Children are simple. Simply complex with beautiful fragile minds. Just as we always feel pity for helpless animals, I feel an inclination to take extra care with children too. Unlike animals, children can’t always preserve the sort of innocence and dependency as animals do. We expect them to grow up, pay taxes, and raise children themselves someday just like the rest of us. Most children don’t even think about this phenomenon at a young age. Most children never think about being done wrong or intentionally hurt. Of course, there’s always some that do, like myself.
I came into this world with an alcoholic and drug addict as a mother. No number of cute giggles, amount of baby’s breath, or crocodile tears was going to persuade her to change her ways. I was the last of four children she brought into this world. The three before me are of a different father, who has since passed. I was, and am still, very fortunate to have a spiritual father that has pushed me in every aspect of my life. His goofy quirks like singing silly songs, or cooking bacon and eggs every Saturday morning, let me live out a happy childhood. My mother and father finally split when I was around 13 years of age. By this time, I had come accustomed to life giving liberally handing out lemons. Shortcomings were something I just assumed happened in most situations, and I was prepared for anything life had to throw at me.
As a little kid, I was very observant. I took notice of everything that went on around me. I would analyze things, and take them apart to understand how they worked. I didn’t just pull the tape out of cassettes for fun. It started with me looking at the wheels and wanting to get a better look at the whole mechanism. Oddly though, when I started school, I struggled academically. My mind couldn’t focus in on tasks and executing what I was told to do. Eventually I got better at this and learned how to be task oriented. When I went on to middle school, I struggled with math. I was always angry, moody, and sometimes down right depressed. The last thing on my mind was pre-algebra. I found more pleasure in being a free wild spirit. Heaven forbid someone suggest I sit down and study for an hour. I rather be consumed by the drama, and be a headache to some of my teachers. This isn’t an odd way for children to behave, especially for kids with a troubling background.
It all changed luckily. I went in with the same attitude of “screw it”. Dropping out did not sound like such a bad thing to me, for I knew that the world sometimes cradles individuals that faltered in life. I saw it all the time with my mother. She never seemed to reap any consequences for her actions. I knew it was unfair, but I had no real intentions of being much better. That was until my first day of 9th grade algebra. I had a teacher who told us, “Today you make the decision to do it right. Take AP dual credit classes now. Don’t wait till 10th grade to get with the program. Desire to achieve beyond all expectations today”. Those words were a wake-up call to me. For some reason, they resonated. I didn’t want to get into 10th grade, falling short in required credits to graduate. For once I felt scared, but hopeful, and in control of my future. I decided then, I wanted to have a future of endless possibilities. I cleaned up my act and attitude. I began to respect others, and in turn, found how to fully respect myself. I didn’t feel such a need to be the center of attention.
By my senior year of high school, I had 37 AP credits, a 4.6 GPA, and a bunch of dreams considered unattainable. I had been flying through high school with straight A’s and finding success in every venture I took until approximately 3 months prior to graduation. I had held valedictorian all through my high school career. The vice principal informed me that they decided to count 8th grade mathematics for high school credit. The same class I couldn’t care less about. This kicked me back to 3rd. There were several girls in high school that had a bit of a vengeance against me because I would always hold the pole position. I didn’t really care too much about what the rank was, but I was applying to colleges like University of Chicago, North West University, and Harvard. I wanted that rank to prove I could do it. With a class of over 400 people, I worked my hardest to obtain it. I told myself I wouldn’t settle for less than Ivy league or at least something close. I felt like I deserved it, but those schools didn’t think the same.
This blow was the first big blow I encountered and had to swallow since I was a little girl. It reminded me how unfair life can be. I have always loved art, as it was an outlet for me to be free. I feel like that is my true calling, to create beautiful products from my own troubled heart. I knew that in high school. That is why I applied to The Chicago Institute of Art along with all the Ivy Leagues. I was accepted with a good scholarship into their Interior Design program. I decided to pursue engineering by the time I received my notification of my acceptance to this prestigious art school. I knew I was good at math and science, but there’s a bit of a darker reason I chose this path. I would sit in the calculus room during lunches and study during my senior year. One day, a representative from the Indianapolis art institute came in to speak with the teacher about providing information regarding the art school to the students. He brushed her off and told her to come in during his remedial math class. “I’d be happy if those kids did anything with their life. Art school would be better than them being delinquents”, he said. That was when I decided, I won’t go to art school.
I muddled with a college selection all summer. I was considering Pepperdine for economics, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Both were going to cost a lot of money, and I knew I had a full ride to any Indiana state school. I realized by about July that I messed up. I made a last second scrambled and applied to Purdue University as Exploratory Studies. It wasn’t a matter of choice; the engineering school was filled up. The collegiate experience, I will leave for another blog. It has a whole host of other life lessons. I eventually switched schools. Guessing I reapplied to art school, right? Well wrong, I decided to pursue Mechatronics Engineering at Purdue Polytechnic Anderson. I found a happy place with a promising future.
The take away here is, I was once a child. I could dream and push and SUCCEEDE. Not all the time though. I set myself on a path of success just to see myself pile on more bigger and better dreams. My dreams were pure and untouched by negativity, even though I came from such a scary past. My grit, the drive to become my best, came from a few positive motivating words. A life time of hurt didn’t keep me from pursuing my full potential. A few words though were enough to make me question my true talents and the opportunity to hone in on my best skill sets. Children are fragile, but they are equipped with the ability to heal. I wish the Courtney in 2nd grade would have been sitting in that calculus room during lunch my senior year. When the teacher made the remark about art school being for dead enders, I wouldn’t have even digested those words.
Although it is easy to think that way, I have developed new dreams and goals around my reality. I hope to work in the aviation field someday. I would love to work with a company like Airbus or Boeing, but my dreams don’t stop there. I have always loved the stars. I hope to be a part of Space Exploration in some way or another. I’d never turn down the opportunity to engineer for NASA or float around up in space. I went to Spring Mill State Park during my weekend getaway. I had to stop at the Gus Grissom Museum. He was a graduate of Purdue University in Mechatronics Engineering, and flew up in space on the Gemini III, Molly Brown. That was his most famous voyage. This ship, along with his suit was on display in this little museum. I asked myself if I could climb into this tiny capsule and put my faith into a tin can. Of course, I know I could. I’ll shoot for the moon, and even a new universe, and I’ll get there. A little tin can (and a lot of fuel) got Gus Grissom out of earth’s atmosphere and back home safely. That was just one of several successful voyages. I think my faith in my own voyage will take me even further.