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My Miseducation

Updated on December 19, 2016
Rafini profile image

Rafini - a name I created to represent my creative self. Thank you, HubPages, for being the beginning of my creative career.

Equal Rights

When I first started my education, the Equal Rights Amendment was working its way toward being signed into law, in 1972, by the US Congress. I was much too young to understand what was happening in our country, let alone the world. But I do remember arguments in school, between the boys and girls, regarding the possibilities of our futures and what it would mean to us girls if we were all, indeed, created equal.

The subject would come up every year near Mother's Day, when the entire class was busy making gifts to take home to our individual mothers. The subject would come up again whenever we had a classroom discussion about "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Many times the subject would carry over to recess and the boys would laugh openly at any girl who said they wanted to be a doctor, a fireman, a mailman, or a scientist. Our teachers tried to be understanding with the boys, telling them, "The world is changing before our very eyes." I went home and asked my mother about it, wondering why the boys laughed at us girls even after the teachers had said we could be anything we want to be when we grew up. My mother said, "You can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it." I believed my mom. The boys at school just didn't know how determined us girls could be.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

A teacher?  A scientist?  An astronaut?  A firefighter?
A teacher? A scientist? An astronaut? A firefighter?

Growing Up

My first ambition as a young child was to grow up to be a teacher. I loved school and wanted to share my love of learning with any and all children that would inevitably come my way as a teacher. At one time I wanted to be a scientist or a chemist, but my mother failed to get me the chemistry set I wanted for Christmas. By 1977, after I had seen the movies, "Gone With The Wind", "Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory" and "The Wizard of Oz", and learned they were adapted from a book, I wanted to write. My teachers thought it was a wonderful idea. My mother, on the other hand, thought it was a waste of time.


My mother said:

"Do you really want to be an unemployed writer?"

"Do you want to starve to death?"

I didn't understand. How could a writer be unemployed? A writer is always employed as long as they're writing. Books cost money and the money had to go to the writers, didn't it? My mother wouldn't listen to any more of my nonsense and demanded I choose another occupation. I ended up choosing to be a math teacher, since I had once wanted to be a teacher anyway. The boys didn't laugh; women were meant to be teachers.

A couple years later, in 1979, the subject of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" resurfaced in school. Unknown to me at the time, the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment was approaching. Believing I had the freedom of choice at my fingertips, I was completely lost as to what I wanted to be. My mother encouraged me to consider accounting, as I was good at math. I didn't want to be a teacher anymore, and she had refused to acknowledge my desire to write, so I took her advice.

During High School

During high school we took tests to help us determine what occupation we should consider upon graduation. My results told me I would be best suited as a forest ranger. Well, I did enjoy being outside, and being alone was never a problem for me. But seriously, I could not see myself as a forest ranger. One day, in class, my algebra teacher told me algebra was supposed to teach us logic, critical thinking, and analytical skills, and since I understood it so well, I should be a scientist. I thought this was exciting! Then, my mind thought back to the chemistry set I had never received - my desire to learn science was gone.

I had an English teacher in high school who gave us a creative writing assignment. We were to write a short story about how Paul Bunyon created the Grand Canyon. As she was grading our papers she came to me and asked for my permission to submit my short story to a creative writing contest. My eyes lit up, I know they did. I gave permission and waited, but I never heard anything more - until the day I received a poster in the mail. Had I won a second or third prize? There was no return address on the mailing tube and I never found out.. Later on in high school, I wrote my first non-school related poem. As I wrote it, I felt guilty. I was wasting paper.

As An Adult

I graduated when I was 17 years old, and was married by the time I was 19. By the age of 23 I had given birth to 3 children. I had a fascination with pens, pencils, and paper. I always had to have them in the house and with me at all times. I didn't know why and I didn't know what to do with them. I just had to have them.

We didn't travel much and we never traveled far, but whenever we did I would take my pens or pencils, and paper with me. I would write down weird and unusual street names, names of towns we went through and the unique names of people we would meet. I bought baby name books when I wasn't pregnant, and collected useless information from whatever source was available. I just knew I would need it all, someday.


After 10 years I realized I didn't love the man I had been sharing a bed with since the age of 19. I packed my belongings, took my children and said goodbye. Two of my children were school age and every year when I bought them school supplies, I made sure to buy pens and at least one notebook for myself. I didn't know why.

Should Equal Rights be protected by law?

See results

After a couple more years I found myself working as an Administrative Assistant in the customer service department of a small insurance company. One of my job duties was typing the weekly staff meeting minutes. I was continually surprised to hear a colleague say, "I love your writing style!" I had no idea what she was referring to - it was the staff meeting minutes! After that I began noticing some of the representatives in the department were anxiously waiting for me when I walked through to hand out the minutes. Week after week I would see the same people take the paper from my hand and scan the typewritten words with anticipation.

At one point my boss said

"You should be a writer."

While I was working as an Administrative Assistant, I entered into a deep depression. One I didn't think I would ever find my way out of. I took my notebook and began writing. What ended up on the pages looked like something a kindergartner would have written. All the anger, sadness, pain and hatred I had kept inside myself for 30 years were scribbled into an illegible mess. New Years Eve that year, I took my notebook outside and burned it at midnight while reading a poem I had written. I don't remember the entire poem, only these two lines:

I will never forget this year, or the pain I have endured

I will never forget, but I will move onward

— Rafini

Shortly after this I discovered hardcover journals at the dollar store. I bought a bunch of them, all at once, and began writing in them every day - with multi-colored pens. My journals took me back through my childhood angers and hurts, and threw me into the realities of my 10 year long, miserable, marriage. My journals taught me there is always two sides to every story, as I'm sure my ex-husband would not agree with anything I wrote down as an experience. My journals also taught me it isn't worth it to argue over perceptions, unless there is something valuable at stake.

Ten years later, shortly after I learned the Equal Rights Amendment was never signed into law, I am beginning to write for the joy of writing and to become the writer I always wanted to be.

Comments

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  • Rafini profile image
    Author

    Rafini 5 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    It came as a shock to me too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    (sorry it took so long for me to respond - my email notifications don't seem to be working right no matter what I do.)

  • Daniella Lopez profile image

    Danielle Lopez Newcomb 5 years ago from Arkansas

    I didn't know the ERA was never signed into law! Very informative hub. Thanks for sharing. :) Voted up.

  • Rafini profile image
    Author

    Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    wingedcentaur - Hello! :-)

    I don't remember the self-devaluation forum very well, but I agree with you. Some people are born at the wrong time and I keep changing my mind regarding my own birth. lol

    You're right about me and my mother. She chose her life and influenced mine accordingly, I guess. She died 13 years ago and I never asked the questions I needed answered. Oh well, that's what happens when mother and daughter don't get along. :/ Someday, when I know what I'm doing, (how to write a real story, I mean, lol) I plan on writing her story. Know idea how, yet, but I'm gonna do it!

    Thanks for reading, commenting, and the vote. :-)

  • wingedcentaur profile image

    William Thomas 7 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

    Good Day Rafini

    The tie-in with the forum discussion we had (Self-Devaluation) a while back is obvious. The idea from this hub that impresses me most is the fact that sometimes (or oftentimes) one can be born in times that are too small for her.

    I gather you "came of age" during a transitional period in American society (one doesn't want to use the word 'history' here, does one?) with respect to equal protection and empowerment of women (professionally and in other ways).

    Your mother is obviously of another, previous age when the "World of Tomorrow" with respect for opportunities for women in America was perhaps nowhere in sight; but on the other hand, wasn't she a child of WWII? That period saw the door open a little wider for women and as we know was never fully closed after that. Oh well....

    It sounds like she was giving you the best advice she had available. I would imagine that -- as trite as this may sound -- she was doing her best for you and didn't want to see you get hurt if she could help to prevent that.

    This is a powerful hub and I enjoyed it in a way that made me..... uugghh! right along with you. Voted up. Well done.

    See ya around.

  • Rafini profile image
    Author

    Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    Tony -

    Thanks for the nice comment. This is an oddball hub, one I wasn't too sure of what I was doing when I wrote it. But, I guess it worked. lol Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  • Rafini profile image
    Author

    Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    Sally -

    I also didn't know, until I wrote this hub, that the ERA was never ratified. It sure seems like it, though, doesn't it? But, it's scary to think of the possibility of our rights taking a U-Turn at any moment. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  • tonymac04 profile image

    Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

    Very interesting and useful Hub. I like your style! Thanks for sharing this story, this glimpse into your life.

    Love and peace

    Tony

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    Your Hub is a real eye-opener for me. I knew that the ERA was passed, but not that it was not ratified. I can stick my proud head in a hole on this one...I think I'm so up to date on discrimination in the workplace, but... this is a humbling experience. Thank you for the reality check.

    Meanwhile, I very much identified with your search for the right direction in life for you. The conversations about careers and life paths that you had with your mother mirror mine. There were times when I was passionate about a path, that passion fell on controlling ears (or, like you, I never got that chemistry set), and destiny took a fork in the road that I followed even though I didn't want to.

    Paper, pencils, crayons were and are a part of my life as they are of yours. They are almost better than my grandma Ellie's fried chicken and apple pie, the best comfort foods in the world.

    I came to confidence in writing late, like you did. It's all uphill from here, Rafini.

    You have a new fan.

  • Rafini profile image
    Author

    Rafini 7 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

    Thank you Faybe, for reading. I almost deleted this hub because I had too many ideas floating through my head at the same time, and this is what I ended up with! Anyway...

    Isn't it amazing to believe, to understand and accept that even now, in the year 2010, women still do not have equal rights to men?

    I will check into "The Yellow Paper" - what a horrible thing to think could happen, yet I believe it could.

  • Faybe Bay profile image

    Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

    Okay, so the Equal Rights Amendment has never been signed into law? Rafini! I am in awe. I never knew.

    When I was in fifth grade we did the "what do you want to be" lesson, and I made a huge list and got a bad grade because my teacher said half of my choices were fields limited to men. I asked for equal pay and got transfered. I did not know I was not protected!

    Okay, I am calm. I identify with the wasted paper and time issue. My mother-in-law and husbands drilled that into me. I saw a film called "The Yellow Paper" on PBS about a female writer who went insane because the doctors said that writing was bad fro her, and told the family to do whatever it took to keep her from writing. Eventually she freed herself. I will look it up for you.

    I am so angry about this ERA thing!

    Here is wiki, The Yellow Wallpaper, (original title)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Yellow_Wallpaper