At age five, we moved from Los Angeles to the developing suburbia of Milpitas, California which was located on the border of electronics boom in Silicon Valley. With two kids, a domestic wife (resembling Sophia Loren at the time), my dad settled us into a new tract home. He had just finished his Air Force tour and landed a job at EAI. With my Mary Poppins umbrella, using the fireplace hearth as my stage and little brother my audience, I happily nested into this safe world until Kindergarten struck. I was told years later my teacher had classified me as, “shy” in the clinical sense, and recommended therapy. I do not recall happy memories in that classroom. In spite of my Kindergarten teacher, we bypassed therapy and I survived elementary school with good grades, multiple activities and a healthy amount of friends. Looking back, I have always felt the twinges of social anxiety.
Our 70’s Show
My father began to travel for work. After an active seven year career in PTA, Blue Birds, and Little League, my domestic mother found herself making her own money at Fairchild Semiconductors. My dad’s formal suit and tie evolved into flared cords and polyester shirts, while mom’s wardrobe went to hot pants and Go Go boots. It was the beginning of the end of their marriage. The stresses carried over into our childhood. With the sadness at home and the awkwardness of the pre-teens and teens, I was in a downward spiral with self-worth. Academics were not emphasized as we were each trying to survive a split home. I continued to build skills in art, music, creative writing and sports. Those may have been arenas and outlets allowing me to cope. One teacher stands out who earnestly praised and encouraged me. Other than my two closest friends, the little brother I parented during that time and the encouragement of that particular teacher, I could have happily faded into the walls.
In High School I carried my low self-esteem right into a peer group that I felt accepted by. Our collective goal was to find ways to anesthetize whatever pains we were experiencing through parties, concerts or road trips. Somehow I managed to make it through classes. A handful of teachers saw in me the “good kid” I was trying to camouflage and continued to point to my assets and strengths.
In my Junior year of High School, my mother remarried and relocated us to a rural life in San Joaquin Valley. The culture shock and the exposure to my chronic shyness was one of the best things that could have happened in spite of my resistance. I had a decent Junior and Senior year before graduating. There continued to be those teachers who would not let me strive for mediocrity.
An 80’s Conversion
Another major move came after graduation as we left California to a dairy my mom and step-father bought in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Smells of manure and huge flies distracted me from setting my grow-up goals. The college in the area was technical and I could not fit myself to it. It helped me to...