When I was ten years old, I discovered that the books I loved were written by real people. I was told that people made a living writing books and telling stories. So, when Career Day came around, I did my report on writing. I got all dolled up in my prettiest dress and my shiniest shoes, only to be told that writers had a tendency to “go to work” in their pajamas.
When I was twelve years old, I announced that I wanted to be a full-time writer, a full-time marine biologist, and a full-time mother. I was encouraged to pursue the science bit as the full-time passion, and to leave writing as a hobby. I ignored such people for being pessimists. By the time I was fifteen, I realized my dream was unrealistic and not just for lack of time. Scientists needed to be able to measure things and come up with the same number every time they measured the same thing. This was something of a problem since I couldn’t even write a straight line with a ruler, let alone measure with it. Sure, I could get close, but close wasn’t good enough for science. And when it came to measuring liquids in beakers, I couldn’t even get close because the liquids would inevitably wobble when I picked up the beaker to measure them and I’d always measure the wrong wobble.
When I was fifteen years old, I was told that I should shoot for something practical, like secretarial work. It pays decent and “there’ll always be work for a good secretary.” For my first minimum wage job (I delivered papers before that) I was called a receptionist, which meant I had to have a good, steady phone voice for speaking to customers needing service calls. I also did some filing, some sales, and some other things. I worked with great people and it was a good job, but it was not very challenging or mentally engaging. A girl could go mad doing that kind of thing for the rest of her life.
When I was seventeen years old, I was told that I should write screenplays because my stories were so vivid. I would meticulously create scenes using very detailed language and people would tell me that they could see it in their mind. I assumed this was metaphoric. It was years later that I learned that most people really do see images in their mind and that some people actually think so much better in images than they do in words that words are actually difficult for them to use; then, I realized that I’m the reverse of this. I can create scenes using words, but I do not recreate them from visual images that are in my mind’s eye. Upon realizing this, I finally figured out why writing screenplays never worked for me.
When I was twenty seven years old, I was told that I shouldn’t bother going “back” to college because I would never graduate and I’d still have to pay back whatever student loans I used. I had three children with special needs. I’d been out of school since I graduated high school (never mind that I’d taken college classes exclusively for the last two years of my high school education, thus it would be going “back” to college). I was, in the eyes of others, poor white trash and “there’s nothing you can do about that.” My fate was supposedly sealed when I married young and started having babies—I would never accomplish anything else.
When I was thirty years old, despite the fact that I had just graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.99 GPA (the only reason it wasn’t a 4.0 was because my psychology teacher didn’t like me), I was told that I most certainly should NOT go to graduate school. Once again, I ignored the naysayers and applied. I was accepted into the most eclectic graduate writing program I could find and started that summer with a course in women’s writing. That teacher liked me!
I have since graduated with a 4.0 from that graduate program and I’ve started a second graduate program. All this time, I’ve never gotten any good at living by the limits other people set for me. I’ve faced what others have called extraordinary odds and I’ve come out on the other side of my adversities more successful than I went in. To me, this is just about me living my life. To others, this is said to be some kind of remarkable achievement.
As the mother of three children with autism, I’ve told my story. I’m in the process of preparing that story for print. It has been suggested that, perhaps, it’s time to tell my other story. Hm? The successful business woman against all odds story! What? You know, your story—not you as a mother—but your story! What are you talking about?
So, let me ask you, fair readers, is my life really that interesting?