Writing your story seems silly, and perhaps even morbid if you’re so inclined to think that way, but it’s actually refreshing and enlightening, so give it a try.
Here is mine:
I grew up in a small town after being offered drugs and being almost abducted at the age of 5 in the big city. I remember waving to the city through the rear window of the car and watching the scenery change the more states we put between us and my old school. And even though the scenery changed, a playground was still a playground, and even if the playground always stunk, which it did, they made up for it by letting us make buttons. I remember the buttons.
Having left the southern metro for the country scenery of the midwest, I learned about ticks and hopped around with seemingly-hundreds of tarantulas without fear. I was happy-go-lucky with all of it until I played with the most terrifying caterpillar! It had fuzzy hairs that felt like needles that I couldn’t wash off. …And I also learned not to kiss lizards.
I had a great mixture of really great old teachers, really terrible old teachers, and new, young teachers. My least favorite was my first grade teacher. Mrs. Wolf was old and threw stuff, and locked kids in her closet. She locked Shannon Wakeland in there for a whole day. I’m not sure if I was always quiet, but I imagine she would have beat the noise out of any child.
The transition from the large school to the little “clicky” school with a mean teacher and a stinky playground was tough. Especially when teachers started telling me I had speech issues. Presumably because I couldn’t hear in early childhood, they kept separating me and putting me in speech classes when all I wanted to do was blend in. The transition was hard for a first grader, especially when a “new” kid that looked just like an “old” kid didn’t respond to their “old” name when I interrupted a recess football game to run up to them in the playground!
But after surviving a terrible old teacher, I got a young teacher, followed by one of my favorite old teachers. The young teacher, Miss Miller, introduced the class to the Eiffel Tower. You wouldn’t think it would lock in to place so firmly, but in 2nd grade I decided I was going to live in France. So I did.
We weren’t wealthy, but I never noticed money. We didn’t do trips like the people in town on Medicaid, but we made due. I remember pickles being a delicacy-of-sorts, and my sister and I would delight in eating the entire container. My sense of lack began early on, but I never felt like we lacked. I just learned that you made due, and was told frequently that I needed to get a good education to get a good job so I could do more. So I did.
I’ve never been incredibly athletic. I looked silly playing basketball as I never fully understood the game, and cheerleading wasn’t my calling either, since again, I never fully understood the game, but I excelled at volleyball. And even though I enjoyed volleyball, after suffering through the early morning practices all summer and making the high school volleyball team, I quit immediately after seeing the short spandex shorts they expected us to wear. It may have been the only moment I experienced common sense, but suddenly I realized why my church friends wouldn’t play volleyball.
My sister and I attended church alone. Dad would drop us off, but wouldn’t go in. He knew many of the discretions of the holy-rollers and called them hypocrites. I kept going to my hometown church well through high school, but also joined my school friends at their church Wednesday afternoons. They were an interesting group. They would put rubber bands on their wrists and flick them every time they had an impure thought. Their wrists were always red.
Since the small town we lived in only offered k-8, we were bussed in to a large high school and fed to the lions. The cliques had already been formed, and they didn’t believe that any of us had running water. And we weren’t the only imports. There were other small school districts that were bussed in and also fed to the lions. Some of them may not have had running water. I made a decision that year that if I ever had kids, they were going to start and finish school in the same place. So I did.
After quitting volleyball, I took up debate. Not because I loved debate, but because I liked it better than carrying a 5-pound bag of sugar around town pretending it was my baby. The option was home-ec or debate. I know they did other valuable things in home-ec, like sewing, which would have been beneficial, but toting the sugar-baby alone and then toting the actually-crying fake baby around with a class-husband was too much. Debating won out. And I excelled at it. In fact, I won most of my debates, except when the opponent’s case for the death penalty, for instance, was pac man being better than pokeman. Those debates I lost.
Honestly, I Don’t. Even. Know.
Debate has been a valuable commodity in motherhood, in relationships, in business, and in life in general. Even though I still can’t sew, I know I made the right choice.
Between my sophomore and junior year, I proposed an idea to my parents. And having been well groomed to know ALL of the facts before approaching my dad for any decision, I was completely equipped. And in order to be fully equipped, I had already submitted the application “book”, had it approved, been interviewed out of state, and had received confirmation that I had been accepted to study abroad. I may have gone even further, but the next step required a type-writer, which I didn’t have. Then there was the matter of money.
My trip abroad was magical. So much so that I hung up on my mom after 10 months abroad as my date of return was encroaching on my bliss. She told me she was excited I was coming home. I couldn’t even think; and then click. It was a juvenile travesty, but I was emotionally distraught. Going back “home” seemed backwards as I was “home”.
A million years later, I now compare being an exchange student to jumping out of a plane. It’s an adventure until you near the landing. The falling is never the issue; the impact with Earth is where it all goes wrong. That pretty well described my return. Wrong.
I learned many things from the experience of getting on my first plane by myself to go to a different country where I didn’t know anyone, or speak the language, and plan on living there with families that wanted to adopt me for a few months at a time. The one that fascinates me the most though is that I learned to invest in experiences. When most people invest in tangible items, I invested in experiences. And I still do.
I also apply the analogy of jumping out of a plane with starting a business. It often feels like you’ve jumped out of a plane. As you near the Earth, there’s turmoil and fear and frustration, and then an updraft or a perfectly situated valley protects you from impact. It’s a moment-by-moment trajectory as volatile as bit coin.
After returning from my French lycee and re-entering my life in the American high school, I dropped the perfectionism and stopped alphabetizing my shoes by color. I had discovered the satisfying art of living and even though I wasn’t on the same adventure, I decided to experience everything fully. So I did, for a solid year.
Skipping past the shenanigans of my last year of high school, which I blame on year-long jetlag, I embarked on college. As much fun as I had had when my professor of chemie in France had erroneously blew up chalk during a lab and caused the entire 3-story building to evacuate, I of course chose science as my major. This was further justified when an older gentleman trying to provide good advice told me that girls can not do science. And when given the decision between chemistry and biology, it was easy. When comparing the genteel old man that reminded me of beleu off of the Jungle Book representing chemistry and the starchy judge representing biology, chemistry won out.
Having now experienced the other sciences, I think I may have chosen physics had there been a table set up for it, but as it were, there were only those two.
Chemistry was exciting. That is until organic chemistry. Literally, the first day started with “forget everything you’ve ever learned about chemistry”. It was coincidentally after “bombing” an Organic Chemistry II test that I met my now husband. Set up by my dorm room-mate, who to this day is irritated at having set us up, we met in front of the library and went to lunch. And it was so enjoyable, we also went to dinner.
Of course it wouldn’t be much of a story if I didn’t break his heart, move away, and then come back to him thanks to a dream. Thankfully, here we are.
And “bombing” a test is relative. Receiving a “B” never physically hurt anyone, but receiving a “B” from beleu off of the Jungle Book who I so greatly admired was horrible. Wisdom just flowed off of him. He was one of those noble few that you could spend 15 minutes with and understand the cosmos. He was the wisest of professors, and incredibly kind and thoughtful as a human being! It was a blessing to have had completed much of my undergrad research with him as my advisor.
So quitting college to be a stay-at-home mom shocked us both equally.
Even though I had never fathomed staying home, I quit school and embraced the opportunity to experience every laugh, illness, and milestone. Since my research had perpetually reversed my trajectory towards graduation and I was no closer to graduating at year 4 as I was at year 3, it was not a great loss. Especially since I wanted to return to finish my degrees when the kids were in school. So I did.
Even though staying at home was mind-numbing, going back to school to study the beyond-the-basics science-curriculum after staying at home for 7 years was mind-blowing. While we had lived in a time warp with diapers, baby food, car seats, tooth aches, and the most fabulous photo ops and motherly experiences, technology had rocketed past us and I was completely out of the loop. Having moved from being a good student to being outdone by much younger, more energetic, tech experts was a pill, so I studied all night so that I could do it all: be a mom, wife, and student, and learn technology, biochemistry, and calculus, and then memorize the most ridiculous weekly spelling words (like kindergarteners, only in latin).
For whatever benefit I thought I was going back to school, getting a full time job had not been one of them. In my mind, I was going back because I said I was going back. Simple enough. But logically, people go to school to get jobs. So when I was offered a part-time job, I took it, and when I graduated and they offered me full time, I took it, and when I scored a new job and they offered me a promotion at my old job, I took it. So here I am.
The thing about work is not that you can not enjoy work. The thing about work is that curiosity is not recommended. At some point, whether it’s from the “this is just how it is” response from a senior or the unrealistic expectation to know everything (or to at least seem like you know everything), the desire to be curious is thwarted.
And that was my reality. My curiosity was thwarted. And each day, my brain seemed to get smaller and my joie de vie began diminishing. — Until I discovered that hobby-less me actually had a hobby. I love, like adamantly LOVE, science and research and the biochemical reactions of health. So, even though I had experience synthesizing and purifying reagents for pharmaceutical use, I began researching the effect of non-pharmaceutical factors in some of the biochemical pathways that interested me the most. I decided that I wanted to do something with this new found curiosity and enjoy the vitality and sunshine it was bringing back into my life. So I did. This is part of it.
Now, even though I think of pursuing other titles every 2 or 3 years, I am not a doctor, or a nurse, psychologist, therapist, accountant, or geneticist. (I am however an engineer and scientist that works with space and rocket applications, and that’s pretty cool, too!)
In fact, I’m just me. A girl that enjoys smiling, reminding myself and others to think and dream abundantly, to enjoy the buttons, not to kiss lizards or play with fuzzy caterpillars, to be resilient and persistent so that you can end each chapter of your life with “So I did”, to remember that “bombings” in life are relative, to enjoy jumping out of the plane, to spend money on experiences over tangible stuff, to stay away from wellness fads because wellness is actually very simple, and to enjoy your story, because you’re the author.
May your story be amazing in 2020!