From De-Fault to Plan A
I had it all; confidence, talent, intelligence. I could talk to anyone, loved to listen to people tell their stories, and encourage them right where they were in their lives. I even had an awesome signature that I practiced endlessly, DeAnne… DeAnne… with a capital “A” in the middle for emphasis. I was ready to sign my Mona Lisa or autograph my famous play…
I was 5 years old.
It all changed when I started school, and I met my teacher. I found out that everything I loved doing was wrong. Maybe even who I was wrong. I didn’t fit in…
I had a million questions, and I was confident enough to ask them. So, I asked them and was impatient for answers. That was against the rules; you have to raise your hand!
I loved to talk… and there were finally people to talk to. Having grown up on a small ranch, I was excited to finally be surrounded by kids my own age. But, the talking in class was a, “No, No.”
I loved to encourage people, so naturally, I spent a lot of time talking to the little girl who sat next to me who cried all day holding her blanket. She needed a friend. “No, No, No…unacceptable…not the way to fit in.”
I knew I was good at art, but when art class came, I learned that watermelons were supposed to be red and green, not my favorite colors of purple and pink…. It wasn’t about style or beauty; it was about following directions….No, DeAnne.
There were so many calls from the teacher to my mom at work, she worried she may lose her new job. In response, she told me I had to stop talking at school. I could do that! I stopped talking altogether, I didn’t even answer roll call and the teacher marked me absent and then truant!
One day the teacher decided that there was to be “no Capital A” in the middle of my name. She had me practice spelling my name with her arm around me, and she pinched me if I used the capital “A.”
She’d made her point, I was wrong, even my name, that thing that was so much a part of how I knew myself…Wrong…I needed to fit in here by changing the “A”.
She called a conference with my mom to discuss the dreaded “A.” As the teacher put her arm around me to do the little pinch move we’d practiced, I gave her a pinch of my own!
It turned out that my birth certificate was printed in ALL CAPITALS, and my mom let me choose whether my “A” would be big or small.
I chose to keep the capital “A” as I’d practiced, but that was the last of my Defiant days. From then on I operated by De-Fault (i.e. if something went wrong it was DeAnne’s fault!).
So how did I deal with this? I learned to be good at the game of school, taking all the hard courses, meeting the challenges, running for offices, and graduating at the top of my class. I worked really hard to fit in.
I could do anything at that point, but I decided to do what most girls did at that time, I took my math prowess and got a teaching certificate. (I didn’t like white shoes so I couldn’t be a nurse!)
I went to work teaching, and I could do it and I was even good at it. But the whole time it felt like I was shoved into someone else’s skin….It didn’t feel right.
Then one day, I remember so clearly walking down the long hallway at school, and looking around at other teachers.
They had a mission, a drive from within, and a satisfaction that was missing in my life.
I went home day after day, often falling asleep at 4:30. And I struggled to be excited about the lessons I was teaching.
A switch was flipped….The light came on….
I didn’t belong there, but that was okay.
I had worked so hard to fit in, that I hadn’t noticed that I didn’t WANT to fit in this small box of teaching where I could use some of my talents, but didn’t feel I was making a difference.
I noticed that I could not breathe. I felt trapped. After all these years of squeezing into something that didn’t work, what did I want to do?
I had no idea what I wanted to do, and that scared the living daylights out of me. I had landed in the wrong career by default, and a little bit of me believed that it was my fault, “De’s Fault”. I had to find the capital “A” in my entire life, I had to take back what my life was meant to be…I needed a “Plan A.”
I went back to those skills and interests I had before I gave them up to make other people happy. I found my intelligence, my enthusiasm, my curiosity, my ability to talk, my desire to listen and connect and uplift others. I learned how to get clear about what I wanted, and the difference I wanted to make in the world.
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