My grandfather grew up in Chicago, Illinois during the Great Depression. His nickname was “Farmer Joe” because he dreamed of being a farmer. Somewhere in his late teens, he hitchhiked his way down to the Clinton, Iowa area to work as a farm hand. He worked and saved until he could buy his own farm, married, lost his wife to cancer a few years later, raised 2 kids on his own and saved more money.
In the winter of 1978, he got snowed in for over a week. Without a phone, he had no way to call for help. This scared him so much, he started spending the winters with my family starting in 1979 (the year I happened to be born). (Side bar: he never did get running water. His electric well was good enough for him. He still only had a self dug outhouse the last time I was there sometime in 1998.)
Grandpa wore bib overalls all year round…. Without a shirt or underwear in the summer (I know because he talked about the freedom) and with puffy-stitched long underwear when it was cold (they must have been from somewhere in the 1950s because I never saw them in the stores new). He would jokingly say, “I bathe once a year whether I need it or not” and that would have been more funny if it wasn’t so true.
He was his own person. He would find out within 10 minutes of meeting someone: their name, where they grew up, what they loved and at least one obscure detail that even that person’s closest friends may not know. He loved me. I both admired and loathed his ability to be true to himself no matter what other people thought. In my early teens, it was extremely embarrassing. As a small child and a young adult, it was inspiring. I inherited his gift of gab and often think of him when I meet new people.
Grandpa loved to save money. No, seriously… He LOVED to save money. Paying for things was painful for him no matter how necessary it was. I remember him going to buy his new royal blue TOYOTA truck and instead of being excited about having a new vehicle, he complained about how much the cost of cars had gone up.
Part of the money he saved went to pay for my Associate degree and my first car. I graduated without debt, married, and 3 weeks away from giving birth to my son.
Fast forward 14 years…
I am at a crossroads. I’ve made incredible progress, in the last 10 years especially. From a miserable, confused, sob story to a mostly confident, healthy, business woman but I want more.
I want to be highly educated. I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to reduce crime and obesity by helping kids and their parents learn to process their emotions. I want to live in Western Washington and go for hikes in the mountains more weekends than not.
For the first time in my life, I feel all of that is possible. I do not know exactly where to start. I don’t know exactly what that journey will look like but I can see it and, from what I’m told, that’s the first step. The closer I get to taking my first steps in that direction, the louder the shame tyrants come out with “can’t because…”. They say I’m not smart enough. They say I’m too old, don’t have enough money, it won’t work, it’s frivolous (side bar: “frivolous” was the worst insult my father would ever give me. It really meant ‘of no value to him’ so therefore was to have no value to me.). I hear them but I don’t have to listen! I CAN!
In closing, I have two requests:
1) Live your dream! By you living yours, you help me live mine.
2) If you happen to have any advice on how I get to life experiences I described above, please share.
From my heart to yours,
Thanks for reading