How Have Your Experiences Formed You?

I always wanted children. I came from a very large family and the gatherings were always so energetic and fun. It was never a thought in my head that one day I would not have children. I just never knew I would raise her on my own.

How have your experiences shaped you?

I had many moments of silent contemplation as I looked over my shoulder to see the path I had walked behind me. I wondered how I’d been through so much. How did these experiences lead me to be who I am today? I decided to round up this trail so I could actually see what it looked like. Here is my journey and my thoughts on how each stepping stone has shaped me along the way.

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is in the way we use them.

When I was 16, I was shy and was just starting to find out who I was. My shyness subsided as I became more and more confident. I started to hear my own voice.

At 18, my confidence was intact and I was feeling pretty. I felt like I knew who I was and where I was going.

When I was 21 I became a woman. I got serious with an education. I went to school and learned to be responsible for myself. My family wasn’t with me, so I had to learn to lean on only myself.

At 22, I met a man … the man. The one I would spend the rest of my life with. He was wonderful. He was smart, athletic, and very handsome. And he inspired me to be a better me. He was who I spent my life with.

I graduated from college when I was 25. After graduation, I went to England and France and felt every inch of my world. But I was ready to get married. At least that’s what I thought. I think I wanted to be a real adult. So we got engaged when I put a gun to his head and told him I had the world at my fingertips and it was either now or never. He gave in and we got engaged.

I got married when I was 26. And when I was 26, my new husband changed. He wanted to be a little separate from me. He jumped into his own physical fitness, which I wasn’t included in. But I cheered him on and supported him in all competitions.

At 30, I finally found a career that I liked. I have matured. I got a feeling for myself again. I’ve grown so I grew up.

When we were 33, we bought a house in a beautiful area near the beach. We finally seemed to be on the same page. We finally started growing together and sharing this common goal of home ownership and preparing for a single family home.

When I was 34, I had a little boy. I was now a working mom. I had a good career, a sweet home, a wonderful husband and everything was fine in my world. I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

When I was 36, I found out my husband was having an affair. My heart literally stopped. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. Why should he do that? Why should he separate our family? He didn’t go. He wasn’t ready … I guess. We decided to stay together and rebuild. Rebuild our home and family.

At 38 we decided to remodel our house. It was a symbol of rebuilding our life together and forging a new foundation.

When I was 39, I had a little girl. I now had a little girl and a 4 year old boy. Life was good Then I found out my husband was having an affair. Once again. This time it was different. He was ready and left me. He left the three of us for another woman who was in his thoughtless complexity. And I was also hired to finish our house on my own. So much for this foundation.

At 40, I finished our house and moved the three of us back in. I met a man who became my best friend and confidante. He literally glued the woman I was with again. He too had a divorce that he did not initiate. We were two broken people trying to put ourselves back together. But it worked for that time.

At 41, I was officially divorced. I had a 6 year old boy and a 2 year old girl. I had to sell my newly built house and bought my first house myself. A house that looked almost identical to the little one we had remodeled before it was built, but a home for my young family. I lost my job three weeks after I moved in. They asked me to move to Northern California and I couldn’t. I got another job three weeks later. It wasn’t a great job, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to take it; I had to pay a mortgage.

When I was 43, I got my dream job. I had an 8 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. I felt like I was finally feeling my own strength again. I’ve grown to a different level of self-confidence. The job required travel and my parents were there for me every step of the way.

At 45 my world collapsed. My father has died. The man who loved me dearly and who was my greatest cheerleader and my greatest support system rolled into one left this earth. My relationship with the man I met when I was 40 also ended. We both found that we weren’t really good for each other anymore. I had grown so much. He wanted a traditional woman who just needed him. I needed him Just not as he asked for in 1965. How could I be that woman? I had a 10 year old boy and a 6 year old girl that I was responsible for and who I had been for many years.

When I was 50, I was fired from my dream job for no reason. A vice president on the staff was threatened by my skills, acumen, and professional relationship with the CEO that she faked an assassination attempt on me and managed to fire me. The portrayal of being unfaithful to him in any way would surely dismiss you, and she knew how to play him to keep yourself safe. I knew this was true because I had seen so many people before me using this type of strategy of hers. I was just sitting safely on my laurels thinking I was safe. I was not.

This woman was also an elderly single mother who raised her children alone. It almost broke me to be treated like this by another single mother who walked in my shoes. It literally almost broke me. But it defined her urge to survive versus the support of a younger single mother. I had a 14 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. I almost lost our home. I got a new job with a much lower salary. I was forced to make double mortgage payments to avoid foreclosure and catch up. All other issues were stopped. No cable television, which meant no television at all. No wasted water or electricity. No McDonald’s trips. No help with childcare. It was the hardest time in my life. And that almost broke me too. But my mother held me straight and reminded me of where I came from and who I was. With every word she spoke, I built my muscles tougher.

When I was 54, the other part of my world collapsed. My mother died. I had an 18 year old boy and a 14 year old girl. My mother was my closest friend. We were very similar. We loved deep conversations about wine and cheese. She was my heroine. She will always be the woman I strive for.

When I was 56, my son went to UC Berkeley to study politics. He was 20 years old and my daughter was 16 years old. I sold my old house and bought a new one so I could avoid major repairs to an old house and have money for college. I felt stronger again in my decisions about what was best for my family.

My son graduated from college when he was 59. A chick in the nest is fully trained. One to go. At the graduation ceremony, I was sitting alone in the UC Berkeley stadium. My daughter and ex-husband missed their major college degrees because they drove from LA to Berkeley. His political science degree was the next day and they would be attending this one. When I was sitting alone in this stadium, I got emotional. All the families gathered and sat together and screamed when they saw their graduates procession into the stadium. When I saw my son walk in with a massive smile on his face, I saw all his life experiences flash before me.

I was there from them for every moment. I was a full-time parent who saw every skinned knee, hard homework project, cold, flu, and fever he had. I taught him how to drive and how to tie a tie. I also taught him to shave. I was there everywhere. Every day of his life. I sighed, closed my eyes and felt very grateful for what I could offer him to make this happiest day for him. I was still there too. I was also alone. But I was grateful to be there at all.

At 60, I made the most money I’ve ever made in my career. I was really successful. My son got a job with a member of Congress. I had a 24 year old son and a 21 year old daughter.
There was a pandemic when I was 61 and I paid 40% less. I had a 25 year old boy and a 21 year old girl. My daughter is finishing college and one day she will work in film. My son is going to apply for a master’s degree and is in charge of foreign policy. And I still watch and support her every move.

What do you think you are going to be. What you feel attracts you. Whatever you imagine, you can do it.

Why am I sharing this diary of experiences at all? I mean, I’m 61 and still unmarried! You could say that I’m still alone. But am I really? I think I am on the threshold of a new adventure. Always new adventures. I actually insist on new adventures. The ones related to the experiences I shared with you. These are the decisions and reactions I have had to make on my path in life. What good would they all be if they didn’t lead me to new stepping stones to be placed in front of me?

All of these past stepping stones have made me braver day by day, year to decade. How exciting!

I have said in many articles that we are the sum of our life experiences. I think if we have these experiences and “learn from them” in the cliché, we gain another building block for our foundation … another step on our way. And these stepping stones will one day reveal themselves as a “legacy” for our children.

They become a stepping stone for them, too, as they watch our resilience muscles grow over time and bring strength together to those for whom we have actually worked and sacrificed. Our children.
I know what I endured wasn’t fun. It just wasn’t. But for some reason I was chosen to be both a mother and a father. I’ve taken on this role and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I want you all to be proud of yourself too. Some trips will be harrowing, others will be easy.

I wish you all a safe journey from the stepping stones behind you and those that have yet to be forged. Adventures that you have yet to explore because of your sacrifices! And so … my life experiences prepared me for the single mother!

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