Making Mistakes

Today was not a scheduled posting day since I am getting ready for hernia repair surgery in the morning. The thought of this surgery along with the idea of being put under general anesthesia is so not appealing that if I had a choice I would rather walk bare foot on hot coals. However I don’t have a choice and unless I wimp out at the last minute I will be getting my abdomen ripped open and repaired. So with that sort of thing on my mind you can see where writing a post would not be a top priority.

However I took part in a discussion today that while I had no energy to get into a verbal sparring match with this person, made me realize I needed to write to do some venting. Long story short the conversation was about young folks who make poor choices and end up dropping out of school but in Maine there is a push to get such folks enrolled in GED programs. Which might not be a bad thing…anyway the person I was conversing with made a very throw away comment that GED‘s are horrible and that kids who choose such a path are relegated to a shitty life.

Um….I don’t think my life is so horrible. For years I out-and-out lied about my early years because of the shame that generally comes from telling someone you are a high school dropout. Yet in the past few years I have started to realize that telling my story especially with youngsters on the edge is a good thing, its one of the reasons I do the work I do. See, not only did I not graduate from high school; I actually never got a GED. I know you are wondering, but didn’t you go to college and later graduate school? Yes, I did. I have no idea if a kid can even do this anymore but a year after dropping out of high school, I went to a community college and before enrolling I took what used to be called the ability to benefit test. It’s exactly what it sounds like, you get a passing score on this test and are deemed to have the ability to benefit from taking college courses and voila you are in school. I took classes at the community college and eventually transferred into a 4 year college and later went on to earn my bachelor’s degree. By the time I applied to graduate school, no on was asking whether or not I had graduated from high school.

I was not only a high school dropout but having a kid at 19 actually means I was a teenage Mom to boot. Statistically, it means I should have 5-6 kids, live in government subsidized housing and if I am lucky have a job as the night clerk at Wal-Mart. Obviously none of those things are applicable to my life.

Yet the point of this is not to say look at me, but to actually say that mistakes including the big ones do not define us. There is more than one pathway to success and hell, how are we even defining success? For most folks success might include a big house, nice car, important job, vacations and fancy toys. Yet none of these things are guaranteed to make you happy. I see plenty of folks who lack all those things yet seem pretty damn happy. I think of my family that just had their 5th kid, they don’t even have car and I saw the Dad walking home loaded down with groceries yet noticed he seemed content. I see his kids daily and to be honest they may lack most of what some of us consider essential but they appear well fed, clean and most importantly happy. This family by the standards of my buddy is a failure yet who are we to judge?

I think especially with young folks it’s so important to let them know that even if they make choices that may seem wrong and generally dropping out of school and having babies is not considered a good choice (let me tell you I get a laugh at the number of folks who look at me like how is it possible that I could have an 18yo kid..After all I am a college graduate in a “good” job. Dude, no one said you have to do life in some type of order) that life goes on and that as long as they are living the sky is still the limit. Yes, it is a lot harder when you lack a minimal amount of education and or skills to get a job that pays a living wage. Though, I found bad paying jobs to be a great incentive to make different choices.

Even if you are not a young person, maybe you are more established yet find yourself becoming a single Mama. It’s not the end of the world and you may find it’s the beginning of a brand new world. As long as you draw breath shit will happen, what you do after that shit happens is what matters most.

Readers, I will catch ya later, if you are the praying type I would appreciate your prayers and good thoughts during this surgery. I doubt I will be up for any blog postings anytime soon, but if you follow me on Twitter I may post a few tweets if I feel up to it. Have a great week!

Wanderlust

Well I think the title of this post says it all…I got a bug to get the fuck out of dodge and see some of this great big world we inhabit. I recently had a discussion with my Pops where he reminded me that despite being a good wife and mother that I need to remember that at the end of this life, its my life and that I should make sure I don’t live it for others. His words struck a chord and well for the first time in years I have allowed myself to dream, to dream of a life outside the confines of this country. A life spent traveling and living and enjoying.  A life not tied down to the minutia that sometimes threatens to strangle the life out of me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the life I have but there are days I ask myself is this it? Let’s see, I have an emotionally rewarding and socially important job that adds value to the world. I have an amazing spouse and two amazing children, one who is an adult and will be charting his own path. I have a house…you get the drift. I have all the things adults generally like to have. But I have to be honest of all the things I have ever dreamed of, a chance to travel and even live abroad has eluded me. Partly because at 18 I was a wife and soon to be mother, so I never had a chance to take to the road. I have spent my entire life since the age of 18 being responsible (mostly) but more importantly focusing on the needs of others. Even the things I did that do personally benefit me such as returning to school were about the fact that I wanted to be in a place that I could provide for my kids. So while I was personally fulfilled by that choice it was not always about me.

Now the Spousal Unit and I have often talked about retiring to Belize where we have heard Americans can live a relatively comfortable life but today it hit me…why wait until we retire? Why not take the show on the road now? Or at least as soon as we can make the plans. At first I said nah…but after spending some hours surfing around, I am starting to think it’s entirely possible. After all the Spousal Unit earns the bulk of the cash and is self-employed, he has spent 8 years in Maine working for clients who are nowhere near Maine. All he needs is high-speed internet access and a phone along with his laptop. While my job cannot be done from afar, I could go back to consulting and grant writing which could be done from afar. As you can imagine the wheels are turning…now we need to see what are great locations to set up shop for 3-6 months at a time? That’s the question we are asking ourselves…if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

We are also toying with the idea of even considering RV living for a bit if leaving the country for long-term living proves too tricky to navigate in the short-term, which we are defining as 1-2 years. Right now we are thinking we would still maintain our home here in Maine but I gotta say the idea of being going upwards of 6 months at a time is attractive as hell. I imagine some of you are thinking..she has gone mad! Nah, just trying to live and see the world.

So dear reader, I ask you have you ever just thought about throwing caution to the wind and heading off on a journey? If you have done anything similar to what I am proposing, I would love to hear from you, in the meantime have a fabulous weekend!

Do you see?

I recently took a trip to a place with a person to make a purchase, the person I was making this trip with is someone who is a successful Ivy League grad, a person of means and power and a person who generally I find pretty pleasant to be around. Except that on the day we went to big box hell to make a purchase I saw another side of this person, it was impatient and frankly rude. See, the clerk at the big box store was doing his job being friendly with the folks ahead of us and apparently telling them about some promotion that the Big Box Extravaganza had going on. Well the folks ahead of us in line seemed interested in this promotion which meant that the line was not moving as fast as it could have, resulting a long wait in line.

Now my shopping companion found the fact that this Big  Box clerk would have the audacity to hold up the line doing his job unreasonable, so my companion went to the service stand and told the managerial person that the line was being held up. So the manager comes over and tells Big Box Clerk he needs to wrap it up…in the end we made it out the store with our purchase and went about our business.

However that incident bugged the shit out of me because my shopping mate was in no rush, I knew his schedule and knew he had no pressing plans for that day. Yet he just could not stand to wait…now I will admit I am not a patient person, but I have worked my share of shit ass jobs as an adult with a kid to take care of and always feel a strong sense of compassion for anyone over a certain age working at certain jobs. Our clerk that particular day at Big Box Hell was no younger than 35 and I think I am being generous. He was old enough that such a job was probably not his first choice in life but you do what you have to do. Frankly as someone who spent time in sales many years ago, I thought he had a great spiel and lovely attitude and suspect the reason he was trying so hard was that an incentive of some sort was probably being offered to the clerks if he sold enough of these specials…and lets face it if you are working at Big Box Extravaganza you probably need all the extra bucks you can get, so who am I to get in the way?

Anyway I walked away that day with a reminder that too many times we don’t see people, we simply do not see people who we perceive as different from us. Do you have a favorite place you stop to pick up a coffee, donut, newspaper? You know, the place you go to most days. If so do you actually speak to the folks who work there? Do you feel they are your equals? Or are they the wallpaper to your life, the little people who keep things going, but basically just background noise. In other words if they were suddenly gone and replaced by another person would you care? Hell, would you even notice?

I am reminded that even with those seemingly little people in our lives we have the power to touch lives in what may appear to be small insignificant exchanges yet are so much deeper than that. You never know how much your daily act of kindness and compassion may mean to another person. I learned this lesson when my Mother died, a couple of days before the memorial service I had to take my Dad’s suit to the dry cleaners. I went in and the owner recognized me since my Mom had introduced us not long after she and my dad and had moved into their dream place.

So I go in and the fella says aren’t you M’s daughter? I say yes and he proceeds to ask how is your Mama, I have not seen her in a while. So I explain that she has passed away and I need to get my Dad’s suit cleaned and back ASAP. I was expecting a simple exchange after all this was the dry cleaners, how well could my Mom have known the dry cleaners? Well I should have known that my Mom as always made it a point to impact every one she encountered, she was blessed with extreme physical beauty but more than her physical beauty which turned heads up until her death, she had a generous and giving personality. In my Mom’s life everyone was treated well and she was not a respecter of positions, rank  or any of that bullshit. My mom would stop and talk with a homeless person as easily as she could talk with the CEO of a major corporation. So it would make sense that even a boring event like taking clothes to the cleaners would be an encounter where my Mom would leave an impact.

I was not ready for what happened, the owner of the dry cleaners after realizing that I was quite serious and that my Mom had indeed passed away, started to cry and then hugged me. This man who my Mom saw at best 15-20 mins a week was clearly very touched and it was clear to me even then in my grief that she touched so many lives because she saw everyone. That incident is one of many after my Mom’s passing that has stayed with me not just because it involved my Mom, but because it’s a reminder if the type of life I strive to lead..one where everyone is seen and valued.

There are too many times we talk about the little people and even in our quest to help them by ways of activism or what have you, we simply miss the mark. Instead while I am blessed to have professional work that indeed impacts lives, the greatest impact I feel is just being a kind and decent person. I doubt I will ever fill my Mom’s shoes since my natural nature is not all that friendly but I will say in the last 7 years ever since I had a conversation with my Mom about a year before her passing. I have actively worked to see all and be a nicer person.

So dear reader, do you see everyone? Or do you only see the people in your world?