Writing 101: Long Form Writing….The Things We Treasure

Yes, I treasure my parents and the long term relationships that I’ve had so far. They have taught me things about life, how to live, love, respect, patience and more. But, to me, this is a subset of a larger picture.

The Education of Elizabeth

I was never a stellar student. Well, maybe when in elementary, I strove to be the first to answer questions, have awesome art projects, be the smartest and brightest. Yes, I was that annoying little know-it-all girl.

All that stopped as I got into middle school and high school. I just wanted to fade away. All the other kids just seemed so much brighter, so much faster at getting to the answers. School wasn’t about excelling, it was about vanishing.

From 6th grade to 7th grade, I went from 5′ 1″ to 5′ 7″ and terribly skinny and awkward. A boyish haircut made even worse by my mother’s encouragement to get a curly perm….like Barbara Streisand. I felt like bozo the clown.

6th grade was the year I got glasses, the following year braces, acne, pants never long enough….you get the picture. I was an insecure magnet for the pretty people to torment and torture. I lost that wish to be in the front row, to turn in homework on time, to be a star.

Until this writing, I never realized how horrible I felt going to school and being bullied by the cheerleaders, jocks and anyone who felt they were better than me. I felt as ugly inside as the names, jeers and taunts thrown at me…I cried a lot. My heart sinks remembering those days.

I struggled a lot, not finding joy in learning. I got through high school. I dropped out of college, only to go back years later when I finally got an atta-boy in the form of graduating cum laud. Still not sure how that happened but for me it was a turning point.

At the time, I was still did not consider myself an intellect. I felt as if I’d somehow gotten one over on whoever was tabulating grade point averages. There was still some doubt in my head and heart.

All this time though, I’d been accumulating practical knowledge from friends, family, etc. Mom taught me how to unconscientiously cook dinner so that everything came out relatively on time and hot. She also taught me how to can tomatoes which I still enjoy doing today. I learned I could read a recipe, follow the instructions and make some pretty tasty food without killing anyone.

An old boyfriend taught me to detail cars, another one helped me to realize I was desirable even though I didn’t feel it. Great grandmother and a grandmother taught me to crochet and sew. Dad taught me how to plant a garden, raise flowers and vegetables.

Many years later, I got my first corporate job as an administrative assistant for one of the world’s largest corporations. Its initials are well-known. Part of their corporate culture was that everyone get their Six Sigma Greenbelt certification. Everyone, that is, but the admins.

It took a little courage, but I asked my manager if I could take the workshops, exam, etc. to get my greenbelt. He answered as if he were brushing an annoying gnat from his face, sure. I am sure he was thinking I couldn’t do it and frankly, neither I wasn’t so sure I could too.

But, I did. I passed the four hour exam, which is the hardest part.. One of his direct reports failed her exam, so not everyone passed the exam. A huge weight was off my shoulders, yes, I could do this.

From there on, if there was a class or workshop offered at work, I did it. When this big company had a layoff and I was handed a severance package including a big chunk of change for education, I took it and ran.

Ran straight to a local, uppity, expensive university and took project management workshops. I was going to get my project managers certification (PMP). That is until I got another job, then it fell to the back burner.

My next opportunity was a non-technical project manager which I loved until they had layoffs. sigh….so what next?

After another 8 months of work-loss denial, I told myself I can do it. I applied to take the PMP, a 28 page application, got that approved and then gave myself 3 weeks to study for the exam.

A grueling, 4 hour exam that I studied for 6 hours or more a day. The prep book and book of knowledge for this is a cure for insomnia. My eyes had a hard time focusing. The entire time I felt myself reverting back into that girl who wanted to fade away. I spent more money, that I didn’t have, for an online course- I felt I needed class work that I could rewind and listen to repeatedly in case I missed something.

Exam day came. I sat in the parking lot, feeling my hands tremble, stomach knot as I turned off the engine. I flipped through the pages of the study guides again. What had I missed? Geez, I think I am going to puke.

Deep breath. I walk in and am guided to fill out a form, put all belongings in a locker and come this way. They scanned me from head to foot with a wand you’d see being held by an NSA security guard. Are my pockets empty? I had to turn them out to show….they did everything but make me take off my shoes.

Sitting in a cubicle with an overhead camera, noise cancelling headphones and a PC infront of me, I was focused. Focused on getting this over with….and preparing myself to have to take it over again a few weeks later maybe when I was more prepared.

Geez this sucked. The hours flew by. What? I still have more questions. Review, review, review answers….okay, I give up, click the submit you idiot.

The screen went blank. Pulse quickened, sigh. “Please take a few moments to give us your feedback.” the screen said….What? Where were my results? Okay yes, everything was great, the facility was perfect….now tell me I failed and get it over with.

Screen went blank again….”Thank you for your feedback.”

I thought I was about to jump through the drop ceiling panels.

“You Passed”

I teared up. I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, “YES, YES, YES you Mo&*^&* Fuc*&^*s!”

But I didn’t, there were other people around taking their exams. I had to jump for joy internally….then I went for a beer.

Looking at this experience and all the education, formal and informal, I’ve acquired inner strength I didn’t know I had, could never put a dollar value on that ….I treasure this because I did it myself and no one can take it away from me- no one.


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