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Coulda Been a Mechanic, Shoulda Been a Scientist, Woulda Been a Fighter Pilot

There isn't a single one of my friends back in high school who would ever have thought that I would end up working as an accountant, or in any kind of finance or corporate environment. The first time my friends saw me in a suit when I was in my twenties, they almost choked. They had no idea that this was who the working me had become. At that very moment I was an investment analyst, and not one of them could wrap their brains around it. The funny thing is, these were completely different friends from the ones I'd had in high school.

In high school I took two years of automotives. I seriously wanted to be a mechanic. I loved street rods. The 1971 Mustang Mach I with a 351 Cleveland under the hood, a 1963 Corvette Stingray with the split rear windshield, or a Jaguar XJS convertible with the twelve-cylinder engine that absolutely purred it was so smooth. Other girls had John Stamos on their walls, and while I admit he was up there briefly, soon the wall was taken over by pictures of cars. By my third year, though, I lost interest in what looked to be permanent stains on my hands. Even washing with Varsol could only do so much after a while.

When I gave up on the idea of becoming a mechanic, I lost interest in high school, dropping out of one school after another. After my daughter was born I decided to use the province of Alberta's correspondence option to further my education. This was government-controlled high school curriculum, not the schools you find in those cheap magazine insert, and the courses and exams were nearly identical to what was found in classrooms. My grades went up twenty percent, because there was no longer a teacher slowing me down to pace with the rest of the students, and no other students interrupting the teachings.

I started liking physics quite a bit, along with the trigonometry in math that goes along with that. I was doing lab experiments at home, and having fun with it, but didn't really pay any attention to the fact that I was enjoying myself. You see, I had another goal in mind. The thought of becoming a scientist never even occurred to me back then. Not that I didn't think I could become one because of my intellect. I was taught from a very young age that I could be absolutely anything. If there was one good thing that came from my childhood, it would be the emphasis that was placed on my intelligence.

No, it didn't occur to me to aim for science because I was a single mother who would never be able to afford to not only finish high school, but also to finish about ten years of university, the time frame depending on whether or not I could take accelerated courses and still raise a kid.

Instead I decided I would go the route of the Canadian Armed Forces. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I was headed in that direction; I had done all the investigation into the options for a career. I would get my four-year degree at a military college, and then I would be an officer. I would have to go to boot camp for thirteen weeks, and go through jump school, too. In my case, wanting to be a fighter pilot, that made total sense to me. What if I had to eject one day?

I'd been to the air shows, and seen up-close and personal the CF-18s that were being flown at the time, and I had a love affair with the F-14 Tomcat, one of my greatest regrets being that I would likely never fly one because they were already too old. I had a t-shirt with the Grumman F-14 Tomcat on it, with all the stats listed beside a picture of the jet. I knew all the publicized stats by heart back then. Once I realized I would probably never fly it, I started learning about the CF-18.

I learned about the other planes, too. Ones like the SR-71 Blackbird. Of course, most of the data on that one was classified, and you had to wear pressurized suits to fly it at 80,000 feet or you would die.

Man, I couldn't wait to get into a cockpit. Being in Canada there wasn't a lot of sexism to deal with when it came to that either. We had no restrictions on women flying combat planes. They actually needed people of smaller stature, because ideally the pilots were at most about 5-foot-six. You could get away with taller ones, but the smaller the better. It was less expensive, lighter and more aerodynamic to build small cockpits, and if you couldn't maneuver in there it would impede your ability to fly the jet.

I'd talked to a lot of fighter pilots on active duty - most of whom were men as it happened, but they were respectful. At that age I had little reason to know that sexism would ever be a problem in the world. I wasn't getting smacked in the face with it. I wasn't even seeing it. My friends might crack a joke, but I cracked them right back and there were no hard feelings.

It wasn't until I went for a routine medical that my bubble burst. For some stupid reason, possibly my very young age, it hadn't even occurred to me that my history of asthma would be any kind of impediment to my goals. I'd spent months working toward this dream and in a split second it was gone. I knew she was right as soon as the doctor made the comment. They weren't even going to let me in, let alone allow me to fly a plane. It was too big of a risk for them, and for their fifty-million-dollar jets. If I had an asthma attack during combat, the damage would be magnified exponentially.

So, I became something else. I worked in everything on the lower rungs from telemarketing to prep cooking and dishwashing. Then I finally 'broke into' office work, got one promotion after another, and worked my way up to mid-range corporate work. It was a strange place to be, and not where I'd intended to go at all, but I learned a lot. I was forced to learn in ways that would be helpful to me later, making me more capable of doing the thing I'd wanted to do in the first place, at twelve years old, making up stories on an old electric typewriter where I had to literally pound in each key.

That writing experience allowed me to become a really fast typist, which is what opened the door to office work and business. Losing my job got me into running my own business and realizing I would have far more control that way. My asthma disappeared, strangely, long before I even quit smoking. Running my business led me into activism, along with the introduction of a ferret into my home. Activism led me to more business, which I didn't expect. For a time I wasn't able to sit at a computer, so I was on hiatus, but the computer issue was resolved with surgery. That's when I started to seriously consider my writing again.

Something that, at twelve years of age I'd said was my dream, and that people told me was a stupid dream; the only one that had really been discouraged other than running away to L. A. to be in a heavy metal band. Now I find myself doing exactly what I was told I would never be. Not because they thought I lacked ability, but because it was one of those 'pipe dreams' they like to talk about. I may not be Stephen King with his million-dollar advances, but I write and people respect what I say enough to read it.

Did I have regrets in my life? Yes, at the times my dreams fell through or I gave up on them, I certainly did. Do I have regrets now? Not one. I am what I've always wanted to be. I have variety in every single day in my life. I write anything and everything from fantasy-fiction to news pieces to personal accounts. I write about things that are very, very important to me, and thousands of people read those words. What has more worth than that? I suppose it depends on your value structure how you would answer that question.

I became who I needed to be, and could only have gotten to this exact point by the exact path that I traveled. The slightest variation at any point would have changed everything, and this is certainly nowhere near the end of my path. I learned the lessons I needed at the time I needed to learn them. I still push myself to become more, do more, be more, and I absolutely will. The people who say things are impossible are the ones who can't be bothered to try, and that's just not the kind of lazy I want to be.
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Rain Stickland is a Canadian writer with a passion for ferrets and a love for sentient creatures. She produces The Kovacs Perspective, hosted by Steve Kovacs.

Her professional background includes freelance writing, consulting, technical writing, procedures manuals, payroll and HR, investment analysis, and accounting. She owns a company that develops and manufactures safe pet toys, and donates the proceeds to ferret shelters in Canada and the US.

Rain's writing background includes topics such as stem cell transplants and feminism, and position papers on charitable organization development. She's also a staff writer for a popular online feminist publication. A crime-fiction series is in the works, as she continues to contribute to various online and print publications.

Follow her on Twitter @RainStickland

You can follow her blog at: Torrential Rain

Future articles can be found at: Soul of Wit where she will contribute articles formerly written for SearchWarp.com.

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