Well, the first thing you should know about me is, I really dislike introductions. I’d rather just jump right into something and move along, because I don’t much like to focus attention on myself. This is likely a by-product of growing up the way I did. Yes there was abuse, no I don’t much like talking about it, not because I have issues with dealing with any of it, but more because mentioning tends to elicit pity from others.
The second thing you should know about me is, I really dislike pity. Everybody on this planet has had problems and troubles in their lives; everybody. Some have had less problems and troubles, others have had much more, and worse, problems and troubles. It is part of being alive. For myself, yes I was abused; beat up a lot, emotionally abused, even sexually abused on one occasion, but what I went through was relatively mild.
It was mild compared to what others have gone through; including both of my parents who were also survivors of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Neither of my parents were abusers; this was another point where I got extremely lucky compared to many others. Where my luck ran short was that after they divorced each other (I was about 2 and a half), they both married abusers.
My mother’s second husband was extremely abusive to me, a sibling, and my mother. My mother sent me and my sibling to safety with our father and left the second husband after sending him to jail (I was 5, my sibling was 3). My father’s second wife got handed two kids that weren’t hers and she was all of 19, an ACE survivor herself, and her experiences were so bad that she likely had no concept that she herself was abusive.
My father and his second wife married twice and divorced twice, I was around 8 or 9 the first time, and 16 the second time. My mother went on to marry a third husband and when I came to live with her at the age of 16, he gave her an ultimatum, me or him and she chose me. Five divorces total, the last two at the age of 16. It is probably no surprise that by the time I was 17, I had decided I was never getting married or having children.
Because of the last two divorces I ended up attending three different high schools. I wish I could say I liked school and it was a refuge but I did not, in fact it was at times a nightmare. I was bullied by peers at the first high school and by the time I attended the second, I wanted about as much to do with peers as I did with my step-parents. By the time attended the third high school I was a rebel and hung out with “troubled kids”.
I eventually got tossed out of the third school for absenteeism. A few years later I went for the General Education Diploma and earned a High School Diploma due to my scores. In between I dated an abusive boyfriend until he started threatening violence; I ended it before he made good on the threat and the last I saw of him, I was escorting him out of my father’s house at sword-point, literally, for attempted rape.
I worked a series of low skill, low-wage jobs. I developed some friendships but only a few that were particularly healthy. It took me a while to learn how to stand up for myself and not be intimidated into near silence around other people. I was raised to a family dynamic where children were seen but not heard as a child, and as an adult, especially around authority figures, new people, and people I admired, that was how I behaved.
I was seen but not heard. It was not a conscious decision on my part, it was just how I was taught to behave and it stuck. Eventually I did start coming out of my shell as they say; took a job in a bar and began to learn how to stand up for myself, but I would still have a long way to go before I would find a voice and a backbone. Part of that process also including meeting a man and spending three years of my life with him.
I was young and cute once; for about the time it took to snap this photo; no really, ask anyone!
And that was probably the closest to success I have ever gotten in my life; he asked me to marry him, I changed my mind about never getting married and said yes. We both had jobs, we had a healthy relationship based on mutual trust and respect; it was in effect a pretty successful partnership as much as a relationship. And then in 1996, just over three years after we met, and a month before we were to get married, he got killed.
He got killed by a drunk driver while on his way to pick me up from work. The drunk driver that killed him was a patron of another bar not that it much mattered. I started having a real problem working in bars but it would take a couple more years to get out of that industry and move on to something else. During this time I got my G.E.D., a driver’s license, and started a message board forum.
A few years later My father passed away as a result of chronic health problems, and my mother developed physical and mental health problems of her own and moved back to the state where she was born. I tried out for the U.S. Army Reserves and that turned into a spectacular failure. I failed PT, specifically the push ups, and never made it to basic.
I came back home and networked my way into working security for a small security company. After the first three months it became clear the company was not stable so I switched to another company and picked up more experience as a security officer and site dispatcher. I became a LiveJournal blogger for fun. From there, I moved to a third security company where my first supervisor said to me, “you really should go to school“.
He thought I was worthy of promotion but unfortunately the company has strict policies. One has to be former or current law enforcement, former or current military (Reserves or National Guard), or one has to have a Criminal Justice degree. I had none of those things and later on, I would come across the term learning avoidant as something often ascribed to people like me, who did not particularly like school. I like learning tho.
I kept that supervisor’s words in mind, it wasn’t the first time I was told by a supervisor, that I should go to college. Some of my friends would try talking me into going to college and sometimes we would even get into disagreements about it. The biggest problem I had; lack of resources. I could not afford to pay my living expenses and pay for school on one income; I had no second income, and living with relatives was not an option then.
It was not long however before my new employer put me to work as a bank guard. Not bad for someone with no prior background in law enforcement and not enough of one in the military. I continued to work in the security field for the next several years, changing states, changing companies, changing states again, and in 2009, I found myself working in North Carolina for another small security company. It was a “bad fit”.
I spent a few months unemployed and wandered into an employment program at a local community college. I took an assessment called the Holland Code Assessment. This is an assessment that matches a person’s interests with various occupations. To my surprise, I was informed by an equally surprised career counselor that I would not likely be happy in any occupation below a graduate degree level. In Psychology or Writing.
So I did the next best thing for a woman with no solid resources, no useful job skills, and no demonstrable knowledge or abilities. Blogging wasn’t considered a job skill at the time. At this point, I was living with family members and friends. I had no spouse or even a significant other, and I was about as much of a “failure” as one can get and still be upright and among the living. I went and became a pizza delivery driver.
Did I mention I moved to a new town and didn’t know my way around? I introduced GPS navigation devices to this store and managed to be a fairly quick delivery driver despite not having much previous knowledge of the town. After a months however, I knew it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, I screwed up my courage and signed myself up for an online program at Colorado Technical University.
My grades in primary school had always been lousy; I could get an A or a B in something I liked, and I tended to like anything that was new to me. But most high school classes are repetitious, thus boring. I knew my old nemesis, mathematics was going to be on the menu of courses I would have to take. I had no idea if I could pull this off. I had a whole life history of failures behind me. Remember that Learning Avoidant label?
And now I was about to put myself in a whole lot of debt in an attempt to earn an Associate of Science degree in, of all things, Business Administration. I did not know if I would succeed or flunk out. I loved to read, and I loved to write, but those were fun hobbies, and writing had helped me find a voice and conquer shyness. But this was a virtual program, no physical people to keep me motivated and on task with assignments.
To say I was full of self-doubts and lacking in confidence was putting it mildly. But I was also curious to see how I would do. I had never considered myself all that smart and most of the time, I still don’t. But I was determined to try; to do my personal best, and if I failed, well, I failed. It wouldn’t be the first time. After all, I had whole life history of failures behind me. If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s fail.
And so I set to work and my first assignments came back A’s. My first classes, I got A’s. I thought ‘well, these are just the easy confidence builders anyway. Let’s see how long I can keep up this A streak‘. I literally panicked my way through Business Mathematics and Business Algebra thanks to the math anxiety; but I learned a whole new appreciation of mathematics and I passed both classes with A’s.
I earned my Associate of Science in Business Administration with highest honors in 2011. I signed up for a Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Organizational Behavior and graduated summa cum laude in 2015. I signed up for a Master of Science in Homeland Security: Cybersecurity Policy and graduated in 2017. I never did break my A streak; I maintained a 4.0 G.P.A. through all three degrees.
My “professional” mug shot for LinkedIn.
What do you know, I succeeded at something! Nobody is more surprised than me. But I am still working as a security guard. The problem with going a non-traditional route in higher education is you lack internship opportunities. I assumed that I could get a job earning at least a living wage between job experience and my education because skills are transferable. Hiring managers disagree. And while I have an impressive education…
It’s not doing me a whole heck of a lot of good as a security guard. Still, I am proud of my accomplishments modest as they are. I am not afraid of failure; we are long acquainted and very old friends. I still have my problems; it isn’t easy making ends meet and I have bills I can’t even begin to pay because my job pays very little. So I have bad credit too. At least it is a job. It beats having nothing at all and living out-of-doors in a tent.
I started this blog for two reasons.
- To showcase a skill I possess, one that is allegedly in high demand, but due to the nature of my current job and industry, is not a “demonstrated skill”. School portfolios don’t apparently count.
- I spent 7 years working my tail off on my degrees and signed my life away to a ghastly amount of student loan debt. I want to get some use out of my degrees rather than have them written off as a waste of time and money.
So there you have it; that’s my story. And it’s not over; not by a long shot.
I still have things to work on; I don’t believe in perfection or trying to be perfect. Chasing perfection is delusional and a waste of time that is better spent appreciating things as they really are. I found my voice. I got over being shy and being nervous around new people. I still have to work on overcoming anxiety around people who can determine whether I get to level up in life, continue to live indoors, and eat.
To be honest I am pretty sure that particular anxiety is amply justified and I am by no means the only person who suffers from it. There are so many career sites and career coaches out there giving advice on every aspect of a career search that it is ridiculous. It is a job industry in and of itself. A career search is a 9 to 5 job in and of itself; and worst of all is how it wears down just about anyone who is actively trying to find a job.
No matter how qualified people are; no matter how confident people are; we are all being told the same thing. We are told to be honest, to be authentic, to be our true selves. But we have to shove our personal lives into boxes and closets; delete our non-professional online presence for fear of what a potential employer might think, hide our friends and family members in case they are toxic, unsuccessful, or unlucky.
We have to erase every shred of evidence that we have ever had no much as one toxic, unsuccessful, or unlucky moment, sanitize ourselves and everyone we know, and become consummate actors of a high enough caliber that we are suitable for Broadway. We have to be worthy of an Emmy or an Oscar. We have to be polished enough to look like we belong on the cover of Time Magazine or on an Italian fashion runway.
Because anything less and you won’t even get an interview for that $12 an hour call center job. You will just keep getting offers for security jobs offering you .50 less than what you are already making working in a similar security job. And this is a real problem when you live alone in a city that the Economic Policy Institute says you need to earn over $2,500 a month to pay all of your bills.
At this stage in my life I really don’t know if I will ever be judged good enough in the eyes of a hiring manager for a job that earns even a modest income and smattering of success. I really don’t know that I wouldn’t be. I do know that I look around at places like LinkedIn, and Glassdoor, and Indeed, and the many other places that tell people who they should be in order to get where they have been told they should aspire to…
And I begin to see why people are self destructive. Epidemic heroin use, epidemic levels of teen suicide, murders, mass shootings, civil unrest, and truth decay. Wide Scale public arguments about fiscal responsibility, the healthcare system, gun rights and gun control, religion, and the targeting of minority groups for discrimination in various levels of society. It’s like some of us are being made to feel like failures and don’t deserve help.
It’s like suddenly the unsuccessful have committed a major social faux pas and failure itself is only acceptable so long as there is eventually a success to be gained. Success is only possible if you learn to cope with and thrive in a climate of failure; I do believe there is some truth to that. If nothing else, I don’t believe that not necessarily succeeding to the standards that are promoted at us from all directions makes us a failure.
I was having some unprofessional fun that day. Uh, sorry about the bra strap.
I think we are, and we become what we choose to be. It is not really up to someone else, unless we give them power over us. Sure, we do have to deal with people placed in positions of power over us, but that does not mean they really have power over us. We still have to agree to that part. And that’s why the story isn’t over; nothing is over until we are dust. I am far from being dust just yet.