Apples Don’t Fall Far ~ So I Hope!!
I have entered a new phase of my life. Somehow, overnight it seems, I am now the Mom to a middle schooler!!! I remember when I was in middle school and my parents were my age. I am thinking the inspiration of this post stems from the fact that I am about to turn 40 in a few weeks and that I am entering a new stage and phase of my life raising a tween daughter. It has been an amazing journey watching her morph from an itty bitty 5lb newbie to a toddler who loved “Dora The Explorer” on to a preschooler who loved princesses to a school age girl who gained an even deeper love of reading and writing to now a middle schooler who is about to wrap up the Cross Country season (she is THRILLED), just went to her first middle school dance, and has found a love for choir and singing. As I watch her grow up before my eyes, I reflect on the path that has lead me to where I am today.
I was ALWAYS the underdog!!
I was the one who was ALWAYS picked last for the kick ball team in PE and at recess. That didn’t stop me from trying. Despite only measuring at 4’11 and ¾”(and still do, I will take every centimeter I can get) in the 6th grade I joined the middle school girls basketball team. I can still hear my Coach and my teammates screaming, “Amy, go the other way!!!” at the tops of their lungs as I was dribbling proudly (unknowingly) towards the other team’s basket because I did not realize that after the ½ we switched sides of the court. That was the first and last time I handled the ball in a game. Ironically enough, today I ‘dribble’ at least 10 balls at a time.
It never failed that when I liked a boy, the boy ALWAYS liked one of my friends instead, never me. I was often the 3rd wheel. Those who knew me back in the day would remember me as quiet, shy, & introverted. Those who have come to know me post 2000 know me to be more extroverted, confident in my own skin despite the flaws, and definitely not shy, but still reserved; at peace with it all.
I was denied admission to the University of WI ~ Madison despite carrying over a 3.5 GPA, was on Student Council, & had 3 years of French under my belt. I appealed 3 times only to get the infamous denial letter all 3 times. I was fed up so I called the Admissions office and made myself an appointment. My parents and I drove an hour west to have the Dean of Admissions say “no” to my face. I went into the meeting by myself while my parents patiently waited and silently rooted for me in the waiting room. You see, the UW won the Rose Bowl the year prior so applications for admission from out of state students (who are more revenue generating) increased exponentially that year. You bet I argued this as well as the fact that I was not an athlete generating revenue for the school (goodness knows an athletic track was not in my future). I agreed that my admission would not assist with whatever silly quota or numbers game the university had to play. The Dean had me go get my parents. He looked at them and said, “You sure have one persistent daughter.” My biggest fans simply smiled. The meeting ended with “Welcome to the University of Wisconsin Amy.”
I was the one who ALWAYS gave myself headaches studying so hard because things just did not come easy to me; in fact I would stay in at least one weekend night in college so to study and get a good night’s sleep to be prepared for the inundation of school work bestowed upon me the coming week.
Living on campus partying and hanging with friends all summer ~ no way! The deal in our family was my parents would pay for my brother’s and my tuition and books through undergrad; rent, spending money, and any education beyond was on us. No free rides and for this I am grateful. It held me accountable and made me choose my career and how to spend my free time wisely. So for 3 summers I sublet the portion of my lease so that I could move back home to run my own cleaning business which allowed me to save enough rent for the next school year so I would not HAVE to work and would have the freedom to focus on my studies.
It seemed that my path would ALWAYS be to prove my capabilities or at least I felt that way. Nothing came easy. ZILCHO. I was so envious of my friends who could whip up a 25 page paper in 2 days (puling all nighters) and get an A when I would have to spend the entire semester on it to get the same grade. Sigh.
I was ALWAYS the back row student and super annoyed by those front row ones who had their hands up to show those like me in the back row up. It wasn’t that I was late to class and HAD to take a seat in the back row (albeit these days I am known to run on the late side); it was quite the contrary. I chose the back. That is what I ingrained in my own head and heart to do. I knew the answers just like the front-row students did. I simply needed time to digest the question and more so come up with the answer. I was never one to like being put “on the spot.” Ask my Dad, a retired middle school math teacher, who at the family dinner table instead of asking me how my day was, would ask me to come up with answers to times tables and algebraic equations. Nope. Ask my husband (who has known me since I was 15) who when he asks me “Amy, where is the ____________?” (prior to looking on his own, btw) and I have to pause to simply think gets annoyed that I can’t blurt the location out before he has even finished asking me the question. Give me a few minutes in peace and quiet and nine times out of 10 I will come up with the missing item’s location. I have never ever been fast. Never. Ever. I feel so much for the kids these days where everything is instantaneous. Delayed gratification = JOKE! Having to ALWAYS be thinking 2 steps ahead must SUCK! I feel for those kids who want to be part of a conversation, but who are always a topic or 2 behind to chime in.
I digress, but this is worth sharing:
I was taking my first course on “Fluency Disorders” (a.k.a. stuttering). I stayed awake throughout instruction about the different theories why stuttering occurs including the “Diagnosogenic Theory” despite the fact that the course was taught at 1:00 after I stuffed myself with some lunch at Memorial Union then rode my bike 3 miles to class. I never fell asleep being in the back row. I was awake and alert though not sure what my front row counterparts were doing nor did I care (much like I live my life today). The class was boring … BORING!! My professor did nothing to spice up the topic by making it more engaging or interesting. I was simply taking the course as a pre-requisite. First exam, I got a D. UGH!! I studied ~ a lot! I knew the info like the backside of my hand (do any of us REALLY know the intricacies of the backs of our hands?? ~ seriously though, I studied and KNEW the material). I made an appointment with my professor to discuss the grade. Instead of encouraging me, he discouraged me. When asked to review the grade, he said, “Perhaps you should find another career other than becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).” It was my freshman year!!!! Defensively, but respectfully, I told him he had me all wrong. I told him that WHEN I became an SLP, I was pretty certain I would not be asked what grade I got on my 1st fluency exam. I knew I was smart in application of what I was learning. Timed exams did not allow me to shine in the least. In my opinion, for those of us SLPs who directly diagnose and treat vs. research what it all comes down to is respect, relating, compassion, quality bedside manner by thinking on our toes and going beyond text books. Do I see patients with fluency disorders? Nope. It is not my forte nor do I pretend it to be.
Had someone told me in my early years that being the underdog would pay off in the future I would have laughed SO OUT LOUD (and feeling SOL)!!! Now being the Mom of an impressionable 11-year old daughter who, when I look into her eyes I see my own, this truly resonates. I see passion, compassion, dedication, ambition, a hard work ethic and, yes, persistence. As the idiom goes, “Apples don’t fall far from the tree.” It is my hope that I exemplify to her (and my son) every day that throughout life it is more about the journey than coming in first at the destination. Not only do we learn from stopping to smell the roses, but sometimes getting stuck in a thorn bush makes us an even bigger winner. I fell into a thorn bush learning to ride a bike, but after pulling the thorns out and drying my tears, I was off and there was no stopping me with the wind typically in my face, not at my back, but smiling anyway.