The beginning of this journey: A 50-year walk, so far.
“…Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
Other times, I can barely see
Lately, it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been..” – Truckin’ by The Grateful Dead
Well, today is the day.
My 50th trip around the sun.
Wow! I can’t believe I made it this far.
I had the most awesome surprise this past weekend when all my children showed up to celebrate with me. It has been quite a while since we were altogether at once. They apparently had been secretly planning this and I was so surprised. I shed a lot of tears from happiness. I love them so much and had a very enjoyable time.
I have been doing a lot of self-reflection over the past few months as I was approaching this milestone moment.
I decided last year that I was going to attempt changing my career path and attend a new school for software engineering. It has been a challenge.
At the beginning of this new learning journey, I had a few instances with other male peers in my school that caused some doubt. After interacting with them more, especially during this last project, I realized that most of the misunderstanding and miscommunication was not intentional but rather fueled by the self-doubt and insecurities that we all have as human beings.
The self-perception of who we are, and our own personal life experience must be set aside in order to collaborate fully with others. This is a skill that is not easy but can be developed with the right group of people and the right mindset.
That has not been easy for me, ever.
As I have written before, I grew up in an abusive environment, not only as a child to young adulthood. This was also prevalent in my 17-year marriage. It is true that the only way to break an abusive cycle is to end it on your own. I did that when I cut out all the toxic people in my life, ended the marriage and put-up boundaries.
It wasn’t easy but it was necessary for my own self-preservation. That and I had personal goals that I set for myself to keep moving forward. I was always this strong willed and stubborn person who didn’t back down no matter how many times I fell or was knocked down by others. I am still that same person despite the discontent it causes others. My goal has always been to learn how to take a step back and not always try to control or oversee everything as I did most of my life.
A woman in any field dominated by men will always have obstacles to overcome, that is a given. We as women have been fed these ideas of who were supposed to be as the female gender. Yet, despite all the gender norming, things have begun to change in which those ideas are being challenged by the newer generations.
I feel like sometimes that is why I get along better with people younger than me than my own peer group. Even though I grew up in that generation of where women were told we could have careers and be mothers, those that followed that path were always treated differently.
I grew up as a so-called tomboy. I was and have always been just one of the guys. I also liked school and learning. I was a constant reader until my late 30’s. Yet, this behavior also caused so much discord between me and other girls and women, even today. This disconnect of relatability has contributed to not forming any lasting friendships.
The men I became friends with over the years in various workplaces stopped talking to me when their wives or girlfriends met me. I was never attracted to them and we always got any of those thoughts out of the way at the beginning. Being open and honest with one another was the only way we could work together.
In contrast, the women I became friends with over the years in these same workplaces stopped talking to me when they became aware of any of my accomplishments or if I was treated as one of the guys. People within my circle of influence believed it was jealously but I do not believe that. I know these same women had their own accomplishments.
The only difference was that I had no problem discussing my ideas and being vocal about things to men we worked with and especially if it was something wrong such as harassment by male counterparts. These other women would back down. I know they were afraid of losing their jobs, position, or being labeled. I would become an outcast and ignored until I finally quit.
It was always a lonely place when I worked anywhere.
The last workplace was probably the worst. All the supervisors and managers were women. The moment one of them decided I was not worth getting to know then I was ignored by all of them. Then I found out my shoulder pain was an injury requiring surgery. I informed my manager and assistant manager, but they continued to have me lift things and work with the injury. I knew that I would not be coming back.
The day I left, only one person told me goodbye and said she would miss me. It was the only other minority person there. She was younger and the only one who would talk to me when we worked together.
I had set a goal about 5 years ago that I was going to learn how to be more open and communicate better with others. I thought that would help with the forming a lasting friendship. That did not exactly go as planned and just led to more disappointment.
I tried becoming more involved in groups with my similar background or hobbies. People seemed genuinely interested and friendly at the beginning then something would change. I would have one person that did not like me, and it would change the whole dynamic. I was asked to leave one group of women veterans because one woman was there before me who did not like me and that hurt the most. I have not been back to that organization and that group has since been disbanded.
It used to bother me that I could not form these friendships. Today, it is important but not at the top of my list anymore.
This last 90 days of learning a programming language, how to collaborate with predominantly males, and just how to feel comfortable in this space has been a challenge. I did not speak up much and it hurt my progress. I felt at the beginning that I wasn’t “smart” enough or that I was “too old” to be here until these group projects came up.
I realized then that everyone was struggling, and the only difference was the way they managed their time and resources as it related to studying. That and the different confidence levels. It became obvious to me that despite us being different genders and backgrounds we all have the same doubts or fears about our abilities especially when learning something new.
Now, I am on a temporary break and will start over again in June. I didn’t give up on the idea and realized that I can do this, but it requires me approaching it a different way, sticking to a study schedule, and including down time in between.
The difficulty of the material is still there but can be managed as well. Practicing is the best way. I have never been great at math, science, or like subjects because I have to learn it slowly with constant practice. Treating this program in the same way will help overall with the retention.
I also decided during this past 90 days that I want to add to the learning that I am pursuing and working on finding a way to make that happen.
I have not been medically released to go back to work and developed an additional issue with the arm tremor, so everything is somewhat delayed. The arm becoming fully functional is going to take time and patience. There is no set time for when that will happen. I might as well use this time to learn and complete my other goals that I set for myself.
Staying busy mentally while healing physically is what this new year is about. Hopefully, by this time next year, progress in all areas will be made as I continue moving forward.
In my 50 years of life, I did not become famous, a millionaire, or a leader in industry.
Instead, I learned a lot about others, myself, and what is important.
Happiness. That is the important thing.
Being happy with yourself is at the top of the list.
If you are not happy then you cannot bring that same energy to anyone else or to anything else in your life.
Your happiness is not dictated by others. It self-defined.
I have lived through so much but the one thing I always sought was finding things that made me happy.
The things that I like may seem irrelevant to others but that does not matter.
I am not here to only make them happy and that was a hard lesson to learn.
The unhappiness and sadness that I felt was a reflection from the people that I surrounded myself with and depended on.
It took 50 years to realize that.
I do not plan on spending the next chapter of my life continuing to do the same.
Thank you so much for your support as I continue this blog.
Your comments and words of encouragement have been greatly appreciated.
Have a wonderful week!
Take care and be safe out there.
Peace, love, and good vibes, always.
Some music for you to enjoy!