Thursday, April 30, 2009

Five Year Plan

As a kid, your potential is boundless. You can be anything your heart desires. One day you can tell everyone that you are going to be a singer and the next day you are going to be an astronaut. Everyday there can be a new career plan. As you get older, the daily career plan turns into a monthly career plan. As you hit junior high school, you maybe have an idea of what you'd like to do as an adult but you are still free to explore other areas of interest. Maybe you are a budding actor or a talented artist and the reality of making a living at these occupations isn't a factor for you at that age. The point is that you think you can be anything when you grow up!

As far as I can remember back, I have loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian. Our house was filled with dogs and cats I found a way to raise $5.99 plus shipping and handling for a monthly set of Animal Kingdom cards. Some kids collected baseball cards or Garbage Pail Kids cards. I wanted cards that told me that the Capybera was the largest rodent in the world. I wanted to know that the Platypus was in the same family as the Opossum and the Koala. I even wanted to know that spiders and crabs were in the same class (arachnida) even though they weren't warm and fuzzy mammals!

In high school, I was delivered a blow by an adult. Someone who was supposed to be my champion decided I was worthless and I should give up my dreams. I will never forget the feeling of humiliation, the heat climbing up my neck and spreading out over my cheeks, when she said, "You aren't really college material. Perhaps you should think about becoming a secretary." This statement was made in the beginning of my sophomore year during my first meeting with Ms. Ophelia Irwin, high school guidance counselor.

I didn't understand this. I did not know what she was basing this statement on because this woman didn't know me. She didn't know my passions. She didn't know my abilities and my capabilities. What she did know, or I should say who she did know was my older, trouble-maker brother. And although I was, in my own right, a trouble-maker too, I was smart. I was academic. I knew animals and science and I was a good student. The operative word here is 'was.'

For the next three years I literally sailed through school not caring what was going to happen after graduation. My senior year I had two student assistant periods, three acting classes and creative writing. I didn't care about academics. I wasn't college material so why should I care?

I graduated with average grades and had come to terms that I would end up working at an office. I had a night job with Orange County Voter Registration filing. I couldn't expect much more from life.

But my dad thought I was college material and bless his heart, he went down to the local community college and signed me up for the first semester. I still wonder what he was thinking when he signed me up for biology, french, calculus, and freshman composition. I am so thankful that he had faith in me. But, my nagging self-doubt continued to rule and I threw away my dreams of being a vet.

So fast forward 27 years later and my need to work with animals is as strong today as it was when I was a kid. I still know that the capybera is the world's largest rodent. At 44, I'm probably not going to vet school. But I have a five-year plan to build on my existing skills as a salesperson, business leader, strategic thinker and, most of all, animal lover. I'm looking at animal behavior programs (that's the new, fancy term for dog training). I might look into a vet tech program. But ultimately, I want own a doggie daycare with all the services -- boarding, training, doggie boutique, etc.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rebel Without a Clue...

As a 44-year old woman, I don't like being told, "No." My loving husband has a tendency to spout out that word often which generally invokes the following response from me: "You're not the boss of me!" I know, very mature...

My whole life, though, I've dodged situations where people could tell me no. So, at a very young age, I learned to stop asking permission to do things. Granted, that doesn't always work for say a four-year old. In kindergarten, I discovered one of my new classmates lived on the same street from me. Pleasant Street was a pretty long street and she lived about five blocks "down" the street. One day I decided to visit Jeannie and left our big yard and started my journey.
I made it to Jeannie's house and she was outside in her own yard playing. Jeannie and I had the best time playing tag and Chinese jump rope (remember the chant, "In, Out, Side to Side, Back, In, Out!).

About three hours later I walked home as it was almost dark. I didn't expect that there would be a police car in my driveway. I didn't expect my father to rush to me and bear hug me at the same time he swatted my bottom with a fake spanking. I certainly didn't expect my mother to burst out into hysterical tears. I had no idea what the big deal was or what was going on!
Being a December baby, I was about three months shy of my fifth birthday. I was certainly no baby! When my parents asked me where I had been, I told them in a very matter-of-fact tone that I was "down" the street at Jeannie's house. Now that I was home and safe, the battle of the wills began.

"Who gave you permission to leave this yard?" my mother said through her gritting teeth.

"Who said I had to stay in the yard?" I inquired since no one had really said that rule out loud that we were never allowed to leave the yard without explicit permission from one parent or the other.

"You are a four-year old baby! You are not allowed to leave this yard without your father or me," she exclaimed. I don't remember the exact words that she used but the sentence probably started with a "Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the Saints in Heaven." My mother was always invoking the Trio and the Saints.

The police officer that was dispatched to our house was watching this exchange between my mother and me. He seemed very entertained by the whole conversation. My father, by this time, had calmed down and asked me why I didn't ask them if I could go over to Jeannie's house.

I looked up at him with an innocent look and big, wide eyes and said, "Because you would have said no."

My father's eyes betrayed all of his emotions. If he was mad, they would just about pop out of his head! If he was amused, the became all soft and smiley. If he was hurt they became cloudy and moist. I could tell he wanted to laugh and his eyes got all twinkly. Meanwhile, my mother's shoulders were drilling into her ears and her body was stiffer than a corpse. She was waiting for my father to discipline his little girl. Her expectations were that he would take her side and that I would have a fitting punishment.

My dad mumbled, "Don't do that again unless we tell you it is OK." And that was it. Dad released Bud the cop thanking him for coming out to the house. Bud smiled and winked at me. And that sealed the deal for me. This was the turning point in my young life's philosophy found! A philosophy that I still live by 40-years later!

It is better to ask for forgiveness later than permission first. No one is the boss of me...except me! If I miss out on something, I have no one to blame except myself for not making it happen.