast. Or was it a case of my friend just willing to settle on who ever wanted her that met basic requirement? Who knows, but even in the settling situation, there needed luck to even have a guy to settle for”.
and have asked the same questions and also think luck plays a small part. The two couples I know who met in this way are certainly very committed to their relationship. In some ways perhaps more than they are to each other, as marriage and children was what they wanted more so than a relationship with person x if that makes sense.
It’s also impossible to know what goes on between two people, so I wish them luck and let go.
Between 36 and 41 there were two I probably could have married but didn’t feel were right for me (and I’m unsure whether one of them wants children) and three or four I would have been interested in partnering with but they weren’t interested (just mentioning the ones I actually dated for a bit as opposed to going on one or two dates with). And yes, the friend I’m writing about here made compromises I may or may not have been able to make. The fact that he was part of her friendship circle was I’m sure a big plus though.
Not that much hangs on it, but I’m with Miss M and Allie. The reference to the boyfriend makes no sense at that juncture unless it is primarily in relation to financial support. I think that Sinead is right, however, that one cannot infer that she was supported by this same boyfriend for 11 years – nor that by failing to turn a profit she would not be drawing some kind of salary. Nor do I think one can necessarily conclude, as Miss M does, that money from such a salary was of “no consequence” to her.
interesting podcast on achievement and making mistakes
Thanks! I might have a chance to listen tonight while I’m cooking.
It’s interesting but the comments on this article are more interesting.
Yes, good comments… just read through them.
I definitely found the comments to be more interesting. My personal favourite is still the person who posted this one: To quote the great Hugh Abbot; “Everyone likes a party! Well, I don’t personally… but people do.” It’s so nice to find someone else who thinks the same way I do, even more so because it is so rare. I’m an extreme on the introvert scale, and parties and meeting people are my idea of hell.
“Other “very successful” women had fathers who nurtured them with attention and high academic expectations and who paid for their college education and graduate school.”
I agree with Autumn’s quote. A supportive encouraging father can make life so much easier for a woman. The emotional support is probably more important than the financial support because it gives the women confidence in themselves and in men.
As for luck, a friend is convinced that success in life is down to being in the right place at the right time and now how hard you work. You can get two people grafting equally hard but the one who gets the lucky breaks will go a lot further than the one who doesn’t.
The emotional support is probably more important than the financial support because it gives the women confidence in themselves and in men.
I agree with you absolutely 100%.
Anyone have any resources on the effect of emotionally supportive fathers but emotionally distant/damaging mothers?
Just anecdotal stuff Sinead, but it is a really interesting question.
Here is an example of one (a narcissistic mother) – I come across stories like this frequently enough, sadly: