Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where Have I Been All My Life?

If there is a lesson I learn over and over again it is that nothing is permanent. Nothing stays super awesome, nothing stays super bad, and nothing stays just OK, especially if we choose them not to be.

I’ve been wandering in a haze of OKness since finishing a nutrition certification program last year. I’d spent two years training for something I thought I wanted to do, only to find out it wasn’t what I wanted to do. While I’m still committed to my own nutritional health and wellness, my heart isn’t in counseling others about theirs. My first and true love are words, and while I will continue to share my thoughts and experiences about weight and food and exercise here once in a while, I am (finally!) breathing life back into the ZenBagLady blog. And...I’m writing a novel. The weight book and the grief book are on the back burner right now as I do something I told myself years ago I couldn’t do: write fiction.

I’m not sure why I thought I couldn’t write fiction, but then, it wouldn’t be the first time I thought I couldn’t do something.

When I was a senior in high school, I went to see a guidance counselor because I thought I wanted to go to college. Maybe be an English teacher or a veterinary technician. The guidance counselor looked through my records. I was a B-minus student who skipped school a lot, usually to smoke pot in the parking lot with my friends before going to Burger King for chicken sandwiches and onion rings. I was also a student who scored in the 97th percentile in the PSATs and worked at least 20 hours a week.

The guidance counselor sat back in his chair and looked at me over the top of his glasses.

“Ever think of getting married?” he asked.

He didn’t know that I was pretty good at discussing early 20th century literature and diagramming sentences, or that I was the one in my four-person biology group who did most of the fetal pig dissecting. He didn’t know because he didn’t ask the right question, and I was too dumbfounded and eager to please authority to know what the right question was. What a kick in the pants to hear: “You’d better get married because clearly you’re not good at anything.” The even bigger kicker was that I believed him.

I got married a year later. A year after that, I had a baby and my husband died. While the guidance counselor could not have foreseen this fate, I see now how his question set me – an uncertain and na├»ve young woman – on a circuitous career path.

By the time I actually went to college, I’d been a waitress, a secretary, and a beer cart girl at a 9-hole golf course. Nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but I knew I had to pursue words as a career. Working full-time for most of the 10 years it took to complete my degree, nothing has been more personally satisfying than graduating Magna Cum Laude. It forever put to rest the subtextual notion that, academically, I was not good at anything.

Hopefully I’ll still be good at something academically come January when I start graduate school. Like a former editor of mine once sang, “The old gray matter, it ain’t what it used to be.” But this program is designed to prepare graduates to teach lit and comp, something I didn’t think I could do 33 years ago. So, at age 50, I’m out to prove myself wrong once again.

What have you told yourself in the past that you can’t do, only to discover you can? How do you find your way out of OKness?

14 comments:

  1. Congrats on attending Graduate School. I am applying to PhD programs this Fall, in hopes of attending one of them next Fall. School was the one thing I always did well, but I got married and had kids and had to complete my BA degree in my 30s, and I completed my Masters last year. I am just a bit younger than you, so I know how you feel, but better to pursue your passion, than live in OKville. I have not been as happy as I have the past year, teaching Comm classes at a University, in quite some time. I look forward to hearing more about your journey out of OK.

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    1. I love stories like yours, Laveda! They give me hope that I'm really not "too old" for this. While I know there will be several 20-somethings in my classes, my experience should give me some advantage in my studies. I can't wait to start teaching. I hope I enjoy it as much as you do :)

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  2. I told myself I could never be a caregiver for someone who was ill, but by george, that's exactly what I've done through nine chemo treatments and 34 radiation treatments after my husband was diagnosed with cancer last fall. You learn that you can do things you thought impossible for someone you love. We've been through hell, but are on the other side of it now and pray we won't forget the things we learned through this experience. Good luck with grad school! Of course you can do it!

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    1. ((Sharon)) What an incredibly difficult experience for both of you. I've appreciated the grace with which you've handled it, although I'm sure there are times it doesn't feel very graceful. Thinking of you and keep you and your husband in my prayers.

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  3. Wow! Congratulations on all you are set on accomplishing! Unlike the "guidance" counselor, I have no doubt you will succeed.

    I have told myself for years that I could not 'get into' exercise. That I only really liked lifestyle activity like raking leaves or mopping, but hated the gym. I am amazed how much I love exercise... and the gym... now that I am on the thyroid medication I needed and the no-junk diet my body desired in order to DO the exercise!

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    1. That's wonderful, Lyn! So glad you are finding your way via what your body wants :) I miss the gym ($$ concerns), but I still work out at home and I can always tell when I've gone too long without. All my insecurities come home to roost.

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  4. (((good lord I admire you xoxoxo)))

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  5. I'm so excited for you, Lynn! Happy writing! :)

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    1. Thank you! I'm nervous as hell, but I'm having a great time!

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  6. Your story sure reminded me of my Grade 8 teacher. I had trouble with her underestimating me on a number of occasions. Then the final report came out that recommended I go to remedial High School even though my marks were in the top 25% of children in my grade. My mother was so mad. She went to talk to all my teachers and it was kind of funny. The teacher I performed the poorest for, my math teacher was the most certain I would go to University and do well.

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  7. Bravo, Lynn. I have been thinking about a complete career change for several years now. I have made some efforts, but have yet to find what I really want to do. Your words inspire me.

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  8. Way to go, and 3 cheers for the 50 and above achievers! Just remember that although the gray matter may not be what it used to be, it doesn't mean that it is incapable. Some types of thinking and learning will be more of a challenge, but some actually get better as we age. Enjoy the process.
    I've told myself in the past that I could not lose weight after proving that many times. However, at age 60 I've lost 60 pounds and I'm beginning to believe.

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  9. Who cares how long it takes you to find yourself as long as you DO? So many people settle for things they don't love... You are following your heart. You are listening to yourself and making changes to reflect what you truly want. What an inspiration you are. In life, in weight loss, in life. Keep on writing!

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