• We should celebrate success of what we achieve after 40. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
"I entered law school at 50... Walked into a classroom full of youngsters. They got up thinking I was their lecturer!"
SBS staff writers

14 Sep 2020 - 11:11 AM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2020 - 11:26 AM

In our youth and beauty obsessed social-media comparison world it's easy to feel left behind or anxious about your achievements (or lack of them).

One person who hopes to counter that narrative is writer Doug Murano who tweeted: 

"I get tired of “under 40” lists. Show me someone who got their PhD at 60 after losing everything. Give me the 70-year-old debut novelist who writes from a lifetime of love and grief. Give me calloused hands and tender hearts," he wrote on Twitter.

Some of the responses to the tweet involved people sharing their own stories of going back to school, following their dreams and achieving big milestones, later in life, after suffering hardship or being consumed in family responsibilities. Privilege was also a big factor in many stories - with many women and people of colour locked out of access and opportunities that create the conditions for conventional early career success. 

Murano said he was inspired by the women in his family, a grandmother who attended university in her 80's and his mother who got her doctorate later in life. 

"I was raised to value grit over grace. That might be a South Dakota thing. The women in my life—particularly my mother and maternal grandmother—have set wonderful examples for me in terms of reinvention and perseverance," he said.

"I've always been interested in how the pain of life can make us more beautiful and interesting, so this tweet felt like the most natural thing in the world to me in terms of my life and work."

He said a culture of glorifying youthful success through under-40 lists needed to change: "Conventional standards of beauty are king in the media. Young people typically fit that mould more readily than the middle-aged or elderly and attract eyeballs more readily.

"Modern American life tells us we need to spend 40 years breaking ourselves in the pursuit of certain markers of success and then tells us we're irrelevant after we've done exactly that."

"It doesn't make any sense to me and it runs counter to what healthy cultures do, which is to revere and celebrate their elders."