Growing up I wanted to be a beautiful, popular person. Pretty girls and handsome boys got more attention, had more friends, were invited to more parties, and had more fun. It seemed those who were born good-looking were more important. That is what society, television, and movies led me to believe. But I was not pretty.
To make matters worse, it was tough growing up and not fitting into the mold of how I was supposed to dress as a girl. All my life I shied away from wearing dresses and skirts and girly shoes. Ribbons, bows, lace, and frill did not feel right on me. I did not want to be Miss America or have my hair curled.
Until graduate school, I was a below-average student in a world where getting A’s was valued so highly. Reading was not easy for me. Studying was not enjoyable. Mathematics beyond the basics was as confusing as a foreign language. I had no comprehension of chemistry or physics, and spelling, grammar, and writing were some of my worst subjects. The thought of taking an exam or having to dissect a poor little frog, much less a cat, made me cringe.
I was not attracted to boys, and I did not want a house with a white picket fence. I felt uncomfortable being programmed to value finding a husband, having kids, being a good wife, and doing what I was told. Who I was supposed to be, according to society, religion, and my peers, did not come close to who I really was.
How was I going to survive in a world where I stuck out so much?
No, I was not beautiful. But I did take a dying chrysanthemum from my aunt’s porch and replant it next to her driveway, where it thrived for many years. While on vacation with my family, rather than poke around a roadside trinket shop, I spent time giving water to a donkey tied up in the hot sun.