I left off in the previous blog where all the pressure of my independent life as a self-sufficient college student with two jobs crashes down around me. I was great at keeping high grades and a full work load, but I had to sacrifice my mental health in the process. Graduation was looming over me; I knew I had to make some important decisions about the direction of my life, and I was so afraid of failing myself.
The week after I slept for 24 hours straight and woke up in a green haze, I signed up with a professional in the counseling office of California State University at Fullerton. I knew I needed help. Once a week for several months, I was able to map out my obsessive need to be independent and in control. Since I was eight years old, I knew I would have to direct my own life, including the means to be financially independent. How many eight year olds think like that? My psychologist (also one of my instructors in the psychology department) allowed me to find the triggers that kept me from forgiving myself enough to relax and enjoy my youth. I had given up the happy, free spirit I was in high school and became a worrisome ball of anxiety. I finally found a place where I could let down my guard and see that because of my hard work, I would never have to worry about my future. I also learned how being a child of divorce and abandonment can do a number on that child’s self-esteem. I learned that I couldn’t change my childhood, but I could use the good things in my life to give me a true perspective of how to love myself.
The good side of my fierce independence is that it allowed me to do inner work while keeping my life moving in a forward trajectory. I didn’t skip a beat in order to graduate in four years and begin the journey of who I always wanted to be. Without divulging all the gory details of my father’s absence in my life, let me say that a confident person is continually open to her vulnerabilities due to circumstances beyond her control. I knew I needed help and I asked for it. Confidence is not a state of being that is handed to us on a silver platter at any point in our lives. Confidence comes with hard work in all aspects of our being; that is, we must learn to work on our emotional selves as well as our physical selves. My parents gave me their genetic make-ups and loved me as only they knew how to at any point in my development. It is up to me to continually work with these tools so that I can be the best human being at any point in my life. I’m proud to say that I’ve done a pretty good job so far.
In my next blog, I want to share how my life experiences shaped the kind of teacher I was for 36 years.
The whole point of this blog is to pay homage to my mother for raising an independent daughter. I am totally stymied when people ask me, “Why are you so confident?” I have never thought of myself as such, but I think most people mean that I am not afraid to risk in the world. It helps that I am an extrovert by nature because I am not afraid to speak my mind (also I loved studying drama in high school and college, and acting in community theater); but speaking one’s mind is not necessarily confidence. When I am posed that question, I think back to all the times in my life where I was lonely and scared. I want my readers to know that an independent life sometimes feels like walking a tightrope without a net.
I left off my last blog entry by telling my readers that I paid for my own college by working several jobs and giving up a social life to study (because as you recall, my mother told me when I was eight years old, she could never pay for my education as a single mom). Somehow I knew that my dedication would pay off in my future. And believe me, it has. However, the road to get to this time in my life where I am enjoying my retirement was paved with many, many ups and downs. Confidence is a delicate mixture of balancing success with failure. If I were a boxer, I would be successful because I keep getting back in the ring to take my punches. I know the odds are that I will win some rounds just by playing the sport and staying in the game. I got knocked down hard in my life, but I stayed to win the ultimate match.
Yes, I worked hard in school. Yes, I worked many jobs. No, I didn’t rely on anyone else to achieve my goals. But, nothing worth having comes easy. The first time I experienced depression was surreal. I have been a very positive person with much energy my whole life; however, the hard knocks of life catch up to us all.
I was a senior in college thinking about my future when everything went black, like a short in my brain circuitry. I had a particularly grueling schedule with 16 credits and two jobs, but I was used to that pace. I just remember going to bed early one Sunday night, and then not waking up until 24 hours later. When I awoke, I looked out the window to see if it was day or night. When I saw my neighbor coming home from her job, I knew a whole day had gone by. Thank God, I didn’t miss school or work, but when I was up, everything was a strange hue of green. I didn’t feel attached to my own limbs and the world outside looked distant and alien. I was covered in a bubble of my own panic. I knew I needed help. I knew that I had been alone too much on my journey to graduate from college without help. The responsibility of this had overwhelmed me. In my next blog, I will begin the tale of how I slowly put myself back together to be even stronger.
Source: My Mary Tyler Moore Life
I originally started this blog to chronicle my hard road to becoming the confident woman I am now. It has occurred to me that I have been influenced by so many avenues in my life. I found all episodes of “The Dick Van Dyke” show on Netflix; and, with each viewing, I am transported back to a more innocent, hopeful time when JFK headed up the Camelot years. With the world in such unstable times now, I revel in the basic goodness of that show.
I adored Mary Tyler Moore. She was adorable, funny, talented, independent, and most of all, she reminded me so much of my mother. People used to tell my mother that she looked like Mary Tyler Moore because my mother was also adorable, funny, thin, dark-haired, and she rocked those tight black pants with black patent leather flats. I still tell people that my mother is a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and Jackie Kennedy.
I know that part of my strength as a woman came from what my mother signified to me as a child. Whenever she came to pick me up from school for a doctor’s appointment, she wowed the main office staff with her style and beauty. When she walked into my classroom, you could hear audible sighs from my classmates. My teachers thought she was my older sister at first glance. Unlike many mothers today, my mother wouldn’t be caught dead showing up at my school in a T-shirt, pajama bottoms and slippers. My mother was a working woman who never left the house without her pencil skirt, short jacket, nylons, high heels and coiffed hair. I beamed with pride when my mother presented herself in public. Even on the weekends, my mother wore slacks, a cute top and stylish shoes. As a divorced woman (not of her choice) who kept down a full-time job and the tireless task of mothering, my mother modeled that a woman could do it all…and still look fantastic.
In my next blog, I will delve deeper into how my mother’s creativity shaped who I am today.