This month, I will be (sporadically) participating in Blogtember with Jenni. The first prompt (technically for tomorrow, but Tuesdays are reserved here) is to describe the things that have made me who I am.
If you want to be literal about it, I was born in Mississippi to an Army family. But if you mean character/personality-wise rather than geographic, that’s another story. Obviously my family was (and is) a huge factor. My mom is pretty much the greatest woman and mother ever, and while I didn’t realize while growing up how much she did for me, I certainly am grateful for it now. But in thinking of the factors that have made me who I am, my mind tends to gravitate towards pivotal points in my life. Times where I consciously thought, in the moment, “My life is not going to be the same after this. I am not going to be the same after this.” Not all of these moments were happy. But sometimes the best realizations or lessons are on the far side of loss.
- The death of my father when I was 16. This was the harshest of reality calls. His suicide took us completely by surprise. I had, up until this point, been more of a daddy’s girl and often been at odds with my mother. He was the one that got me interested in science fiction, and bought me my first computer art programs, and took me out to drive for the first time. I think he was a good father. But the things I’ve learned in the years since his death about how he conducted his life (and his marriage) make me really question if I knew him at all. I cannot believe how oblivious I was. Honestly, before this happened, I think I lived in a bubble of self-absorption and naivete. If any good came out of this horrible time, it’s the fact that it burst that bubble and brought me so much closer to my mom and sisters.
- Earning a full-ride scholarship to my first choice college. Due to the above, my mom was left as a single parent raising 4 daughters on a city employee income. My college choice was pretty much going to be whichever place gave me the most money, and there would likely still be loans on top of that. And the place I really wanted to go was a private liberal arts college… yeah, expensive. I was no slouch student by any means, but this college only gives out 1 full ride per incoming class. I was nominated, filled out all the paperwork, wrote the essay… and waited. Final answer deadlines were approaching and I hadn’t heard. I quite literally mailed the letter of decline in the morning, but then got the call that I had won the full scholarship that afternoon (my admissions counselor was kind enough to negate the decline since the only reason I did so was financial). I know a lot of people say that high school was the best time of their life, but for me it was college. I can’t even imagine what I would be like or where I’d be if I hadn’t gone to Marietta.
- Living in Australia for six months. Initially, the financial aid office tried to tell me my full ride didn’t cover study abroad. I thought that was a bit ridiculous, especially as travel + lodging + meal plan + a semester at the place I wanted to go all combined was less than a semester at my actual college. I made my case, they consulted with the donor of the scholarship, and he responded that the scholarship was meant to offer as rich an educational experience as possible, which included study abroad. So I spent 6 months of my junior year living in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia attending Charles Darwin University. I literally travelled to the other side of the globe, all on my own, not knowing another soul over there. It was the most independent I’ve ever felt, and an absolutely amazing time. The scholarship donor got a very heartfelt thank-you letter when I got back, you can be sure.
- Getting my heart broken. After graduation, I fell for an older boy from my hometown who now lived in Austin, and ended up moving down here to be with him. It went fine for about a year, and then wham, he broke up with me. Blindsided again. And I realized I was alone in a city I still didn’t know very well, and that all of my friends down here were actually his friends, and my family was hundreds of miles away. I had to build a new life from the ground up, while nursing a broken heart and trying to keep my fledging freelance business afloat. It was hard, you guys, and at times terrifying. But I did it. If there was ever a situation designed to test and reveal just how much inner strength my young adult self had, this was it.
I’ve had other big, significant moments in my life, but they’re the kind I didn’t realize until later how life-changing they were (meeting Ian, adopting Sienna, etc.). And I’m sure there will be many more. But for the person I am right now, these were the moments that most shaped me.
How about you? What moments come to mind where you knew right then it would change you?