This I Believe

Sharon - Salem, Virginia
Entered on January 19, 2007

This I Believe

I steadfastly believe that each one of us can create the life we deserve and it is never too late to have a happy childhood!

I was raised in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. My family farmed and worked in factories. No one on either side of the family had ever gone to college until my sister went to Radford University in 1980 with a full scholarship, due to her good grades and our poverty. My alcoholic father colored my childhood with violence and I got married the day after my sixteenth birthday to escape the brutality. He delighted in telling me I was stupid and sadly I believed him. I took cosmetology in High School and became a hairstylist like my mom had dreamed of doing. I never once entertained the idea that I could possibly go to college. There was no money. I could never pass the classes having struggled through school my entire life, being unable to concentrate. I loved doing hair and my clients were professors and students at Virginia Teck in Blacksburg. Having divorced at nineteen, I remarried. He was a VPI student from Iran with a P.H.D in engineering and after graduating he whisked me away to the big city of Washington D.C. My clientele there was scientists at NIH and Marriot and IBM professionals. The desire for an education began to burn more intensely as I realized how much I did not know. I peppered my clients with questions about what exactly they did in their jobs. I learned so much from them and the burn grew. After a rotator cuff injury and subsequent surgery and many other work related injuries ended my thirty year hairstyling career, my husband and I moved to Roanoke Virginia, near where I grew up. I had a long list of things I wanted to do when I retired.

I have spent my lifetime nurturing that violated and broken child within. I have tried to make up for all I had missed back then. I sought out a husband that would love me unconditionally and it took three marriages to find him. I gifted myself with dolls and a dressing room that any young girl would die for. Beautiful clothing and jewelry for all my birthdays and even threw myself birthday parties occasionally, as I never had a single birthday party as a child. On my 30th birthday I went on a cruise by myself, as I was single, because it was my birthday and I deserved it! Not once as a child did we ever go anywhere on vacation. A sign that says “It is never too late to have a happy childhood” hangs above my dressing room table proudly.

I was faced with forced retirement and that list of things I wanted to. I began with college. I had to force down the knot of fear in my throat that tried to suffocate me when I filled out the application at Hollins University. The words “You are stupid and will never amount to anything” rang violently in my ears to reinforce my fear. The day the letter from Hollins came I postponed opening it until my husband was done with work. I knew if I did not get accepted or get financial aid it would be the one of the most devastating things to happen in my life. I needed him for support if that was to be the answer.

Not only did Hollins want me they gave me an unbelievable 60 % in scholarships and awards. I am currently a sophomore with nearly two years of college to my credit. I have a 3.75 GPA and I am doing it. It is the hardest thing I have ever done but the rewards are great. Doors to new worlds are now open to me. As a studio art and creative writing major I have learned to write in my authentic voice and to believe that I have a story that can inspire others to do great things with their own life. I know I have talent that is being polished and refined in painting as well and my work can bring a smile to people or change the way they might think about an issue such as poverty. It is my choice what I say. It has been empowering! You are never too old to learn new tricks. My goal now is to share this new found joy with others, especially women, and help them see it is never too late!