When I was a child and worried or complained about something—or even when I achieved something at school—my father was in the habit of remarking, “Yeah, just don’t feel too special. Look around you.” It was his way of reminding me that there is little about the human experience unique to me or unconnected to other people. In looking around me, I saw that individual successes (or failures) often hinged on the kinds of opportunities and care others offered. This book, too, is the result of the guidance, efforts, and kindnesses extended to me by many people.
I am deeply grateful to the men and women who participated in this study. They accepted me as a participant in their groups and shared their lives with me. During lengthy interview sessions, they patiently and honestly answered difficult questions. Their experiences, reflections, and courage taught and inspired me. Without their openness and support, I simply could not have written this book.
Many friends and colleagues supported my efforts and helped me think through this material by taking time out of very busy schedules to read and comment on chapters or the whole book, to talk with me about my analysis as it developed, or to give me a pep talk when I got discouraged. These people include Ken Aizawa, Kim VanhoosierCarey, Karin Breuer, Kent Sandstrom, Sherryl Kleinman, Kristi Long, Ilene Kalish, Jodi Campbell, Scott Thumma, Christy M. Ponticelli,