This is Part I of an anticipated 5-part series about some things I’ve learned from life: beginning with where I started, to how I grew and where I am, and finally where I hope to be. The anticipated five parts are:
- My First Eighteen Years
- The Marriage That Gave Me Two Sons
- College and My Second Marriage
- My Current Marriage and My Successes
- Things I Hope For In a Future
I’ve mentioned that I come from a very small village in Northwest Wisconsin. It was, and still is, a place completely secluded – cut off – from other small towns and small cities, deep within miles and miles of farmland and woods. Secluded from normalcy, for the most part.
I grew up as one of the poorest families in that small village. I started Kindergarten already knowing how to read big words and also spelling them out loud. My Aunt Dianne and Uncle Monty used to give me words to spell as they milked their cows and I played nearby in the barn, “helping” them with small chores whenever I visited. I seemed to always impress them with this trick of being able to read and spell.
Entering Kindergarten, I still had this feeling of being less worthy than the other kids. I liked boys, even at that age. School picture day came around early in the year and I was all dressed up and my mom had curled my hair using bobby pins the night before, and we laughed when I said I looked like orphan Annie. I was thrilled when of the boys I already had a little crush on put me on his “like” list. He even showed me his list. The next day, however, I was erased from his “like” list, and another girl’s name was there. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
As I grew up, I was bullied a little bit in school – name-calling, harassment, and exclusion were the mainstays for me. Inside, it hurt my feelings. But I learned to accept things readily enough, and learned not to show my hurt feelings too much.
Some people in my life – who were supposed to be my protectors – failed me, too. Bullying by my own father was on the easier part of the spectrum. I learned to accept violence and, in retaliation, I would smite him by showing him I would no longer cry because of him.
I learned to accept personal violation, too, by him and by many other men who where supposed to be my role models or surrogate protectors. There were very few men that respected me enough to not touch me or ask for “favors” in that way. I wouldn’t recognize this for decades.
Throughout my high school years, I still remained the underdog. Our village was small enough to contain Kindergarten through twelfth grade in one humbly-sized building, and my 15 to 18 classmates barely changed all through those years. I accepted my lot in life; felt I deserved my status because that’s where I came from, and I became promiscuous. Trying to make it onto other kids’ “like” lists by shaming myself in so many different ways.
I worked the duration of my high school years through the school’s welfare program. During the school year, I worked as a dishwasher in the cafeteria, typed up sports rosters, and washed gym towels. For two of the summers, I worked at the school – steam-cleaning, painting, and doing other odd jobs for upkeep. Another summer, I worked with my allotted best friend at a daycare center. Her and her mom would pick me up at 5 o’clock, or thereabouts, in the morning. We worked 6 hours a day, 4 days a week – the maximum number of hours we were allowed to work under the program. I wasn’t really overweight, but I did lose some pounds that summer, and should have felt good about myself for that. Because of my non-existent self-esteem, I always saw myself as fat.
I always – Always – wanted to be a part of what the other kids got to be a part of. Fashionable hair cuts, seasonable clothes, cheerleading, popularity, hanging out and being cool. My senior year, after I daringly left home – a further smite to my father – and moved in with various aunts and uncles for the remainder of the school year, I, somehow, got invited to hang out with two of the popular girls. I had already smoked pot a few times – with a friend from another school district who had grandparents in my village – but I’m not sure how they, the two popular girls, knew. But I found out they were secret pot-smokers on our first “outing”. We had the occasional fun times in the last few months of high school, and I was even asked to buy alcohol for a bigger group of the popular kids who were in sports – and would be kicked out if found out. Of course I scored beer on my own, because it gained me some time on their “like” list. I even took the rap when the school principal and administrator found out about that particular event and I didn’t rat anyone out.
Another one for the “like” list. Cha-ching.