Left-Brain, Right-Brain, Destiny?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. Along with many girls who grew up in the 1960’s, I was influenced by society of the day. Be a good little girl and don’t make waves. Of course—no waves from my direction!

A six-week work-training program one summer in high school became available for a few of us aspiring nurses, and I quickly registered for one of the four available slots. There were only 400 students at my small-town school, so I was a shoe-in for placement as many of the other students were helping on family ranches and farms. This was my opportunity to work alongside other nurses in our local hospital helping them to cure sick children! My excitement could hardly be contained as I tore open the envelope notifying me of my assignment. I was placed in the local VA hospital—on Ground Floor East. This was where elderly retired military men, unable to care for themselves, were basically waiting to die. Hmmmm. Not what I expected, but I can do this! Most of the patients were sane and quite lovely gentlemen to talk with. Others were completely out of it and barely knew when anyone was in the room. Some were rude and some were nice, with many holding a propensity toward lechery. (My supervisor told me to never get too near the grandpa-looking guy in the wheelchair by the window. He’ll whisk up your skirt in one quick motion.) One or two elderly men were so mean that I’d complete my work in record time and leave their room as quickly as possible. My main jobs were to change bedding (I excelled at hospital corners!), replace water pitchers, and feed an invalid man at lunch time. When I started, I was excited about the prospect of working and getting my foot in the door of nursing. By the end of the six-week program, I hated every single minute of the experience. Oh, who am I kidding? I quit after three weeks.

Goodbye nursing.

As the oldest of three children, I was frequently put in charge of my siblings when my parents were busy. So, it was destined that I’d be the “teacher” when playing School with my younger brothers and the neighbor children. I was in charge. Makes sense, right? I’d spend hours formulating lesson plans and designing worksheets. (Back in the days of carbon paper, mind you!) I created projects for every subject except Science, my least favorite subject. My pretend classroom had seats for my “students” and a teacher’s desk. My young brain was convinced that my pretend classroom was going to be the most fun classroom ever. How hard could it be? After all, my real teachers merely stood up in front of the class and talked. (One exception was Mrs. Connell who taught the combination seventh and eighth grades in a small rural classroom. Her desk was in the back of the room, forcing us all to turn in our seats to face her when she talked.) Pretend classroom ready? Check. Students in their seats? Check. Worksheets passed out to each student? Check. Did my “students” learn anything in my classroom? Did my “students” enjoy the lessons? Did my “students” appreciate my efforts and neatly written worksheets? Let’s just say Recess was their favorite subject in my classroom.

Goodbye teaching.

My father had a very large encyclopedia-style book that seemingly had everything in it. I loved that book. It was the source of many a school report (especially the mythology section). This book held wonderful line drawings of things I couldn’t imagine ever seeing in real life. The information in this book seemed to go on forever and ever. It was my go-to book for answering questions, my own personal library. (If there was a public library nearby, I don’t remember ever being taken to it.)

One of my favorite sections of that ‘magical’ book contained basic office environment information. It told of proper placement of desks, what to put in those desks, numbering systems for records filing, how to write in shorthand, etc. I was fascinated by one page in particular. On that page was a drawing of QWERTY typewriter keyboard layout and the accompanying finger placements. The image of the typewriter keys were just the right size for my little fingers. At nine years old, I taught myself to type in that book. We had no real typewriter at the time, so I pretended to write many letters to Grandma and to imaginary business partners. Pages from other books became my practice lessons. By the time I reached high school, my typing speed of 45 words per minute would jiggle the typewriter off the desk. The teacher recommended I be transferred to Home Economics class instead. (If you’re reading this, Donna R., then you’ll understand that home economics was also not one of my favorite subjects.)

Whenever I accompanied my parents to the doctors’ office, the bank, or other offices, I would watch the people in those offices with fascination, thoroughly engrossed in their every move. How did they know what to do and where to go at each precise moment? How were they able to navigate the spaces around the file cabinets without bumping into each other? How did they know exactly what record and form was needed for each situation? Look at all the lovely pens, staplers, and paper! I was in total awe.

Destiny. Hello office work.

When I was younger, I never felt I was ever good enough to work in an office. That would be a dream job for me! Yeah, I set that bar pretty low, didn’t I? Who would trust me? I’d be the one person who didn’t know what she was doing and would be bumping into other workers. I’d be the one person who would dash the dreams a young girl in the reception area watching every move I made! That girl would lose her self-esteem, become a high school dropout, and turn to a life of crime. All because of me!

Opportunities came along, my skills developed, and proficiency reigned. I was in my element. Except for one temporary position at an attorney’s office. (Remember, this was before word processors when we used real typewriters with carbon paper and White-Out.) I typed a couple of documents in triplicate and presented them to the attorney. He frowned and said some dreadful words to me. “There are a lot of typing errors.” Whaaaaaat?!? Not possible!!!! I thought I was going to faint. My life was over. I was going to be homeless and live in my car. As it turned out, the culprits were a couple of errant keys on the Olivetti electric typewriter that were inserting the wrong letters. The attorney, never once apologizing for the inadequate equipment, dragged out an old Underwood manual typewriter and I began retyping working on those documents—in triplicate. The trauma was so intense that I never took a temp job with an attorney’s office again.

The bar I set for myself kept creeping up slowly and I honed my right-brain skills while working various positions  throughout the years, each with their own unique challenges and satisfactions. and I eventually started my own Virtual Assistant business, taking jobs I wanted and refusing jobs I didn’t want. It was glorious and I enjoyed it. Thank you, big book with your little typewriter keyboard image.

Obviously, I’m a left-brained person. However, I do have a creative side as well, yet it tends to be a linear creativeness where I’m drawn to projects with blocks or grids. I guess you could say I’m a
Left-Brained Person in Her Right Mind

What Do You Say When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Cancer doesn’t run in my family. It wasn’t familiar. Our family had strokes and heart attacks. Those were familiar. Those were things I could relate to and understand.

I don’t understand Cancer.

A dear friend passed away recently. I say “dear friend” because she was instantly a dear friend to everyone who met her. Sunny disposition and so very positive, even when she lost her home and all her belongings in a fire several years ago. Susan was a writer and a personal space designer. Someone I admired. (You can read her manifesto here: http://www.soulstylehome.com/new-page/). Susan was the epitome of inspiring. I met her when she came to work for the same organization I worked for. She brought an instant smile to everyone’s face throughout the day. One day, completely out of the blue, Susan told me I had a great profile. I’ve never forgotten that compliment and I’ve never forgotten how wonderful it made me feel. Susan knew exactly what to say.

Susan was diagnosed as having metastatic cancer 34 days before she died. It was fast and furious.

34 days

What would you do with those 34 days? Susan chose to charm her nurses and doctors. Susan chose to stay as sunny as possible and answer as many e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages as she could. Susan comforted those who were hurting for her. Susan knew exactly what to say.

She said, “Goodbye,” to her beloved Phoebe, a beautiful Golden Labrador, sending her off to live with friends who will provide Phoebe with much love. Susan said it was quite difficult for her, yet posted photos of her Phoebe in the car being whisked away to California, acknowledging it was the best decision for her faithful companion’s life. My heart broke for both of them that day.

Susan’s daughter, Emily, posted the news of her passing on Facebook stating, “In true Snooze [Susan’s nickname] fashion, she waited until she knew both of her kids were home safe, together and with our dearest loved ones.”

Susan always knew what to say even when she wasn’t talking.

The world is a sadder place without you in it, dear Susan.

~J

You can read more about Susan on her Soul Style Home Website. http://www.soulstylehome.com/susan/
Also read some of the fabulous and heartfelt tributes to Susan on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/susan.r.mcconnell.1