Note: This is the very first blog article I wrote. A former student graciously allowed me to be a guest blogger on her blog to get it out there, but I figured I might as well start at the beginning. So I am posting it here as well.
HOW DID THIS END UP HAPPENING?
My parents were every fatalistic statistician’s dream. My mom got married exactly two months after her 16th birthday, and I was born exactly seven months and four days later (you do the math). It was 1968, and I guess there were only two choices: go somewhere and hide until you could give the baby up for adoption or get married. I’ve heard they were counseled both ways. I have never asked my mom if she was tempted to go the other way, but I don’t think she was. The point is I sometimes feel as if I grew up with my mother, and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that. I don’t want you to think this is a sad story. It’s not; it’s a story of triumph through Lord knows what happens in a life.
I can’t remember a single time when my life was carefree. I had fun. There was childhood and play. I wasn’t deprived or physically abused, but I was not carefree. I have memories from a very young age, but many of them are times of turmoil. My father is an emotionally manipulative addict whose drug of choice has changed every ten years or so. I lived with that…that was my normal. This created a very co-dependent relationship between my parents that went on for twenty-five years before my mother finally escaped (which is another story altogether). Carefree was not in my vocabulary. My dad’s vices caused many issues that required me, at the age of seven, to grow up pretty fast if our lives had not already predisposed me to a propensity towards responsibility. That is the word: responsibility. My sister became my responsibility; my dad became my responsibility. All of this was because my mom had to go to school and then to work for a good long time. Looking back it seems like my father projected every serious event in our lives onto me. I realize now it was in order to manipulate the rest of the family, but at the time I was just overwhelmed by the hugeness of his personality and how much I loved my daddy. It’s funny how children love their parents no matter what when they are little. I wish all parents knew that and took that RESPONSIBILITY to heart. My dad didn’t. My life was good in many ways, but always responsible. I made good grades, I helped take care of my siblings, I got a job, and I did all the things that were expected of me. I was also a rotten, self-centered teenager in the process just like any other normal kid.
We were dirt poor in Georgia in the 1970’s and 80’s. Vintage was not cool and second hand clothes were not without consequences, but I survived. For some reason, I was tough, and after a year of bullying I found books. Then it didn’t matter anymore what anyone thought. I was in Turkey or England or some other exotic place doing other things that were totally beyond my reach. I was smart, and I liked school so my way should have been set. However, I became a statistic myself. I married right out of high school and had my first child at 19, five months after I married (math again).
Still I kept on keeping on. That marriage only lasted three years, and the first thing I did after I filed for divorce was register for college. Well, actually, I bought a truck first…then I registered for college. It took me five years, but I finished, and then went back to get not one, but two, advanced degrees. School had always been my happy place anyway, so I was suited to school and learning. A favorite teacher once wrote a recommendation for me, and I took a peak at it. She wrote that if one knew my family background they would be amazed at how far I had come. I realized that all the years I thought no one noticed the life I had, there were people who not only noticed, but cared deeply. Although I never saw it as amazing; I just saw it as living. Yet as I age, I see many others who grew up much like I did, and never overcame those statistics. So twenty years into a career I started five years after all my peers, I stop and ask myself, “How did this end up happening?” The road wasn’t smooth; it was curvy and twisted and sometimes torn slam up, but I just kept going and going until I got here. It’s been a pretty good journey.
My life is not perfect and it’s certainly not carefree, but it is well lived and I can be proud of that.