Tales of a Late Bloomer

April 23, 2018

I turned the radio off in my car and watched the students walk into the white building.   They followed the sidewalk parallel to the south wall and disappeared around the corner to enter the front door.

“She looks all of 18 years old,” I thought.  Her flawless skin, her cherry red miniskirt, and her brunette ponytail was swinging a beat behind her hips.   There were nine more that looked like her but were wearing different colors of clothing.  Oh my goodness!  What have I done?  Everyone is so much younger than me.

I was beginning school within a week of my 51st birthday.  I still FELT 20 years old. It had been 20 years since graduating from college—almost to the week.  The thought made my stomach do flips.

“You can do this,” I told myself.   The melody of the the last song on the radio was in my mind… “Don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feelin.”  This song by Journey had a special meaning for me today.

As I walked down the hallway toward the classroom at the end of the hall, I heard voices of my future classmates.   I walked in and took the first available seat in hopes to avoid long stares.  Sitting the second chair from the front, I had no idea who else was in the class.  Our instructor, Miss Virginia, introduced herself.  She went around the room and asked us to tell something about ourselves and why we were in the program.  It was then that I realized I was old enough to be everybody else’s mother, except for one other woman; she was one year older than me.

Soon it was my turn to talk.  Why did I want to be in the program?  I saw a problem, and I wanted to help solve it.   That was the Readers Digest version.  What I didn’t share was that I had been through a divorce and had to support my five children and myself.  That was a need.  But the heart of deciding on being an esthetician came from losing my father to cancer.  While going through his radiation treatments, my father’s skin suffered numerous, painful changes.   I wanted to find out how to help cancer patients with their skin during and after their treatments.  Although my Bachelor’s Degree from Loyola University would be very helpful, I needed licensing to accomplish my goal.

Even though I was a late bloomer in pursuing my education, I learned four important techniques.  I continue to apply these techniques in many aspects of my life.


My biggest fear was failing.  Could I keep up with the demands of the curriculum while raising my children?  Would we be okay financially while I was going to school full time?  What sacrifices would my children have to make in order for me to finish?  More and more questions ….

Instead of having regrets about not fulfilling my heart’s desire to help oncology clients, I did not let fear dictate my plans. I looked at each question in a realistic way (not from a fearful perspective) and had a plan in case school fell through.   I sought out professionals who returned to school later in life.  I created a budget to ensure financial stability.  I talked to my children about returning to school and listened to their input.    Then I compiled two lists.  First was a list entitled “Returning to School.”  I divided the paper in half vertically making two columns.  The first column I labeled “Positive Effects” and the second column I labeled “Negative Effects.”  I listed every possible aspect that I could.  Then I made a second list; it was entitled “Not Attending School.”  I divided this second list exactly like the first list.  I was very honest with myself and tried to write down every detail.  Then I compared the two lists both in quantity of items listed on each column, as well as the impact that each decision would have.  I was amazed at the large quantity listed under Positive Effects on the first page entitled “Returning to School.”  The benefits clearly outweighed other identified concerns.  I also found the identified concerns were fear-based.  By facing my fear and identifying the potential problems, I was able to work through a challenge that ends up paralyzing many.


I noticed a couple of very young students seemed uncomfortable with me.  They did not want to participate in pairs or group activities with me or the other more mature (not “old”) students.

I decided to play a joke on them. “Laughter breaks barriers,” was my thought.

I secretly prepared for the exact day.  On the calendar, one of the younger students was assigned to be my partner.  I knew she would not have chosen this.  This was perfect!  We were practicing detox body treatments, I volunteered to receive the treatment first. In the school changing room, I removed my clothing in preparation to receive the full body mask of seaweed product.   I put on the terry cloth wrap that was provided.  Under the wrap, I secretly put on a 5” thick belt that I found at Good Will.   The brown belt’s faded, tattered appearance made it look more authentic.  I purchased a combination lock that I connected to the buckle.  The belt was so thick that it covered the waist and groin area.  When my young partner, Mandy, started applying the seaweed scrub, she immediately stopped.

“Mary, you have to take that huge belt off.  Why do you have that on anyway?” Mandy asked.

“I can’t take it off.  It’s stuck on me.  My mother made me put it on when I was 12 years old.  It’s a chastity belt“ I (faking) embarrassingly replied.

“What the  — ?”  She was in shock.

“Miss Virginia, come here quick!  It’s an emergency!”  Mandy cried.  Her excited response even surprised me.

Miss Virginia, our instructor, rushed over.  So did the rest of the class.  Soon I was surrounded by all of the students.

“Look at this!   This is like the olden days!  This is so crazy!  She can’t take it off.  We have to help her, Miss Virginia.”  Mandy’s voice was elevated and screechy.

All the students gasped.

“Let me see,” Suzie said.

Some moved around the table to get a better look.  “Oh my gosh!”

“A what belt?”

“Chastity belt?”

“What the heck is a chastity belt?”  Never heard of it.

I was trying sooooo hard to keep a straight face and show sadness simultaneously.

Mandy was persistent.  “What’s the combination?  We have to free you!”

“I don’t know the combination.  My mother would never give it to me.  She said I had to leave it on,” I responded with my eyes looking down and trying to appear dejected.

“Well your mother is not here.  Girl, you take that off right now!” said Tameka.

“Yeah, take it off.  Let’s cut it off!”  chimed in Linda.

“That thing would not have worked for me!” said Joy.

Miss Virginia burst out laughing.  Then I did, too.  Poor Mandy was so confused.  She looked at Miss Virginia, then at the other girls.  Then she looked at me.  I undid the belt from the back and took it off.    Then she realized she had been tricked.  She started laughing, too.  After that, she seemed more relaxed with me.  All of us seemed more relaxed with each other.

  1. 80/20 RULE

The Pareto Principle specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs.  The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.  This principle applied to me as a student.

I saw that in reverse when two of the students failed the program.  They simply couldn’t commit to applying themselves.  They whined, complained, arrived late, left early and finally stopped showing up.

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is just showing up.”   Putting effort into the 20% to get there makes up the difference.

When you think about it, sometimes the hardest part is getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, driving during rush hour, finding a parking space close to the school, and clocking in by 9:00 a.m.  After that, listening to lectures or performing practicals seemed easy.   Just being in class means I am 80% of the way to a successful day in school.


Generally speaking, education can be egocentric.  YOU have to get the good grade.  YOU have to complete all the practicals.  YOU have to pass the test. YOU have to pass the state board exam.  It can feel shallow and lonely.

On the other hand, caring for a loved one can be just the opposite focus.  Instead of egocentric, your life can be altruistic.  This brings on a whole set of challenges, including feeling guilty for wanting more personal time.  No matter which focus your life takes, being grateful can enhance the quality of your life.

What are some steps to take to be grateful?  Keep a gratitude journal, make it a habit to notice acts of kindness, or have a weekly time to thank a person for their kindness from the past.  I found that being a vigilant searcher of gratitude helps me be a better student and a better person.

If you are pondering doing something you have always wanted to do and have put if off for whatever reason, always remember:  It’s never too late to bloom.

Written by Mary Duerden, Owner of Skin Unity
(317) 371-8888