(Go on and take the bait, Mare!)
WHO ELSE MIGHT I HAVE BEEN?
I'm tempted to go totally "Walter Mitty" here, skydiving like the Red Baron and pirouetting like Ballanchine through alter-ego lives full of derring-do and romance, but the truth is, I'm mostly smitten with the me that is...
Who I am is mostly a result of the choices I've made in my life, and less so the result of external forces, at least, that's the way I see it.
My parents assumed I would graduate from public high school and GET A J*O*B. But I've never been one to jump into anything without a little research, and I didn't expect anyone would hire an 18 year old high school graduate to play sandlot baseball, write melodramatic poetry to the light of the moon or crack jokes, and those were the main skill sets I had acquired at 18.
So college beckoned despite my father's insistence that he wouldn't pony up the tuition so I should just GET A J*O*B!!!
I knew how to craft a sentence or two back then, so I wrote an essay, masquerading as a senatorial scholarship application, outlining my suitability for higher education and my total lack of financial resources. A brash young state senator from Maryland, who is now the House Democratic Whip in the US House of Representatives, liked what he read and decided to take a $250 a semester chance on me to attend Frostburg State College.
So that choice, to go to college, detoured me from what might have been a more traditional (back then) path of high school, job, marriage, kids, divorce.
When a teaching job didn't materialize upon graduation from college, I GOT A J*O*B working for an international freight forwarding company in DC for the summer, thanks to a high school friend who was working there full time. On a lark, having shipped tons of household goods all across the planet, I applied for a Peace Corps teaching job in Western Samoa, never for a minute thinking they would seriously consider me.
Must have been another craftily worded essay, because a month or so later, a large manila envelope arrived from the Department of State/Peace Corps, inviting me to an orientation in Chicago that November, where they would interview me and psychoanalyze me and grill me and test me within an inch of my 23 year old life, to see if I was suitable Peace Corps material.
So off I went, for two years in James Michener's South Pacific, looking for remnants of Margaret Meade and finding instead a descendant of Bloody Mary... it wasn't Bali Hi by any means, but neither was it Capitol Heights, Maryland, the small town from which I hailed.
I had never seen poverty and wealth juxtaposed so closely as I did during my two years in the Peace Corps. Funny thing was, the Samoans didn't consider themselves poor or impoverished, and were in fact some of the most generous and genuinely hospitable folks I've come across, before or since. I learned more about myself than I taught over the course of those two years:
- Sexuality is a fluid and often confusing endeavor.
- Teaching kids is fun - hassling with school administrators is hell.
- Abundance and scarcity are in the eyes of the beholder.
- Grading papers for the rest of my life was not for me.
A lucky internship with the Department of the Army resulted in the government paying for my Master's degree in Communications, and I parlayed that degree and those wonderfully useful skills and abilities into a lifetime of writing for various government transportation agencies. In the bargain, my employers sent me hither and yon around the globe, interviewing soldiers, photographing cargo ships being loaded with ammunition for mock military battles in Europe, and generally chronicaling the lives of ordinary folks doing often extraordinary feats.
Now that I am retired, once again I have the opportunity and the means, within reason, to be someone other than who I am... but the fact is, whether I'm a cat burglar or a science fiction writer, I'd still be who and what I am:
56. Female. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Niece. Friend. Blessed.