The research, reports New York Magazine, shows that the star of the high school Alpha Girls usually dims in adulthood.
Essentially, the Alpha Girls were those who derived high status from their popularity. Unlike in grade school, this group of populars was not necessarily well-liked.
But they had the innate traits or acquired what was necessary to make others want to belong to their crowd. Part of that know-how was participating in minor acts of rebellion. Those range from skipping class to petty theft. How cool that seemed back then.
Post high school, however, they weren't the ones who landed the plum jobs in BigLaw or, WOW, made partner. Also, the research shows that they tended to be unlucky in romantic relationships and developed substance abuse problems.
My hunch has always been that they peaked too early. High school was the top for them.
Those of us in business understand how dangerous early success can be. Usually, it's followed by failure. The challenge is for those who fall from grace, such as Steve Jobs, to put together a second, third and fourth act.
That's difficult for most of us.
But a comeback could be impossible for those who never had to develop complex strategies and new skills to get what they needed or wanted.
Consider Stephen Glass. After his early success as a journalist, he was banished from The New Republic. It was discovered that he was making up articles. For some bizarre reason he decided to create a comeback through getting a law degree. So far, no state bar will accept him.
We who peaked later, usually much later, had to invest our energy in figuring out how to get even our rudimentary needs met. That experience served us well in navigating the ups and downs of life after high school.
Maybe it was because I wasn't an Alpha Girl that I could pull off two comeback since my industry collapsed at the turn of the century. Back in the mid 1970s, I had to engineer another kind of comeback when the market for humanities college professors crashed. Non-academic employers derided my academic background. But eventually I did land on my feet as a ghostwriter/speechwriter at Chevron.
The Alpha Girl of my day became pregnant during senior year in a Catholic all-girls high school. Horrors. Somehow, though, she was allowed to graduate. But she was unable to use that one milestone as a platform for building a life post-spotlight.
The man who was forced to marry her didn't seem to treat her well. But, perhaps unfortunately for her, they stayed together and had two more children. No surprise, she died in her early 50s.
Reflection: That particular Alpha Girl could have made it her business to pick up a college degree and start a small business. But she didn't. Her memory haunts me. I was among the non-alphas who served her. Despite being used and abused by her, I remain feeling guilty about not being able to help her help her ordinary self post-high school.
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