Just a number…

I’m 50 today.

Lots of societal “baggage” on that number, but other than an abstract, odd feeling that it’s not possible that I have been here for 50 years, it doesn’t bother me.

I’ve seen a lot in my 50 years. I grew up in the heartland, in a cocoon of family, and tradition that politicians like to exploit and use in commercials and stump speeches. That part of America is more than an illusion; it is very real, and I was born into the middle of that: family, church, good neighbors, family farms and in some ways, a very simple life. It was also a very WASP-y life. White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, with a few Catholics thrown in here and there. Protestant and Catholic dislike was the most obvious to me growing up, because there were so few “other” in that small world: few people of color, few non-Protestants, few gay/Lesbian – yes, I grew up in what I refer to as a Wonder-Bread White world, which clearly sets your perspective, or at least it laid the foundation for me.

That perspective didn’t last and for many reasons. My parents – also products of Wonder-Bread-White America – were touched by the fervor of the Kennedys, and their hearts moved by the plight of Black America as represented so eloquently by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They came from folk who thought separate was perfect but equal? not so sure; but my parents wanted to raise their children within a new paradigm. I’ve only recently begin to appreciate this as I look back. That was not an easy decision, living in the heartland, but they did. I don’t ever recall hearing racial slurs in my home; not even the ’N’ word which was not uncommon in my small town in the late 1960s and 70s.

I grew up to question a lot of those small town values, and some might even say throw them in the face of all that is good and just, but I think that if you grew up in this cocoon, as I did, you need to realize that you really cannot honestly evaluate how good it might have been for others in that world. I compare it to a fish trying to empathize with humans who struggle to live and breathe under water. The fish don’t know what the big deal is, while humans gasp, and struggle to get to the surface. When your environment is so tailor-made for you, and your experience – how can you truly look at others, for whom the experience is quite foreign, and levy a judgment? (I don’t think you can). I’ll be blogging more about this based on some recent, rich experiences I have had of late in the Black community; for now, back to this age-50 thing.

I’ve been fortunate to have the support and latitude to travel in many circles and experience as many different things as I could in the past 50 years, and I’ve no intention of stopping. I’m mid-transformation again from manager/director in the academic/corporate structure to entrepreneur and writer, and that’s sure to be a whole new set of circumstances, and has already introduced me to yet more new people, places and perspectives which I soak up like ‘Frederick’, the mouse.

My life resume is a who’s-who of the explorer in me, and for fun, I took to making a list of all the jobs (paid and volunteer) that I have had over the years, starting around age 12.

  •  Sales associate, Harmon Glass (Hospitality & Tourism)
  • Babysitter (Dover, Ohio and Lexington, KY)
  • Pianist (Sunday School: Dover, Ohio and Lexington, KY)
  • McDonald’s Associate (would you like Fries with that? Lexington, KY)
  • Nursing Assistant, night shift(!); Lexington, KY
  • Nanny (Summer work – great job – I got a pass to the pool and took 2 little boys (both good swimmers) every day! – they also had cable TV, which in 1980 was something – haha)
  • Screener, Central KY Blood Center (Lexington, KY)
  • This included many trips into the hills of Kentucky to do employee blood draws for coal miners. I have a very distinct memory of seeing men come off the overnight shift, faces and arms blackened from the coal dust. It’s one thing to read about the folks who work in the belly of the earth – I got to sit down and chat with a good number of them the Summer before I went into the service. Hard-working, salt of the earth; special kind of people who do that work so we can have electricity.
  • Seaman, US Navy: I learned so much about life, and people in the US Navy – always grateful for the perspective, especially now as a writer.
  • Hospital Corpsman, EMT: US Pacific Fleet Naval Station, Branch Clinic, San Diego
  • Drove an ambulance, stitched lacerations, debrided burns, took more than a few sailors who had psychotic breaks to bldg. 36-3 (if you’re a San Diego sailor, you know what that is); and more than my fair share of drunks to the tank.
  • Learned in-water rescue from the Coast Guard medical command in San Diego (where I was certified as an EMT); great experience hanging with the ‘Coasties’
  • Medical Laboratory Technician/medical Technologist (2 civilian hospitals & 1 military hospital; East & West coasts – spanning 20+ years!)
  • Mom & wife
  • Made salads at McDonald’s in the EARLY morning (5am) but that didn’t last long – awful…
  • Customer Service Associate, Cosmetics/Fragrance Associate; 2 different Department Stores
  • Make-up artist
  • Organist, Choir Director; Pennsylvania & Ohio ((5 churches to date))
  • Pianist for Community Choral Group, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Hairdresser for national discount chain of hair salons (yes, I attended Cosmo school – lots of people reading this might be surprised by this one!!)
  • Business Analyst (health care)
  • Adjunct Faculty (health sciences) Community colleges, University, Proprietary (Career) schools
  • Community College Dean (allied health) – I also sang the national anthem at Commencement in 2006 – that was on my bucket list from a long time ago!
  • Project Director (national Emergency Preparedness – remember the post-911 environment!?)
  • Assistant Professor (health sciences)
  • Project Manager, Health IT
  • Academic Consultant
  • Writer for a Beauty Blog (paid!)
  • Director of Content & Strategy (Allied Health)
  • Writer
  • Entrepreneur
  • and anything else that catches my eye…

I’m sure I’ve missed a few odd jobs here and there, and I’m certainly not done adding to this list. I used to think of this list (this is all not on my professional resume, of course) as a weakness, but I have a great friend, Meg, who made that thought disappear in an instant. Her theory is that you stay at a job until it’s no longer fun, then you move on. You give it a chance if there are others things in place that make it worthwhile, but when the misery outweighs the fun, she says it’s time to move on. Thanks Meg for that freeing philosophy – I clearly have believed that for some time but never recognized it as a valid approach. This perspective has burgeoned into my newest venture as an entrepreneur and it promises to bring great success, and a whole spate of new adventures my way!

And so on this unremarkable day for most, I look back on 50 years of work and play; laughter and tears, joy and pain and the volumes that I have learned about myself, and the world around me,…and all I can say is I’m looking forward to 50 more!

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