It is never too late to get back up and try again.

We all have different paths in life. How can this define what is successful to us?

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Sunset in the park.
Plano, Texas
Sunset in the park. Plano, Texas

I read an entry on my LinkedIn feed this morning about a 50 something year old recovering addict who shared that she screwed up her life a great deal. She shared that she is 5 years clean and sober and just entered college last Fall and made the Dean’s List!

I replied back to her with the following short note.

“Don’t every say you screwed up!

We have all had mistakes and have taken different roads in life to get where we are all going.

Everyone’s journey is different. You were able to get on the right path for your situation and go to college.

It does not matter how old you are. We are always learning. Some people in this life, never took a chance on themselves to turn their lives around or get back on that path. Everyone’s path is different. You should smile and pat yourself on your back.

Several years back I worked with teens struggling to become clean and sober and to get their high school diploma. The success rate for anyone to attempt and try to be sober and stay that way is very low. You should feel proud of yourself! “

The same thing applies in life, our school, profession, personal connections, etc.

I teach Mathematics. I have had students who are years above their peers with their math ability. Some are on grade level. Some are years below where they should be.

There are several factors involved. Some could be the student’s support structure at home and outside school. Do they encourage the value of education, learning, doing your best, keeping track of the student’s progress, etc. Some students have access to technology through their laptops, notebooks, iPhones, Internet, etc. Some students have learning differences that maybe other schools/teachers did not take into consideration on helping the student learn and be successful.

I have seen students leave school to work a job because they had to put
food on the table. I have seen students struggle with poor role models in friends and family and get addicted to drugs/alcohol.

Some students who might have been a “problem child” in a public school be withdrawn so they could be “home schooled”. There are families who use approved and appropriate materials to educate your their children. I have had these home schooled students enter my classroom and be on grade level or above their peers.

I have had some home school students who did not have a rigorous curriculum and had several deficits in educational gaps.

One student went to over 40 different schools in a school year. Some had to go through the divorce or death of parents or a sibling.

Life is not fair. We have all been dealt with different hands in the Game of Life. Some appear to have those winning hands and others keep losing.

I once had a 6th grade classroom with 30 students. The Special Education Department introduced me to a new student who would be joining my class. They told me that she was intellectually low and slow and probably
would not do well in my class.

I worked with all of my students but had to change my teaching approach to that one student based on her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which is a Federal Requirement for Schools to implement. I had to give her more time to complete assignments, she could have access to a calculator, etc.

At the end of the year, guess who scored the highest grade on my exam? She did.

My point is this. Yes, we all come from different backgrounds and circumstances. Yes, some people appear to have everything they need to be successful in life.

But the question is this, “What is being Successful in Life”? Is it how much money we earn? Is it how many children we have? How many Social Networking Friends and Likes we have? What type of car or education we have?

It is hard to define because it is personal decision. What did you have to overcome to get where you are today? Are you happy?

If you can answer those two questions, I think you found your answer.

Learning math or getting a college degree or becoming sober is just one of the many steps someone may chose to walk along in that path we call life.

I have told my math students this little analogy several times over the years.
I ask them how old they were when they started to ride a bicycle. Some students might say 5 or 6, another 8, some younger or older. Some never.

My point is that it is like life, like learning a concept, driving a car, getting a job, degree, starting a family, an education, etc. If you fall down, you just get back up. If you think you failed, learn from your mistakes, take pride in what you did successfully and start over.

Does it really matter how old we were when we started to do something or when we completed it?

Nobody really cares if you go to a playground or park and see a bunch of adults and children riding their bikes and then ask them how old they were when they could ride.

The first step of a lifelong journey is to take that first step.

I think it is successful be five years sober and to make the Dean’s list upon going back to College in your 50’s.

Remember when you were younger and tried to ride a bicycle? You were probably like me and fell down and skinned your knees. You cried but got back up. You got your balance and next thing you knew, you were riding solo.

You are not a “screw-up”. You are successful!

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