Friday, August 5, 2011

Doing it Better, for College Sake...


I transferred colleges, and one of my first papers I had to write is my life history. Really? Come on. Even the idea of it turns my stomach. Now, this is along with all the forum discussions we have had to participate in on what Academic Ethics "mean to me" and blah blah blah. To me, it means that all the illiterate nimrods that are posting in run-on sentences and text-talk should be given an ethical ass-kicking, but thats just me.

So, yeah, wait for it....I am posting my paper. :D It's long, it's probably painful (for you to read, lol), but it is the first draft. Final draft is due next week, so if you happen to have any constructive criticism you want to throw my way, I am happy to hear it! But at any rate, I think life stories are overwhelming to write, and I hate them. So go ahead....share my hate :D

Redheads Do It Better
Lisa Marie Smith
PSY 202
Dr. Wendy Conoway
August 1, 2011

So, Hawaii 5-0 was a TV show that was popular in the late 70’s early 80’s. TV shows are interesting because we learn to hear the theme songs, and associate the show with the song, so when the theme is played at a later time, we immediately think of the TV show. My dad’s favorite show in the late 70’s early 80’s was Hawaii 5-0. It was in fact, on TV when my mom’s water broke, and as the story goes, my dad asked her if she could wait until Hawaii 5-0 was over before he took her to the hospital. That was August 1980, on an army base in Wurzburg, Germany. Interestingly enough, I have a warm association now every time I happen to hear that theme song, even though, that situation could have been handled much better. I have lived exactly 31 years, beginning tomorrow, August 2nd, and the more I think about the upcoming future, the more I seem to recollect the past for references of what to do and what NOT to do. Deciding not to settle, living life better, choosing happiness better, doing IT ALL better – I will do it better than my parents did, will decide to learn from their mistakes and successes; this gal will do it better.

Being born in Germany, you would think that I came out of the womb with a German accent or my arm raised high in the air paying homage to the most infamous German, Hitler. Nope. My first word wasn’t “Hiel”, either. I have never spoken German, and have only come close to the accent when I have mucus lodged in the back of my throat. But, equally bad, I suppose, was the fact I was born with red hair. Now my mom was ecstatic! She had always wanted a redhead and when my older brother had been born with red hair 2 years prior, she went into a serious depression when it all fell out after two weeks and came in blond. I honestly think she was going to wrap duct tape around my head to keep the hair in place. We lived in Germany a few years and then my dad was transferred back to the states to another army base in Indianapolis, Indiana. My parents were each others second marriages and they had met in the army.

Indianapolis was where I was raised – it has my first real memories. We moved here when I was 3 or 4, and lived off base in a house with a big yard. My parents and my brother were all I knew. We had no family here. My mom’s family lived in Ohio, and my dad’s family lived in Alabama. We would see each of them about once a year at the holidays. There were no phone calls, no ‘relationship’, other than the birthday money we would receive in a card for our birthdays.

When I was 5, my parents almost divorced. I can remember sitting on the floor on the living room, as my dad folded washrags (which I can remember thinking even then, that it was really odd to see Dad DOING laundry, Mom always did that), I asked when Mom was coming home, and didn’t really get an answer from him. I don’t remember fighting or anything bad between them, that I saw. All I know is that Mom came home, and she stayed. They didn’t get a divorce. Not long after that, I began to hear about something called “Amway” and I began to notice people, men, in suits, coming to our house a lot. My parents had gotten involved in Amway. Apparently my dad was very excited about it, and saw potential to really do something with his own business, so he wanted to do it. My mom was very against it and wanted nothing to do with the business. She is shy, and so the idea of having to meet new people scared the poo out of her. She told him that he could do it, and she would watch it fail – which gave him even more cause to do it, to spite her. She ended up eventually coming around, and this became their life. My dad even ended up quitting the army to do Amway full time. Mom eventually quit her job as a respiratory therapist as well.

Working hard was instilled in me from a very young age. With my parents constantly focused on Amway, my brother and I had a lot of chores to do, and responsibilities to help my parents. I always did my share and my brothers, because he was a lazy bum, and still is actually. But Amway did seem to run our lives, and as I grew older, I began to realize my independence, and the fact I had my own ideals and opinions about things. When I was 13, I decided I wanted to get a job, to earn my own money, to get out of the house, to continue to become my own person. I got a job at the Dairy Queen, and worked there until I was 16, when I was made a night manager. I was a hard worker and I was recognized in money and opportunities there. I ended up working there until I was 17, when my family moved to Alabama to take care of my dad’s parents, who were very sick. I lived in Alabama about a year and a half.

It was in high school I began to get involved in theater. It peaked my interest as I was choosing elective classes as a freshman, and I chose to take it. I was hooked. In middle school, I knew I was not an athlete – I am not competitive, so sports were never a good fit for me. I was not the fastest runner, never the quickest in gym class, and this really begins to wear on you, as you grow up and try to find yourself and determine who you are. Acting was something I excelled at. I was in the shows in school, and even began to work in the community theater circuit, acting in productions on the Indianapolis theater stage. I have continued to be involved in theater, after a 6 year hiatus, and know I will be for the rest of my life. It is a passion of mine and something that I will not give up. It has never been a career path for me, although many people have told me that I should consider it. Sadly, there are so many starving artists, and I did not want to be another one. Plus, I did not want to DEPEND on my craft for the roof over my head. Because then you lose the ability to enjoy doing it, and it becomes a “have-to” – similar to the other obligations we end up surrounding ourselves with, like marriage and kids.

I was married when I was 18. And divorced at 28. I was living in Alabama at the time, and I recall the Ex asking me to marry him. I said yes, because I saw that as a way out. A way to become independent of my parents. The Ex lived in Indianapolis, his family was all there, and I was happy to get away from mine, and really BEGIN my life. I did not see that I could do that on my own in Alabama. My parents, by this time, had moved on from Amway, as their business fell apart (they found out people were stealing money from them) and they were both trying to cope with “What the heck do we do now?” My brother had enlisted in the army, so he was gone, and it was just me…trying to start my life, while living in my parents house. So the Ex asked me to marry him; he had a good job, made good money and he was enamored with me. So I masked my excitement to be on my own, as love, and said “I Do”.

The best thing that came out of that marriage was my lil man. He is 10 now and lives with me full time. His dad will get him on the weekends, but I am the primary parent, as his dad lives an hour away. I never wanted kids. There are some people who are conditioned to be mothers, and others who like kids, accept kids, but really are entirely too selfish to be a parent. I am the latter. I admit it, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I am selfish. This is one of those things that I have come to know and accept about myself. I don’t want to have to watch cartoons, or buy video games, or have a room that is completely overloaded with toys…but…I do. And we make it work. My lil man is a wonderful person and I have never understood the parents that can say they never wanted to be a parent, and then they just up and leave, abandoning their flesh. Every decision I make or don’t make is going to shape who my lil man becomes, and that is my greatest living, daily fear.

So we divorced 3 years ago, after a long struggle with the Ex’s bipolar disorder. When we were first married, I knew something was ‘off’ – something not quite right. He would display erratic behaviors like going and buying excessively priced golf clubs, timeshares, etc, without telling me about it – lying about everything, performing personality ‘180’s’ to where anything I said or asked could and would be turned around and used against me. There was always mental abuse. I tolerated it, for a few reasons. One, because you get conditioned to your surroundings. If someone comes along and hacks off your arm in one swoop, you notice that right away. However, if someone slowly and over time just scratches your arm, you never really notice until years later that, “Huh, half my arm is gone”. Secondly, after being conditioned, I did not feel strong enough to do anything about my situation. I have no family in Indianapolis – early in my marriage, my parents decided to divorce, and now my mom was in Ohio and my dad was in Alabama – both close to their families. So there was no one I could turn to for help – my current job was unstable, and I knew I could not support myself – and quite frankly, I held out hope that things would change. Things finally came to a head about 8 years into our marriage, my lil man was 7 and really began to notice the fights. Although it was usually past his bedtime when the Ex would start in on me, I know lil man heard it. He would ask about the yelling, ask why Daddy was mad at me, and then one day, the Ex grabbed me and shook me before shoving me off into a corner. That shake, I believe, woke me up – and I decided I had had enough. I was done. I said I was leaving and I wasn’t taking anymore. The Ex then told me he would go get help, and I said it was too little, too late. That he should have considered it all the other times I suggested WE go get help. Now, I didn’t care. And I found a place, and moved out, took lil man, and we have been on our own ever since.

Being a single mother with an Ex who doesn’t put his son first is hard. Trying to be in my lil mans life playing the mother AND father figure while working 40+ hours a week, and making sure there is food on the table, and clothes to wear, and still have the energy to play and do things with lil man is admittedly, hard enough. But I never went to college. I married, remember? And me going to school then was out of the question financially; not to mention the fact that I would have not had time to take care of all the other ‘chores’ I did as a wife. So 3 years ago, I decided to enroll in school. I loved school and always wanted to go. I really didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do – my thought was to take a few classes to see what I liked, and begin to narrow it down. My company reimbursed 100% tuition, and so I was very excited about the possibilities. I love school and decided to major in English. I love literature and history, and studying words, and so every class I take is exciting to me. Ideally, I will be in school the rest of my life. I don’t know what I want to ‘do’ with my degree – I have worked in Marketing at a stable company that has treated me very well for the past 7 years, and so I am not in a hurry to jump careers as of yet.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and each day brings new opportunities for you to grow and mature as a person. This brings me to today. Today, I live in Indianapolis, with my lil man, alone. My closest family is 500 miles away. I have red hair and the fiery personality that goes along with it. I have 2 friends, and dozens of acquaintances. Although I am a very outgoing, friendly person, I don’t have friends. I don’t trust people. Quite frankly, I always hold everyone at arms length, because the ‘other shoe always drops’ – at least in my history. People do not immediately get to know me, I am very closed off, cynical, and always looking to see what your angle is…how to you plan to hurt me in the future? No, I don’t think this is a prime way to live, but I have a lil man to think about, and preservation of self is the only thing that I can control. Am I an unhappy person? Absolutely not! Everyday is a growing process for me, to become better and stronger and to realize that I don’t have to settle. That I DO deserve the best that life has to offer me, and I will choose to welcome it, and not take less than what I deserve. I want to let people in; I don’t want to feel like a caged animal – but the process is slow.

My plans for tomorrow are wide open. The one girlfriend I have has told me that she doesn’t look at the glass being half full or half empty. She looks at the glass and goes, “Where is my refill?” I have since adopted that philosophy, in that, I know that there are big plans for me, to live a full life, to give a full life to my lil man, to do things, and go places, and travel, and cross off my bucket list. Everyday, I wake up and ask for my refill. While I seek satisfaction from giving back, and doing things in the theater, helping people, etc, I also feel stagnate at times as well. I use the stagnate times to reflect, relax, and begin to wrap my head around what I want to do next.

Jean Piaget believed that the overriding goal of children is to make sense of their world. (Witt & Mossler, 2010) While I agree with that statement, I do not believe that stops when you become an adult. Growing up is more learning, more understanding, more taking in of the realities of the universe, and being able to make sense of it, as we live it. Reflecting on my life thus far, I feel like a child. With everything that I have been through and all of the things I have accomplished and have yet to accomplish, everyday is brand new. Every day is another day that I am trying to make sense of, to understand, to see how I fit into the world, into my world. How to make my world, fit me.

Knowing where I have come from and digesting what I have been through and all of the things I have done on my own, I should feel like a strong, unstoppable force all the time. I don’t. I am laden with guilt and the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ phenomenon – but I try not to dwell on it. Because that is what my parents did. They spent a lot of time going through the motions of life, as opposed to living their lives. And I won’t do that. Life is not to go through the motions, but to MAKE the motions. And I will, because I will do it better.


  1. Very well written for a first draft, my dear FRIEND Lisa. :-) My only "teacher-y" comment is to look at your verb tenses and make sure they are consistent throughout. Read it out loud and see if anything sounds funny to you. I always revise my stuff by reading it out loud. Great job. LOVE YOU!

  2. I give you an A. You have such a strong and distinct voice in your writing that I think it overcomes any technical difficulties. In other words, who fucking cares about verb tenses!
    Sorry to hear that your parents joined a cult when you were younger. But at least they escaped.

  3. Bravo! Author, author .... oh wait : )
    Well done, Lisa!