We don't always know who we are until we look backwards and see what we've done. Life's complicated, busy, full, fast paced, and we're often running to catch up with ourselves most of the time. In my thirties, I promised I'd look back on my life and share what I'd learned over the decades. Trust me, I never stopped learning. Who knew thirty years would seem like a wink of an eye! Although, when you've done as much as I have, things move fast!
I graduated from Suffolk University in Boston, Magna cum Laude or with high honors. I would have graduated Sum cum Laude or with highest honors, if I hadn't skipped most of my socioeconomics classes, just handing in the required paperwork. The professor gave me an incomplete, and when I went to see him about this, he said he lost my paper and asked what grade I wanted! Feeling quilty for not attending his classes I asked for B, even though I wanted an A and likely deserved it given his grades for the work done. That B left my GPA (grade point average) .05 percent below Sum cum Laude. First lesson in be careful what you ask for!
This is all kinda funny really, given that the public-school system had labeled me as retarded! Yup that's the word they used, when I was all of twelve years old! They said I couldn't go to junior high and would remain in elementary school until I finally left school! Huh? Children's Hospital in Boston contradicted the schools' perception, with the neurologist, psychologists and doc's all saying, no, not retarded, in fact, superior, actually gifted! Not even my parents were ready for this, after all the years they'd been told otherwise. So mind you, by this tender age, I was already facing a significant dichotomy in reality. How does a little kid put those puzzle pieces together? Let me assure you, not that easily. I went from limited expectations and a general sense of low self-esteem, to high expectations with low self-esteem. Greaaat... Did anyone ever talk about how all this all felt and what it was doing to my psyche? Nope... not a one.
That summer, I attended Boston University's PhD program for learning challenged children. My parent called it a special honor, being one of a handful of kids from all over the state who were selected for this prestigious program. To me, it was a form of torture. Mom got a 195o Chevy with no power steering from my uncle, who sold cars, for ten dollars in order to drive me to the train station each morning. I'd travel from the burbs by train to the North Station, about 45 minutes. Grab an underground trolley to Park Street. Change trolley's there to go out to BU. Mom took me a couple times to show me the way and then I was on my own to do this every day for most of that summer. If you don't think that was scary for an twelve-year old, you're kiddin yourself. I was one of the tiniest kids in the class, and not bold at all. Mom's on the trolley would see me and just scoop me up to sit next to them, which I loved.
Once at B.U., I met one-on-one with a Ph.D. candidate working on her thesis. I was her thesis. She was studying how to teach dyslexics to read, write, understand words, language, phonics, punctuation and to function in the real world. This was followed by special classes after school, on weekends, and even in school, for years. Leaving me to struggle with image issues, anxiety about making mistakes when reading or talking in class or anywhere really. I feared saying the wrong words, not understanding many words, or simply not knowing how to do all sorts of typical things. And I'm sure you can guess that some kids were mean to me, bullying and making me feel inferior due to my challenges. Kids can be real creeps.
Not surprisingly, I withdrew, became quiet, tried to hide under the radar, to even become invisible. I was different and I knew it. I'd always known it. If I were retarded perhaps, I wouldn't have known I was different. But I did. So, I'd watch quietly, listening, thinking and assessing what was going on around me, all the time. I was sort of hypervigilant. This is how I learned. This extra vigilance allowed me to see and understand things that others didn't see or understand. Much like a deaf or blind person, develops different skills to adjust to their world, skills others never develop. I had a good memory, paid attention, applied logic, thought, wondered and did the very best that I could in school.
It certainly shouldn't seem like a stretch that I was fascinated with psyhcology, human behavior, childhood development, and the social sciences. I had empathy and plenty of it for those who struggled with life's challenges, like I did. I often sensed other's stress or anxiety without them ever saying a word. I knew the signs, read their body language, understanding what was said and even what wasn't. It was also common for people who were struggling with issues, to simply walk up to me and start sharing them! Like on the beach in FL as I was walking with a woman sharing intimate stuff about her kids, life and parenting! At a work party, where someone shared the heart wrenching death of their son. Even in the Boston subway. It was like I had a sign on me, tell me your troubles. A friend used to say, "they can pick you out of a large crowd"!
So, is it any surprise that I graduated college with a degree in social services and had a full time job even before graduating? A professor, hired me to run an alternative detention center! All one hundred pounds of me, socking wet! Oh ya, I would be the head mamo to these kids! Laughable right? The program was designed to keep noncriminal kids, runaways, truants, and kids with family problems out of lock up, where they'd only learn to be criminals. We'd put each teen with a young adult or proctor, for a two to six-week period, where we'd develop a case plan to resolve their issues, hopefully deterring future problems. I mean, there was one young man who was busted for cooking a meal for himself after breaking into a school one night. This may have violated the law, but it was actually resourceful. There was the girl who painted black spots all over her face with magic marker. She didn't belong in jail, she belonged in a psychiatric treatment facility. She would have been eaten alive in Juvie.
This program was so successful in keeping kids with a proctor in an unlocked environment, the state started sending us kids who could escape from lock up. Ya, they'd stay with us. The point being these kids needed attention, and support. This ain't rocket science. We grew the program, and the number of kids managed, at any one time. But as we grew, so did the number of kids with more concerning issues. So, here I am one day, sitting in my car with a young woman who was in the back seat, holding two large rocks, saying I'm going to smash your ....... head in. And I'm thinking, hmmmm, I never read anything in my college text books on how to address this issue! Obviously, I survived without head dents, but safety was a true concern with seriously angry, defiant teens. If they have issues a 3 or 4 deal with them then, when you still can set controls. It's pretty tought to uneind all that at 14 or 15.
The gentleman who'd hired me for this job went on to become The Commissioner of Children Services for the state, after gaining acknowledgement for the alternative programs he'd developed, and we executed. We did eventually close the proctor program, not that it failed, in fact the opposite. The state used the program for their best interests, putting us at risk, eventually destroying what was an excellent resource for the right kind of kids.
I went on to place older children for adoption. Finding permanent homes for individuals, siblings and even sibling groups, which had rarely, if ever been done back then. As we still evidence today, as twins and siblings find each other after decades of separation. I placed the intellectually challenged and handicapped children in permanent families, being recognized by the adoption community as a leader in adoption placements for older children. Children who had often been warehoused before this time. Institutions were closing, and alternatives were needed.
One day out of nowhere, I was asked by my employer, at the request of state officials, to manage a social nightmare, getting a "high profile" case out of the national media. I said, hell no. I'm not nuts! The retort was, this isn't a question... Being a smarty pants, I said great, you do exactly what I say and I'll get this out of the media. They agreed! Oh crap. And so, the task began. We made great progress, minimized the chatter, managing the issues behind the scenes. When I took a day off and the Director of (Un)Professional Services, as we liked to call her, decided to step in and do something which I knew would blow the situation wide open again. When I got back to work and heard what had happened, I quit, telling the group that I would leave as soon as I got it out of the media again. And I did both, got it out of the media and left social work.
I mean I was making eighteen thousand dollars a year, had had my life threatened multiple times, went into scary areas of cities where police warned me of the significant dangers. I brought charges against abusive parents with criminal records. I slept with a butcher knife next to my bed after some events! Like I'd last a minute if they decided to target me! My social service clients had 3 phones, and multiple TVs. I had one old black and white TV, a phone and a butcher knife for protection! Really? I mean, I could barely keep a roof over my head.
I got a job selling advertising for a local B2B (business 2 business) newspaper in Providence RI. I was moved from the outback territory to the lead territory after three months. I later moved to selling ads for a national publication, selling so much that company reduced the overall compensation for all the sales people to ensure that I made less money!? How did they think this was going to work for them? I moved on to establish two newspapers, related websites, and multiple events in the physical security industry; developing it into the most respected and profitable publication in an overly saturated marketspace. I sold so much the owner was able to buy out his partner, who was frustratingly combative with him. My big reward for this was him having the entire staff bow to me at the Christmas party, where he later personally thanked me for saving his business. From here, he went back to being his curmudgeon self.
I took a position as the Director of Business Development in the U.S. for a billion dollar spin off from an eight-billion-dollar parent company out of Sweden. This new company was listed on the Swedish stock exchange, and a few years later sold to Stanley Tools for a serious hunk of cash! When I entered the company, it was billion-dollar start-up who didn't even have letterhead, envelopes, office signage, or any sales or marketing tools, and a website that was cobbled together with a page or two of information. I worked with all the U.S. sales teams, their ten-ish different growing market sectors, developing all their sales and marketing materials, including videos and their event footprint in the U.S. I worked directly with the US president, the company's CTO out of sweden, their international marketing group, including different international divisions. It was a heck of a learning experience with the bottom-line being to feed the stock holders money we really didn't have. I.E. why Stanley Tools was able to scoop them up with minimal, if any profits being gained, by the original investors.
I dabbled in sales for the largest security camera manufacturer in the world. Worked with another publishing house who nearly hemorrhaged out in the great recession, losing half their revenue and dozens of their products as the economy dwindled away. I consulted with a regional security system designer, facing a series of challenges from staffing issues, management strategies, processing problems, with no real growth or business plan. In a years' time, the company was recognized as "the Fastest Growing Middle Market Integrator", and "The Installer of the Year" by two different publications in the market space.
This led to consulting with a software developer. The entrepreneur who'd been the driver behind the company since its birth, had left his baby in the hands of a manager, while he went on hiatus for a couple years. Upon his return, the manager left and he contracted with me to help him steady the ship. The company was cash poor, borrowing from the bank to make payroll, with out-of-date software, and a need to rebuild pretty much from the ground up. Six years later, the software was redesigned, new products had been introduced, new divisions were built, and the company had a recurring revenue stream, which the owner hadn't believed clients would even buy into when we started this. This allowed him to self-fund just about anything he wanted to do. They have an international sales footprint, with some deals delivering as much a five million dollars in one contract, with me being their only sales person - globally. I never even got an at-a-girl, a raise or a bonus. So, I left 'em...walked away.
Today, I'm volunteering with a small group of security professionals to launch The Global Life Safety Alliance, bringing security experts from around the world together, to raise the quality of security and safety around the globe, through the collaboration of security experts and associations all over the planet. This is a long-term project with great potential for everyone in the world.
I wish that I could say that I was properly compensated in business, that women were treated equally, that owners and operators were not self-focused, often undermining their own growth and success! That Ego's don't get in the way of best practices, logic, equality and fairness. Yet, the simple reality is that it's usually the ego driven people who strive to be the leader of the pack, to have their goals implemented, to be seen as the hero or super hero, sometimes at the expense of their best resources. In truth, it is the worker bees who make it all happen. Worker bees too often are looked at as simply chess pieces on their game board. This is a tough one...
Life is not fair. It's an adventure and we are all on the ride.
Adventure is defined by Merriam Webster as:
1. An undertaking that involves danger and unknown risks
2. The encountering of risks
3. An exciting or remarkable experience
4. An enterprise involving financial risks
Ya, that pretty well sums it up. And then you get to throw in family, relationships, kids, friends, socioeconomics, your local, and don't forget emotions! Good Lord, why would we talk about those dang things, other than they're a reality of our everyday existence, with few folks spending any time to understand the impact they have in our daily life. And then there's an ego... OMG that puppy can make a mess a things.
When I made that promise back in my thirties, to look back at my life in my sixties, reflecting on what I learned growing up - as it were. I planned to return to my roots of supporting people, when I retired from the work-a-day grind. It's never been my dream to sit around knitting or watching TV. What a snore that would be. I want to stay busy, doing things that truly help people. To me, there is nothing more valuable than this - period.
I have now added Certified Life Coach, on top of everything else I've done. I've been researching, reading, studying, watching webinars, podcasts and learning about ways to improve one's life for decades now. With the goal of sharing what I've learned through living and learning what makes living a life easier. It can be easier, I know, because I've spent decades learning how to do this.