54 Years of Successes, Failures, and Recollections
54 years ago on January 26, my 5-pound 12-ounce self entered this world. My life hasn’t been one of those remarkable ones that you read about in magazines or that warrants an interview with Oprah. I’ve not achieved celebrity status or invented something innovative or embarked on any grand mission to change the world. But during my years here, while I haven’t done any one thing that’s extraordinary, I have done a lot of things (after all, 54 years is quite a long time).
I thought it would be fun to take a look back. So, I decided to put some concentrated brain power toward remembering some of the successes, failures, and random memories of my experience on this earth thus far. Working through this exercise, I found the flood of recollections therapeutic. My life has been a pretty damn good one. Maybe not the stuff of a compelling biography, but it’s mine and it’s special to me. I expect that anyone else who has also led an “ordinary” life and takes time to reflect on their journey will discover their experiences collectively paint a colorful and unique painting.
54 Random Reflections From My 54 Years (in no particular order)
- At around age 5, I took ballet, tap, and gymnastics lessons at a local dance studio. The day of the recital, I was so nervous I pretended to be sick so that I didn’t have to perform.
- In 4th grade, I was the fastest kid in our class (girls and boys, included).
- When I was about 12, I visited a farm and the owner gave me a fresh egg from the chicken coop. I set up a box with a night light over it in my bedroom and rotated the egg under the light several times a day for 20 or so days in hopes that it would hatch. It did and my pet “Ricky Chick” was born.
- My family took a two-week vacation cross country to Wyoming when I was in middle school. We borrowed my aunt and uncle’s custom van. The places we visited during the road trip included the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, and a former neighbor’s ranch in Lander, Wyoming.
- I took baton twirling lessons for approximately 7 years and was a feature twirler in the Oley Valley High School Marching Band in my junior and senior years.
- I auditioned for the Millersville University Marching Band my sophomore year and didn’t make the cut.
- I performed in plays and musicals throughout high school, college, and in community theater. Shows and roles include: No, No Nanette (dancer); South Pacific (nurse); Oliver (Widow Corney); Night of January 16th (Nancy Lee Faulkner); Chamber Music (Amelia Earhart); TV (various roles); Spoon River Anthology (various roles); Angel Street (Bella); How the Other Half Loves (Fiona); The Insect Comedy (Chrysalis, and I directed one of the acts); Lil Abner (Dogpatch wife); Busybody (Marian); A Murder is Announced (Phillipa); Nuts (Attorney MacMillan); Steel Magnolias (M’Lynn)
- I studied Kung Fu for 4 years.
- In college, I was anorexic. What unexpectedly helped me overcome it was joining a weight training class during my senior year in which the coach encouraged me to consider bodybuilding. Thanks to him, my struggle for control shifted from starving myself to becoming more powerful. I regret never reaching out to him years later to tell him that he saved my life. About 10 years ago, I learned that he had passed away.
- From 1993 to 1997, I competed in a total of seven amateur bodybuilding competitions. In 2001 and 2002, I coached a team of first-time bodybuilders. Several continued to compete up until just a few years ago.
- I married one of the funniest people I have ever met.
- I gave birth to my daughter on September 11, 2001. While in labor, I was watching the Today Show and saw the plane hit the second tower, live.
- I graduated cum laude from Millersville University with a B.S. degree in Communications and a concentration in Journalism.
- I worked for a non-profit regional theatre as a marketing and public relations assistant for two years. One of my biggest regrets was quitting that job. It didn’t pay squat, but I believe many possible paths would have opened to me had I stuck it out.
- I bartended for four years.
- I worked for a regional, family-owned telecommunications company for 17 years. I thought I would retire there. When a national company bought that company, my entire department was eliminated.
- I started a freelance writing business in 2010 with virtually no current portfolio or business startup knowledge.
- My first freelance customer stiffed me. He owed me a whopping $60.
- Only one other customer stiffed me in the past 9 years.
- I landed a paid (barely) acting gig portraying a gypsy/ fire eater’s sidekick at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire during the summer of ‘85.
- I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 21. It has progressed since. About 20 years ago, a surgeon told me I will likely need spinal fusion surgery at about age 55 to prevent the condition from compromising my heart and lungs. I think I can tough it out longer.
- I don’t do competitive bodybuilding anymore (my scoliosis has ruined all chances for that), but I still lift religiously.
- I can comfortably push 370 pounds (weight of the plates) for 5 reps on the leg press machine. Almost where I was at over 20 years ago. My bench press sucks, though.
- I ran the Merrill Down ‘N Dirty Mud Run in 2011 and placed 9th out of the 104 participants in my age group.
- I was inducted into the National Honor Society in high school.
- I failed my DMV road test. Twice.
- I was a Camp Fire Girl. Our troop met weekly at the Oley Valley Youth Building.
- I was a Brownie Girl Scout leader for 3 years.
- I was runner up to homecoming queen at the first homecoming our high school ever had.
- I was one of the candidates in the running to represent our school at the county Junior Miss pageant, but I wasn’t selected.
- I led an eating disorders support group for a year.
- In 2016, I wanted to add a second dog to our pack. We took in a sweet rescue pit bull (Sydney, who we renamed “Loki). Unfortunately, we soon realized we had a lot more work to do with our incumbent pitty mix, Lulu. I was heartbroken. Rather than send him back to rescue, we kept him as a foster dog and assisted in finding him a new home. Fortunately, some family friends met him, fell in love with him, and made him a part of their family. I visit him from time to time.
- One year, when chaperoning a church youth beach trip, I temporarily lost my wedding ring in the sand. A nice lady with a metal detector found it for me.
- I played fast-pitch softball (third base and pitcher) in a summer youth league back in the day.
- I volunteered as a SCORE mentor with the Lancaster-Lebanon chapter for three years. I served on their Executive Board as their V.P. of Marketing for one of those years.
- I was the jello wrestling champion at an “Almost Anything Goes” competition during high school. I represented the National Honor Society team. In the final match, I faced off with a very statuesque, muscular woman from Kutztown University. I pinned her in 3 seconds flat.
- I had a pet snake (a rainbow boa constrictor) named Flakey from when I was in third grade until two years out of college.
- I’ve kept a potentially life-ruining secret for a friend for over 25 years.
- I’ve visited and partially hiked the Grand Canyon.
- I traveled to Hawaii (Oahu and the Big Island) in 2017.
- I got dumped by my date at prom my junior year of high school.
- I was asked to write the foreword to my friend’s book about her brother, “I Am Not My Body. A Tribute to Jim MacLaren.”
- I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 30 years old—but after about 10 years, it disappeared.
- I had a leopard gecko named Lilo. At the age of 7, she died. On my birthday. 🙁
- Upon graduating from Millersville University, I was presented the Edward J. Laucks Memorial Sertoma Award for Excellence in Communications.
- I scored miserably on my SATs.
- I wrote a health and fitness column called “Body Business” in the Millersville University student newspaper.
- I was voted “Best Legs” and “Best Personality” in my class in high school.
- I once tried out for the high school basketball team but quit before cuts were made. I have no doubt that I would have been among them.
- During the summer after I graduated from college in 1987, I held three jobs at once.
- One year, when attending the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with my family, I was randomly chosen to be an audience participant in a knife juggling/throwing act. Another year, I was pulled on stage to be a part of a wench auction.
- I grew up with a regulation-size pool table in our family basement. I’m out of practice, but I’m a decent shot.
- I originally planned to major in social work.
- Twice, I tried to get through Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I failed both times.
And there you have it—some highs, lows, and in-betweens of my life experience. Perhaps some of it explains a lot. And some of it surely explains nothing.
Your turn! I challenge you to think back on your achievements and let-downs throughout your life journey. What 54 (or 32 or 75 or 43 or 21) memories made your list? I’m looking forward to reading about them.