Leading up to this most momentous occasion, I have been taking stock of my life for the past thirty years. Not all of my memories are pleasant; in fact many I would wish to forget. They say our hardships make us what we are today. I have been remade again and again.
Bear with me here; I may get a little veklempt.
My life has been anything but easy. Where many of my friends grew up in normal, loving households, my family life was a perfect lesson in disfunction. My mother married my father at the age of 19 and by the age of 20, my brother was born and she knew she had made a mistake. Several years and two more kids later, my parents fought constantly. I was lucky to have a supportive and attentive mother, but my father was a relative stranger. The idea of children was exciting, but once we outgrew our baby cuteness, my father lost interest and spent very little if any time with us at all. I can recall one instance where I sat in the same room with him for hours and was never once acknowledged. At the age of 8, my parents divorced, and it was the best thing to ever happen to our family. I cannot imagine how I would have turned out had I grown up with such a cold, distant man. My resentment toward him escalated as I got older, having to endure guilt trips and pity parties, settling adult problems on the shoulders of a child. My maturity quickly outstripped his until I could no longer stand to be in his presence. Our visits dwindled; we spoke rarely on the phone. The last time I saw my father was when I graduated high school where he acted more like a child than I did. The last time I spoke to him was when I told him I was accepted to WSU. He told me I had better get scholarships because he couldn't afford to send me there. He never once congratulated me. Five years later, I struggled with the choice of whether or not to invite him to my wedding. In the end, I extended the olive branch, mostly to avoid guilt trips from my grandmother. It was now or never; his last chance to make-up for all the neglect and bullshit. He declined to attend. I haven't cared to think about him since. He will never meet his grandchildren.
Adolescence is difficult for all of us, and I would never presume to say I had it worse than anyone else. I struggled with my identity, my place in the world. I never felt like I fit in; I wasn't girly or popular or talented in any way. My self esteem was non-existent, and at home the nightmares continued. I don't wish to recall every detail, but by the time I reached junior high, we had endured enough for a lifetime.
I was lucky. At a point in my life where I could have spiraled into oblivion, I made the most amazing, wonderful friends. I cannot thank them enough for accepting me, even though I was REALLY weird. And chubby :) Thank you all so much for the laughter, the crazy sleepovers, flashlight tag, "True Colors," green M&Ms, Mud (especially Mud), Monty Python, and all the other goofy inside jokes I will think about over the years and smile...when I remember...old age and all. I feel so incredibly privileged to know you. I couldn't have made it without you.
I was smart. I wasn't pretty or skinny. I didn't have beautiful hair or wear make-up. I didn't have boyfriends or even dates. The only thing I had was a brain, and it was my pride and joy. I am so thankful to have a love of learning, even if it earned me the title of "nerd." I may be a nerd, but I am also the nerd that now owns her own business and writes books. Suck it. I am so thankful for wonderful teachers who challenged me and nourished my brain. It is okay to like school, and I am looking forward to going back.
I was an artist. And not too bad. I suppose every artist is most critical of themselves, but there are moments when I feel pride in a job well done. Being an artist has allowed me not only to express myself creatively, but to find joy in making others happy. I am so grateful for the tears of joy I have invoked with this gift.
High school was awkward as it is for everyone, but thanks to great friends, great teachers, and great classes, I am happy to be able to look back on my high school experience. No, I never went to a dance or had boyfriends, but in all honesty I didn't mind. More important than the social scenes were my best friends and the fun we had. No dance could compete. And of course, I had Jane Austen. When I discovered her books, it was an epiphany, lightning striking, a light bulb going off, that moment in time where you know your life will be forever changed. Dramatic much? Perhaps, but because of her, I decided to write. I had always considered myself imaginative; I drew, I wrote little stories for school, I did a lot of pretend play. And then Jane Austen came along and I discovered my muse, my genre. And the words came. I began writing The Devoted, then titled The Disinterested Intellect, and another piece of the puzzle fell into place. My journey to becoming a writer had begun.
Being accepted to WSU was the most exciting day of my life (up until that point). Ever since I was eight, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, and I couldn't imagine wanting to be anything else. I planned on majoring in Zoology, pre-vet. I loved Pullman. The campus is beautiful, the classes were challenging, and the people were friendly. All the high school b.s. was over; we were adults. I admit; I loved my classes. For the most part. Some were incredibly difficult. I still didn't like chemistry, I hated physics, and physiology was my biggest struggle. I excelled in biology, mammology, and anatomy, and I ended up with a minor in history. It was at WSU that I met Chase. My friend was dating his best friend, so our meeting was inevitable. And we hated each other. He thought I was a cold bitch, which was probably because I was looking at him thinking, "Who is this arrogant bastard who won't shut up?" My own Pride and Prejudice beginning. Obviously, we got over the initial impression, and here we are 10 years later. It was also in college that I was introduced to my love of horses. Its true what they say: you discover yourself in college.
In the end, I decided to forgo vet school. Why? I had changed. I still loved animals, but I focused more on wildlife rehab. And I was broke. And tired. I had been studying for 17 years and I needed a break. I graduated in 2005 with my Bachelor's in Zoology and Chase with his Master's in Entomology. We moved to Long Beach, WA when he accepted a job at the WSU extension office. I worked for Skippers Horse Rentals. In 2006, I accepted a job at Long Beach Coffee Roasters, and that summer, Chase and I were married. The rest is history, right?
Here I am, a husband, two kids, a business, a book, a life later. This has been quite a journey, and I would like to thank everyone who rode it out with me. Thank you, Mom, for believing in me, for knowing there was more than met the eye. Thank you to my lifelong friends for letting me find a place in your group. Thank you Chase for seeing me underneath the awkward, shy, chubby girl. Thank you, Kelly, for being my best friend, for gallops on the beach, for beer and rants. Thank you coffee shop for introducing me to some awesome people. Thank you to everyone who encourages me to write, to paint, to be me. Thank you to my beautiful children for teaching me patience and that I have an amazing capacity to love. I look forward to the next 30 years with you.
This has been a long diatribe and it probably seems a little sanguine, but I have been reflecting on my life a lot lately. I have looked back at where I was, and I could have never imagined this is where I would be. Through it all, I have been myself, though ever changing, at the core I have been a geek, an artist, a loyal friend, freaking hilarious, and stubbornly strong. Sinatra said it best: I did it my way.
Fuck yeah, I did.