I have to admit that I felt a slight twinge of agony when I sat down to write a short autobiography for this site. Not that I am shy or anything of that nature, but gosh, how does one go about talking about their own life to a complete stranger especially to one who you will likely never meet without a small amount of self doubt creeping in? Little arguments began in my head about what items I should include in this essay do I try to make it funny and go for the cheap laugh? Or should I try to be a bit more prosaic and simply give you the straight forward facts? I finally decided I'd just take the scenic route and let you pick the important pieces as you saw fit.
The day President Nixon resigned some three decades ago I was born rather uneventfully in Perry, a sleepy small north Florida town known best by travelers of highway 27 as the smelly place before Chiefland due in large part to the P&G pulp plant that supported most of the town. The fact that a presidential resignation occurred on the day of my birth should have been the first clue that I was going to spend a good deal of my life either frustrated because some event larger and more important took the wind out of the sails of my birthday or that I would eventually go into politics. As neither of these things is the actual case, the only thing notable for me about Nixon's resignation (aside from the political ramifications that followed) is that I always get the Jeopardy question about "who is the only President to never be elected to the presidency" correct. People tend to think that I'm really smart for knowing that little factoid but I always end up telling the truth and explaining why I have this random piece of knowledge handy which inevitably dispels the myth of my genius rather handsomely.
I spent the first eight years of my childhood running freely about a three mile wide area of Perry whose borders ranged from the playground next to the nursing home behind the Assembly of God church to the north, down along the small nameless creek that ran behind my parent's house on Julia Drive to the west, to the railroad tracks where my friends, Candy and Carla, and I would leave pennies on the track for the train to smoosh to the east. The northern border was all the way down to Leon Street where my grandparent's house was situated squarely on a three acre lot next to the Perry Water Works which always smelled heavily of chlorine.
It was a rather typical cracker childhood spent catching bugs (mainly roly-polys), riding bicycles, playing on the trampoline at the crazy neighbor's house and being scolded by my mother for running in and out of my own house too many times. We ate things that my adulthood Yankee friends would later tell me sounded mildly disgusting like swamp cabbage, venison, and squirrel. I had a heavy southern accent and seriously drawled many of my words as did most of my friends and almost all of my family. But that was all fine and dandy to me because I didn't know anything else. This all changed when my parents separated and eventually divorced in the early eighties and I was sent to live with my mother's parents in the even smaller and more backwoods retirement village of Wildwood in central Florida.
I did not fit in with the Sumter county natives very well. My school years from 5th grade through my extremely disastrous first freshman year of high school were marked by the number of times I dodged being smooshed by the trains myself as I walked the two and a quarter miles to and from school each day through a backwoods version of a ghetto or by the number of times my mom and new stepmonster fought each week until their booze soaked existences finally crossed paths with the right authorities who had the ability to change my life yet again.
I finally escaped from what I now call the hemorrhoid of Florida when I begged my father's mother to send me to school and save me from becoming a drone version of my dysfunctional mother. We spent a great deal of time in the attorney's office that summer before my second freshman year of high school trying to make sure the drone wouldn't be able to get me back and ruin any hopes I had of having a normal life.
The second notable period of my life began with my acceptance to Darlington, a small private boarding school located on the fringes of Rome, Georgia. Now bear in mind that Darlington was the first stable home I had known since I was eight years old. The seven years period of time I spent in Wildwood had made me a bit wild and unruly as most children who come from severely abusive backgrounds tend to be.
My dorm mothers quickly learned to approach me quite like you would a wounded animal very quietly and with calm patience. Adjusting to a normal routine took me the better part of my first year, but once I began settling in to this new life I very quickly became quite attached to my surrogate family of fellow boarders and dorm parents.
My years at Darlington were some of the happiest years of my life as I was having most of my emotional needs satisfied and my intellect was being challenged constantly by the preparatory curriculum of this highly competitive school. However, as fate would have it, I made friends with the wrong crowd my senior year and ended up being dismissed from school for an honor violation for not informing the faculty that my friends doing some things that were pretty bad.
The dismissal sent me into a bit of an emotional spiral that almost ended tragically. But once again, the resolve of a strong willed teenager would prove hardy as I began yet another new life as a working young adult. I had moved back to Tallahassee where my grandma and aunt had bought a house after my grandfather had passed on to another world and struggled with classes at Tallahassee Community College due more to the enormous chip on my shoulder than with the academic load of my classes. I chose to leave school and work whatever job I could find that would cover my rent and food for the month and boy I'll tell you that I had quite a few odd jobs in those couple of years. After a brief stint in Texas I came back to Tallahassee with a new found respect for my Florida roots.
But it wasn't until October of 2001 when a man who lived in my neighborhood whom I did not know attacked me in a random act of violence that would force me to really begin the process of growing up in earnest. As a result of having to learn to advocate for myself as a victim in the legal system that appeared to me to favor the criminal who hurt me, I eventually learned that I would need to go back to school in order to ever have a shot at a good job and a decent living with the hopes of never having to be in that kind of situation again.
In 2002 my advocate at Refuge House introduced me to the Director of Public Policy at Florida Council Against Sexual Violence; eventually they asked me to work on a bill that would help survivors of sexual assault get services that were being denied in those days. The simple act of writing a statement that I would eventually read before several committees gave me a sense of purpose and pride that I had not felt up to that point in my life. And it was then that I decided to go back to school.
I finished my undergraduate program in just under three years and eventually applied for and got accepted to the graduate program for Applied American Politics and Policy. I finally finished my Masters last semester (Spring 2007) and have gone on to work towards a graduate certificate in emergency management.
I know it sounds cheesy to some of my peers, but I have an overwhelming sense of pride when I think back on where I came from to be where I am now. There were so many obstacles in my path and by all accounts I should have failed or been broken by now. But I truly believe that I made it through the dark places in my short history for a reason. Maybe my reason was to write reviews for you to laugh at?