Part 1: Carlos
I have RESILIENCY on the brain. I think about it several times a day, and this past week, I have come across several stories of resiliency. Maybe I keep finding them because “what you focus on you find”.
Why is it so heavy on the brain? Probably because I am consistently working on my own resiliency. Maybe it’s because next March, a crew of military spouses on Okinawa, are putting together a seminar which will be free for other military spouses on the island. We intend to have speakers with various backgrounds to include a General Officer and if we are lucky the senior State Department official on the island, the Consult General; the majority of the presenters will be military spouses. (There are so many talented ones on this little bitty island.) I am responsible for the curriculum and for the development of the primary theme. Because of the challenges that we have faced this year, resiliency, continues to be the theme in which I am focused.
Now, I admit; I am biased, and from my biased perspective, I happen to think that military spouses are some of the most resilient people on the planet. With the ever changing landscape of our lives, we are forced to leave careers, find new careers, leave confidants and friends to find new confidants and friends. We are constantly examining our lives wondering how we fit in, and if we will ever really fit in. Some duty stations, the examination is seamless and easy. Other duty stations, we arrive confused and frustrated, and we leave that duty station continuing to be confused and frustrated. The beauty of the process is that you get to start over at every duty station. The challenge of the process is that you have to start over again…at every. single. duty. station. Your civilian friends and family, as hard as they try, never really “get it.” I don’t know that you ever “get it,” unless you live it, but we live it, and we survive; actually, we thrive, and it is my belief that we are able to do it because we are truly resilient. I may write a series on the resiliency of military spouses, but instead, I want to share about the resilient stories that I have come across just this week of other people who are resilient.
Now, some people may or may not agree that military spouses are resilient, but the stories that I plan to share are NOT up for debate. Loung and Carlos ARE RESILIENT.
Let’s start with Carlos. I was introduced to Carlos in the Revisionist History Podcast, created by Malcolm Gladwell and his staff at Pushkin Industries. Obviously, I did not actually “meet” Carlos, but I DID get a snapshot of his life. Who is Carlos? Carlos is a boy, who grows into a young man, who loves math, and who is VERY INTELLIGENT. When I say intelligent, he is smart enough to ace college entrance exams without prep courses and without having to take the test multiple times before accepting the best score he can get. I was a good student. I studied a lot. I took my education seriously, and I was still one of those kids who had to take an over-priced prep-course, and I took the SAT more than once, just to get a score that was good enough to get me into the college of my choice. Now, Carlos, on the other hand, neither had the resources nor the ability to do this kind of preparation, but he didn’t need it. He was gifted beyond measure, and he was lucky. He was discovered in the fourth grade as being an exceptional student, so he ended up being given the opportunity to go to a private school. Now, here is where the resiliency comes into play.
Carlos lives in a rough part of LA, and when I say rough, I mean rough. According to Gladwell, his elementary school resembles a concentration-camp more than an elementary school campus, but like I said, he gets lucky. Instead of going there, he is selected in the 4th grade and gets to walk to the bus stop, and he takes a 45 minute bus ride to a more affluent area of LA. Can you imagine sending a 4th grader on a 45 minute public-transportation bus ride to school ? I don’t mean just any bus; I mean a public bus that transports people out of one of the roughest neighborhoods in the United States. Now, I rode the bus for 1 year. It was a yellow school bus that picked me up at the end of the street, and it was JUST people my age on that bus. It made a few stops to pick up other children, but it didn’t stop anywhere else, except the school. I was 13 years old, and it was uncomfortable. I hated getting on that bus, but I had no choice. It seemed as if EVERYONE in my hometown got on a school-bus that year, and we all landed at a safe school that looked and felt like a school. No one would ever compare it to a concentration camp. So Carlos makes his way to the public-transportation bus stop, goes around the 405, with all of the adults who are headed to Brentwood for work, and he gets close enough to his private school that he can walk the few blocks to get there. 45 minutes of public transportation and a walk just to get there; he is 9 years old. Resiliency.
Carlos’s concentration-camp like elementary school campus is at least close to home, but if he is expected to make it through junior high, without getting involved in the pervasive gangs, he has to actually make it to school, and he can’t physically GET to the junior high or high school without walking through gang-lines. Just to be VERY clear, walking through gang-land is no easy feat. 80% of the boys turn to gangs by the 8th grade. 80%! Now, how is, even the best of students, supposed to ward off the gangs, just to get to school? Carlos gets lucky again. He is selected to go to another private school. Actually, he is selected to attend a prestigious boarding school for high school. It is in Connecticut, which is as far away from gang-land as one can get, but at the last minute, he can’t go. Is it money you ask? No, he was afforded a full scholarship. It’s his family unit. He and his sister have been taken from their home because it is deemed to be unsafe for them. Is it unsafe because of drugs or abuse? Maybe both. He is shuffled through 4 foster homes in one year, and these aren’t cush, movie-like foster homes. In my opinion, I would ask the question, “are these homes even safe?” When you are shuffled through 4 foster homes, and you are separated from your little sister, and all you want is to be placed in a home with your sister, the thought of a boarding school in Connecticut is no longer a possibility. If you ask Carlos how school went that year, he says “I still tried in school. I didn’t let it affect my grades too much.” See, Carlos is smart enough to know that school is his only way out. He can’t be average in school. He must be exceptional. Now, my friends, that is resiliency. If you want to know more about Carlos’s story, I encourage you to listen to the podcast. It is a good one.
I hope you enjoyed this story of resiliency, and I hope you want to come back next Monday to read about Loung. If you thought Carlos’s story was a good one about resilience, her story will blow you away.
And remember friends, you TOO are resilient. Stay strong. Stay focused. Create your own story of resiliency because you have it in you.