I was a good-enough student in high school–I had a 3.0 something. If I knew exactly what it was I would share — but I really only know it was over a 3.0 because I was a card holding member of the 3.0 Club and was given a free small french fry at Wendy’s for lunch! Frankly, I didn’t even know that the 3.0 Club correlated to my grades until I asked what the 3.0 Club actually meant. I keenly remember my embarrassment that I didn’t know that the 3.0 meant my grade point was over a 3.0–I was too humiliated to then ask what did “grade point” mean, and how I could find out what mine was. Because obviously, I should have known this already.
I had to take Trig over my senior year in high school because I got a “D” junior year. If I’m honest, I never did the homework. Like ever. The problem was–I never understood from the first day and I never asked for help. I could never catch up. I looked lazy, I looked like I had no motivation. Really? I was embarrassed. And scared. I convinced myself I didn’t care about my grade because it was easier to do that than to convince myself to ask for help. Honest. I remember sitting in my chair, in the far left hand corner of the room, sweating, heart pounding … trying to summon the courage to raise my hand. I. Couldn’t. Do. It.
After high school all I really wanted to do was continue skating. I dreamt of touring with an ice show–but I didn’t know how to start. There was no google or Siri or Alexa to answer my many questions so, instead I enrolled in the college my dad taught at–free tuition and all that. I lined up my classes and began a life that I was not invested in. That I didn’t know how to be successful at. I didn’t ask.
My first major was journalism. The only class I got an A in my first semester of college? Creative Writing. I loved it. I still have an essay I wrote in that class about the house I grew up in and I am still unapologetically proud that I got an “A” on it. After class my Prof pulled me aside. She told me I was talented. She told me I was a good writer. I remember the warm feeling in my chest, the sunshine melting through my fear. Despite that “A”, despite her encouragement … I nearly failed out that semester.
My second semester I changed majors. Why? Because I was afraid. I didn’t know anybody who was a journalist. I didn’t know anyone who made a living as a writer, and I didn’t know how to do it. And I didn’t ask. So, Pre-Med it was. The progression from college to job seemed linear, it was something I understood and had folks around me I could model myself after. Problem was, my grades weren’t much better. I worked three jobs–partly because I needed the money, but mostly to keep busy so I didn’t have to think about the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn’t do any of it well. Not teaching skating, not bar tending, not the office job I had and certainly not school.
By the end of my second year I applied to and was accepted to Grand Valley. I wanted to be a physical therapist. I wanted to leave home. I remember feeling so proud of myself that I got my hands on the (paper!) application, filled it out and sent it in on my own! I got accepted, made plans to quit my jobs and move to Allendale. And then I didn’t. I just didn’t go. I turned around, tail between my legs and stayed home. I didn’t know how to take the next steps. And I didn’t ask.
By the middle of my third year I had changed my major AGAIN (that’s major change number FOUR if you are counting) and was now floundering away in respiratory therapy classes. How I allowed myself to end up sitting in a class learning about tracheotomies I have no idea. I hate snot. Like really, really hate it. And here I was learning about … snot. Mucous. Airways. Nothing about a single class I had appealed to me. I remember sitting in class, looking out the window day dreaming ways to get out of this major, too.
I saw my peers finding their path, I watched in envy as friends found jobs they loved. I knew I was lost and I knew I was following road signs that were not written for me. What I didn’t know was what to do about it. And I didn’t ask.
The one constant I always had was my skating. My identity, my dreams, my aspirations were all tied up in the laces of my skates and had been since I was ten years old. With the help of a dear friend and the aligning of the universe I not only secured an audition with an ice show–but I got the job. Which was a good thing–because what I hadn’t told anyone was that this time I hadn’t just changed my major. I had already dropped out of college.
Two weeks later I boarded a plane with a passport and two suitcases … and no idea what I was doing. Me, the girl who didn’t know what a grade point was or how you got one. Me, the girl who was too afraid to ask for help in trig (two years in a row!). The girl who was told she couldn’t follow through. The girl who couldn’t make a decision or ask for help. The girl who was told she gave up when it got hard. Me, with four major changes under my belt and the title “College Dropout” was heading off to Dayton, Ohio to begin to live the only dream I really ever had–I was going to skate for Disney on Ice.
What I learned about myself was that I hadn’t been giving up. I hadn’t been being lazy or lacking motivation. I hadn’t been stupid or even flighty as I thought. What I had been … was afraid. I was paralyzed by not knowing what/how/who to do or ask and frozen by anxiety. What I learned is that the fear I felt at asking for help–it still echoes in my life now. Shoot, there’s a reason it took me ten years to publish “Last Turn Home”. I didn’t know how. And I didn’t ask.
Fast forward to me at 46 (I’m clinging to that 46 until next month!) I have an associate degree in pre med and an associate degree in nursing and a bachelor’s in nursing. I have been a figure skating coach and a child birth educator. I have worked as a psych nurse and a telemetry step-down nurse. I have worked per diem and I have worked part time. I was a personal assistant and I have been a stay-at-home mom. I have done public health nursing, I’ve been a flu shot nurse and I have been a nurse educator. And now … I am a published author.
What looked like laziness, what looked like lack of effort, what looked like lack of motivation and lack of direction was a giant, Lara sized ball of fear. A fear of failure, a fear of being embarrassed, a fear of letting people down, a fear of not knowing if I was enough.
I’d love to say I wouldn’t change a thing–and ostensibly I wouldn’t. Except that my crooked road was painful. I gave up on dreams I had because I was afraid–and while I’ve returned full circle to becoming a writer there is a part of me that wonders, really wonders, what I could have done if I’d stuck with the path I most wanted to pursue. Where would I be as a writer if I had not given up as a 19-year-old girl who was too afraid to ask?
In the end, I am where I am supposed to be. Wife to E, momma to my boys. writer of novels that come from my heart and blog posts that come to me while I’m washing the dishes or driving the boys places. So why then, do I try so hard as a mother to straighten my child’s path?
Because my crooked path could have ended badly. Because my choices weren’t always (for long periods of time never) healthy. Because I was lucky that I pulled the train on the tracks before I was forever stuck in the mud. Because the fear that consumed me colors me still and I want nothing more than to shed it like an extra skin and leave it behind, never to be seen again. Because I want my children to be fearless. Because I want their dreams to come true. Because life doesn’t have to be as hard as I made it. Because I desperately would have loved when I went off track or changed my mind or didn’t follow through or couldn’t decide or just plain quit … for someone to ask me why.
Except … without the crooked road I’m not me and they aren’t them. And I don’t want to change one bit of who their sweet souls are. So today, I’m reminding myself to stand down hill from the path I wish to change. To clearly see behind me where we have been and to better see through the year’s that have yet to reveal themselves. To stand in a place where I can inspire, encourage and support but not direct their crooked paths. So I can ask why, and help them reveal their own answers and create a path that suits them perfectly. Because why is as powerful as how when we are trying to learn to create a life.