I was a nondescript student, average, without a favorite subject in school. In the early years I was good at math but then it became hard and didn't hold my interest. I loved, loved, loved to read. I read everything I could get my hands on. My dad would send me to the corner store to buy the newspaper. Then we both settled down with it, me on the floor, my dad in his favorite chair and we'd share the paper, section by section. The only part I didn't read was the classified section. Many times we would discuss what was in the news. My trips to the library were often and I would come home with as many books as the librarian would allow me to have. I tried my hand at writing poems but a fifth grade teacher made fun of my attempt and that stifled my enthusiasm quite abruptly.
I took a test in junior high to see where my strengths and interests were headed and the test came back....inconclusive. Several of my classmates, though, were strong in several areas. I wonder if any of them pursued whatever the test results showed.
High school was unremarkable and mundane for me. After high school I commuted to a state college about 30 miles away from where I lived. Wasn't crazy about commuting but since I needed to pay my own way through I didn't complain. But damn, I got a really good education there and became an elementary school teacher. I found that I absolutely loved teaching and enjoyed the classroom experience. I loved seeing kids' faces light up when they understood a lesson or did something well because they worked hard. I loved making them happy to be coming into my classroom because they always knew exciting things would happen there.
During my childhood I watched my parents struggling to make a living. My dad worked several jobs: he was a master antique dealer, he worked part time in a liquor store and part time as a butcher. My mom worked as an executive secretary for a non-profit, you know, the kind of place with no benefits and pay at almost the lowest level. But I saw her give her time and energy doing good works and random acts of kindness, almost on a daily basis. I watched my parents being good human beings, looking out for others, doing for others, going out of their way for others.
I worked several jobs to get me through college: salesperson, club leader, camp counselor. It never occurred to me that this was too much, along with my commuting to school, classes, studying & homework. I had seen my parents doing many jobs and this was what was normal in my household.
My mother wrote the most hilarious letters to me when my husband and I moved all the way across the country. We wrote back and forth constantly and, thank goodness, I kept all her letters. Her wit and wisdom still rings true to this day. Her writing was inspiring and I wrote what I thought were wonderful letters back. No email or internet then. Writing was our connection and something we both enjoyed immensely.
In between all of this my mother saw to it that I took piano lessons, ballet lessons, tap lessons, swim lessons and yes, finger-painting lessons. Creativity became part of my life.
So, with that kind of a background I appeared in semi-professional variety shows, I appeared in a play at college, I became an elementary teacher, I became a radio news broadcaster and reporter, I became a radio talk show host, hosting a show with new guests every day and a show for teens to call in and talk about anything, I became a law office manager and a legal assistant. And now I still read voraciously, I volunteer, I take photos, and I blog because that writing gene kicked in again.
What shapes any individual? Your entire background shapes what you can become or what you have become, whether because of it or in spite of it. You make yourself into what you are with the tools you've been given and if you're very lucky you use those tools to shape a life worth living.