In the fall of 2017, I will start classes for a degree in science. Of course I am not certain what I will get a degree in, but I know it will be science. For the people that actually know me, this will not be a surprise, but for the many, many people I have come across in the past, they will probably think this is a waste of time. After all, I will be turning 44 years old in a couple weeks and, to them, I should just do what everyone else in the world does, such as, hate my job, but continue working at it because that’s what responsible people do. I can’t even count how many times I have been told, “everybody hates their job” and “no one likes going to work”. Well, why is that? I know that each person is different and I tend to think differently than the majority, but that doesn’t mean I should conform to the cookie cutter mold of the traditional woman. I am not the traditional woman of the past and I am proud of my uniqueness. Maybe I am just being selfish and blind to my own faults, but I don’t see that the problem is in me, but instead believe the problem is that the people telling me to conform have not been paying attention to who I actually am. Or they don’t care. Here are several examples of moments from my childhood, the moments from my adult life are far too many to list, that should have been a clue that I didn’t think like the average girl.
When I was a child, I did play with dolls, but not always in a traditional way. When you think about a little girl playing with dolls you may picture a nurturing child that is pretending to be the mom and caring for a family. Probably with a bow in her hair and maybe even a dress. What you probably do not picture, is a quiet little girl with long brown hair, sometimes with a bow, dressed in denim jeans, strategically placing army men around the doll house, waiting for the signal to attack. That girl was me. Maybe it was because I had brothers or maybe it’s just who I am because I still love playing strategy war games. I could have been encouraged to have a military future. Of course, when I played with my friends I would be more traditional with my dolls. I did also like to crochet clothing and fashion accessories for them, so there was a wide range of interests being shown.
I loved miniatures of every kind. I wanted to build villages, roads, farms. I would spend all day at my grandma’s farm making roads in the hillside for my toy cars to drive around. My favorite was to build on a slope so I could watch the car drive down the winding road on its own. I loved to use Lincoln Logs and Lego to build houses and towers. These are all engineering skills that could have been noticed and encouraged.
There was a lot of time spent hanging around my dad and later, my brother, while they were working on cars or even a lawn mower. I think most people thought I just wanted to hang around them, but I genuinely enjoyed engines being taken apart and put together. The excitement of an engine first starting up will always be a thrill for me. I love tools of every kind to this day! Here I could have been encouraged to be a mechanical engineer.
Feminine things still had some fascination for me. I did, and still do, enjoy putting on makeup and styling hair with my friends. One of my lifelong best friends is a hair stylist and another studied makeup artistry. Both are very well suited for those careers. I am not a daily makeup user, but when I was little I would mix perfume together to make a new fragrance. This usually ended badly, but an enjoyable experience, none the less. I would pour out the liquid lip gloss and add eye shadow or blush powder to design new colors. Maybe chemistry could have been encouraged there.
Not everyone was oblivious to my interests. I believe my grandpa knew I would be a very independent woman and was paying attention to the clues. At the time he would say things like, “you might not always have a man around to do these things for you so you should learn”. At first that sounds extremely sexist, but I think his heart was in the right place. He knew I was interested in learning. There were other granddaughters, but I don’t think he bothered teaching the others how to change a tire or change the oil in a car. Maybe he did and I didn’t see it, but he spent a lot of time teaching me things one on one and I will always love him dearly for that. Even though he has been gone for 20 years, I still get tears in my eyes (I actually had to stop writing this for a bit so I could regain my composure after a good cry) just thinking about him and how he treated us as individuals and not just children. Of course he never said “Jeanette, you could do this for a career”, but he did say “you can do this”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents told me that I was smart and seemed proud of me, but I don’t know that they had any ideas for suitable career paths. I was born in 1973, so they are still pretty traditional by nature, and my parents both seemed to have the idea that you just get a job, any job that will pay the bills, and you keep working your ass off every day. That’s commendable and I have great respect for people with strong work ethics. I always put my all into my jobs and I’m usually really good at whatever job I do, but that does not mean it’s a good fit for me. Also, my family are not the reason I have not gone to college until now. I did try briefly when I was 20 years old, but poor decisions, made by me, got in the way. Now, I feel I have good, supportive, people around me and the time is right. Furthering my education has always been very important to me and there is no reason not to work at bettering myself.
I think the main point I would like to get across is this, before telling someone what you think they should be doing, ask yourself if it’s really what you feel they should do based on you and society, or if you were paying attention to who they really are and if it’s the right choice for them. I believe peoples passions should be encourage, not overlooked.