“Break on Through to the Other Side” Traveling with Forrest Gump

Back in 1950’s and 1960’s, sex was what bad girls did, at least that was the social propaganda. Even married couples on TV slept in twin beds. The shame of unwanted pregnancy was something considered worse than death. Body parts were not called by their scientific names but by cutesy words that served as labels when we were toddlers but which never evolved as we grew older. The changes in our bodies and feelings were never quite addressed as we were told to “just deal with it.” My mother even cautioned me not to stick my breasts out too far.

I started college at the age of 18 in 1967. I went to Oswego State with skirts and dresses. (At my high school, we weren’t allowed to wear slacks and the homemaking teacher went around the halls to monitor skirt lengths. If when kneeling, our hems did not touch the floor,our parents were called to bring over an appropriate garment or we were sent home.) Shortly after arriving on campus, I bought my first pair of jeans. They were an olive color. Remembering The Captain Kangaroo Show and Mr. Green Jeans, I soon regretted my purchase, worried that my color choice would open me up to ridicule.

With my insecurities and inadequate “cool person” preparation, I became a college freshman. Looking at a picture of myself from 1967, my naivety was very apparent. I looked like a girl on a recruitment poster for a nunnery.

Freshman Orientation was my first blast into into college life. For some fortunate reason, The Doors, yes, The Doors, were our orientation concert right at SUNY at Oswego in Lee Hall.

I loved The Doors. My appreciation for them has grown even more as I have become older. I own their greatest hits CD and I marvel at range of their styles, jazz, honky tonk, Spanish guitar and their awesome instrumentation in “Light My Fire”.

The day after the concert, the campus seemed electrified with chatter.

“Do you believe it?” one of my new classmates asked.

“Believe what?” I answered.

“What happened to Jim Morrison!”

“What happened?”

“His pants, his pants!” the girl shouted and she hurried to a more knowing group of enthusiastic gossipers.

I hadn’t seen anything unusual, I hadn’t been looking at Jim Morrison’s pants. Many people seemed eager to offer me enlightenment. My education for this incident came in two parts. First, someone had to explain to me that the lead singer of The Doors had become really excited. And part two, his excitement had become visible. Oblivious, I had missed it. I was a clueless, dumb baby in the new wilderness of “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.”

I eventually became informed. Girls from Long Island told stories of their unsupervised lives of drinking and partying. Their youth was entirely different than mine. Being the oldest girl in my family, I guess I was kind of a experiment based on restriction, omissions, and intentional brainwashing, all for my own good.

But women, including myself, thankfully have moved forward. I marvel at our advances, for instance, in the area of linguistics.

In my childhood, I used the phrase “oh, sugar” to express frustration, anger, or distain.

Later, that evolved into “oh,darn”.

And as I grew older, I let “oh, damn” escape from my lips.

“Oh,sh–!” is now a common way to relieve stress when women break a glass or rear end another car or lock ourselves out their houses or whenever we are confronted with the hundreds of frustrating things that go wrong in our busy lives.

And now in my “I don’t give a damn” liberated life of advance years, I say the biggest swear word of all. I don’t say it public, only in the privacy of my own home or very quietly in the company of friends who are also living a “I don’t give a damn” liberated life. It feels good. It confirms that “we have come a long way, baby.”

I first said the big swear word in my junior year of college. Before that I had never heard a female say that expletive. There was no law against it. Our mouths were physically capable of making the required sounds. But something silenced us, something invisible but very powerful. And we weren’t just restricted in our use of that word. We were restricted in a lot of ways.

Long ago, I was given a old copy of a 1967 “Watertown Daily Times” and was surprised to see that job postings were divided into men’s jobs and women’s jobs which back then were mainly house cleaner and secretary.

In 1972, Title 9 was passed , finally opening more participation for women in school sports.

Back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and early part of this century there was no “Me,Too” movement.

And today there are still gaping disparities in the wages of women as compared to men’s.

Jim Morrison wrote “Break on Through to the Other Side” in 1967, the year I saw him in concert in Lee Hall at Oswego.

“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side

We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side”

As women, we are breaking through to the other side, our side. Many women in our country have taken leadership roles and have organized movements. But we can’t overlook the individual power of our words that can stop those in our everyday lives who try to diminish us.

Words like-

“That’s unfair.”

“I will not be put down or made fun of.”

“Please respect my boundaries.”

“Please respect my space.”

“I need to be listened to and heard.”

“I will not be taken advantage of or demeaned.”

For way too long, our destinies were written for us. We now need to speak up and create our own destinies.

Copyright@theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Traveling with Forrest Gump

RESPECT

Songwriter: Otis Redding

Made into a single in 1967

Recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1967

What you want
Baby, I got it
What you need
Do you know I got it?
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect

I was born in 1949, a time when all female children were supposed to be “good” little girls. This expectation defined me for a long time. I worked hard to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good student, and a good citizen. As I got older, the demands grew as I tried to try to be a good wife, a good Catholic, a good mother, good looking, a good worker, a good teacher, a good housewife, a good friend, on and on. In trying to be good at it all, I failed a lot. Like many women, I felt fragmented, not knowing what I was suppose to be.

I believe in personal evolution, the ability of person to become better. For me it was a slow process. Shame and guilt were a big part of my childhood and my early life. But I am proud to say I’m whole now, no longer torn apart by the demands of other people or society.

I have learned to chart my own course, to assess the noise of the outside world and navigate through it all with courage, not worrying about the opinions of others. In the tradition of the Stoic thinkers, I now know I can’t change the things that are out of my control. I can only change myself and this realization has freed me.

I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of fools (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)

I speak up now, no longer silent. I simply tell people how I feel and if they can’t respect that, I won’t dislike them or gossip about them or seek revenge, I merely walk away and let them go.

“When you come home,
Respect
Or you might walk in
And find out I’m gone”

I have saved the “good” little girl who was once me. I have finally set her free to be who she really is.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me”

Copyright 2019@theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

India-The Value of Education and Stubbornness

Education is of very great importance to me, followed by the quality of stubbornness. Like many families, my relatives don’t like to talk much about feelings. Dark secrets are buried and many tales are hidden away. As Yuval Noah Harari, writes in his book, Sapien, all cultures are based on stories and those in power decide which stories will dominate. But I have another viewpoint, that eventually the truth comes out. It leaks through holes of forgotten revelations and suddenly remembered events. These conjure up “ah-ha” moments, bursts of clarity when the mind declares “so that’s why things are the way they are”. One brain scientist stated the mind “remembers patterns not rules”. Thank goodness or we would all be living in a state of bewilderment. If we really listen and observe , we can finally see the inconsistencies in fantasies accepted as true. And if we look deeper yet, we can see the lasting influence that our past and heritage have on our lives.

I remember my grandfather, sitting in the kitchen of his house on Welch Avenue in Niagara Falls, NY. I was about four but I can still see the brown radio on a little wooden shelf way above his head and mine. It was always on when he was present, squawking Polish, his native lauguage, or playing happy Polkas He was always reading a newspaper, coming from who know where, written in the language of the “old country”.

It was years later that my cousin told me the legend of my grandfather and my grandmother. A story that has impacted me and will influence future generations in my family forever.

Before coming to this country before World War I, my grandfather was part of a prosperous family of doctors who expected him to pursue a career in medicine. My grandfather had other ideas, he wanted to marry my grandmother and be a duck farmer. His family was livid and ridiculed his decision by making fun of my grandmother who was illiterate. But she was extremely stubborn and would not allow herself to be shamed. She secretly slipped two duck eggs into her apron, sold them at the market in town, bought chalk and a small slate, and taught herself to read and write.

This spirit of perseverance and the belief that education was the key to a better life and a sense of pride was passed down to my mother who was unfortunately a victim of history. She never went passed the eighth grade because she worked during The Great Depression cleaning houses for a dollar a day. She later worked as a cafeteria lady and a cook but she had learned how important education was. By working hard and saving , my mom put aside enough money so my two sisters and I were able to go to college. She stubbornly rejected the advise of some family members who said education wasn’t important for girls. I owe so much to the strength and persistence of my grandmother and mother. Education was my golden ticket to a professional career as a teacher and now has provided me with the resources to travel. My education has also made me a curious lifelong learner, something I enjoy everyday

Of course, when I visited India I was interested in their education system. School attendance is compulsory for children ages six to fourteen. But I learned there are glaring discrepancies. Private school have more resources.

Public School

What is even more disturbing is the fact that about 60% of the Indian population lives in rural areas and according to a study in 2008, the absentee rate for teachers in rural schools was on average 48% each day.

And to make matters worse, as of 2018, 28% of schools (19% public schools) have internet, 9% have computers (4 % for public schools) and only 68% of all school have usable toilets.

Those who have enough money for a good education, mainly those who go to private schools and /or have additional funds for the services of tutors are more likely to get into one of India’s 900 universities or 40,000 colleges. This privileged group does very well as professionals in the fields of technology, information, medicine, engineering, management, and economics. They have great social mobility and are sought by corporations and businesses in the US.

There is hope. Progressive companies in India like Tata Consulting Services (TCS) runs the largest private digital education school for potential employees. 400,000 employable students are coached in data analytics, cloud computing, and the “internet of things.” The company also rotates 200,000 employees at a time in a program to continuously update their techs in 600,000 competencies. “Based on market demand or project specifics, education for workers is always immediately relevant”.

Aravind Eye Care System also trains its workers and is able to provide eye care for poor Indian citizens. They have gone a step further and opened a plant that manufactures intraocular lenses that cost one fourth of those imported from the US.

It’s heartbreaking to see the woundedness of India. The country needs a better education system but also upgrades in security, protection of property rights, health services, and infrastructure. Change is slow because of governmental corruption. Bribery and patronage are very common and widespread.

India needs a strong dose of stubbornness. The people have power in their numbers. Those who are poor and rural must rise from the shame of their situation. The light of justice must be focused on corruption so the government is more effect in serving all Indians. Also, the leaders in employee training need to be encouraged and recognized so their reforms can spread across all of India.

I owe so much to my grandmother who would not allow herself to be shamed. She had the strenghth and ingenuity to do something to better herself and I’m very proud of her stubborn determination. As she lived her story, she planted the seeds of power into the heart of her daughter, my mother. Because of my mom, my sisters and I were able to go to college. Now the grandchildren, and great grandchildren in my family believe in the importance of education also and this light will go on and on. We will all be stubborn and resilient in our resolve. Thank you so much, Mom. Thank you so much, Babci (the Polish word for grandmother)!