The Girl Who Eats Alone

Joan Marie grew up poor. Tucked back behind Birmingham, Alabama, she was raised in a house without indoor plumbing. They had meat for dinner once a month. It was either one of the chickens in the front yard or a rabbit in the coops, from the back. Her dress was a hand-me-down from the neighbor girl who was a year older and her socks were made from last year’s dress. Her father was a sweet, quiet man who kept to himself after returning home from the war. Her mother had polio and dragged herself out of the wheelchair so she could pick weeds in the victory garden that kept potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. The other kids laughed, but that didn’t stop Joan Marie.

At the age of twelve, her parents sent her to a boarding school in Salinas, California but couldn’t afford the tuition. Joan Marie would wake up in the morning and work in the school kitchen cleaning dishes. She’d pick strawberries in the field owned by the school in the afternoon while the other children played. She ate her lunch in the bathroom because the other kids laughed, but that didn’t stop Joan Marie.

She graduated high school and started working as a receptionist but couldn’t afford rent, so she slept in an old Chevy Bel Air for the first nine months. She finally saved enough to move in with some roommates. She didn’t have the money to go out for drinks with the others, but that didn’t stop Joan Marie.

Nothing stopped Joan Marie. She had three goals:

1. Get an education

2. Be the best in her field

3. See the world

Well… she got her B.A. when she was 39 and her Masters degree at 43. Today, she is asked to give presentations around the country on topics of Health Administration and development. She has lived in 13 different countries, spanning four continents and goes on vacation twice a year. In total she has set foot in 37 countries, is a Marriott platinum elite member and only flies 1st class on every flight. And still, nothing stops Joan Marie.

I know because she is my mother and inspires me everyday to keep going. If you eat alone, don’t let anything stop you.


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