The Panty Predicament
It began at the panty display of a well-known lingerie boutique where I worked the Summer before my sophomore year in college.
Between working long hours on my feet and warm afternoons spent relaxing in the lingering Summer sun, my body transformed into a mix of swelling, rashes, pain and severe lethargy.
No twenty-year old expects to hear they have an incurable disorder guaranteed to change their life forever. Then again no one anticipates those moments that will test our limits and later bring out the inner strength that had been waiting to emerge.
The irony of my situation is that aside from my more common and predictable fears; spiders, enormous wild beasts etc, the scariest had always been becoming chronically ill. Twenty years of maintaining a healthy existence, never missing a day of school and yet my biggest fear was one that had absolutely no bearing based on my life thus far.
I knew there was something wrong before the doctor gave the preliminary diagnosis. I had been displaying symptoms one at a time for years. It was not until August of 2006 that they all made their dramatic appearance together.
Becoming ill was undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to me and transformed me into the person I have always wanted to be. If provided the chance to go back and instead be a healthy 20 year old, I would not change a thing. If it had not been this great challenge to test me, there would have been another.
Before 2006, I lived what I would consider a propitious life. I had been adopted at two and a half years old by a couple that wanted to provide my sister, brother and myself a life better than the sad ones we would otherwise be destined for. Couples do not typically want toddlers from troubled backgrounds, not two children and certainly not three. From the streets with no permanent address, I was placed into a loving foster home (yet another rarity at the time) and then adopted by my parents who fought to keep my biological sister and I together.
They moved us into a quiet suburb ranked within the top five for public education in Massachusetts and provided us every opportunity available; private voice, piano and violin lessons for me, any sport imaginable and most importantly - encouraged my love of reading.
My parents never told me but I was the first child in my class to learn to read. The mother of my childhood friends let this fact slip long after instead. She had come to drop something off at school during our nap time when the teacher usually read aloud and she saw me awake, slowly but deliberately sounding out the words of whichever book had been selected that day as the other children rested atop their nap mats.
When we went took family vacations, we would visit the shops local to the area and upon entering my father would tell us: "You may have anything in this store, as long as it is a book."
My summers were spent riding my little bike to our town library, backpack empty one way but when I returned home, I had at least 5 or 6 books to last me the week. Books were and still are my escape and my joy.
Adopted children are the luckiest children there are. Initially cherished in that moment they were held right after birth or during pregnancy when their mother feels their first kick.
Then again, when their new parents experience the joy of knowing they would finally have a child of their own. Twice cherished we are.
I cannot speak for all adopted children, but before learning the truth of my origins, I imagined by biological mother was a beautiful, glamorous woman. Far too busy and important to care for me, therefore placing me elsewhere in a home where she knew I would be looked after.
When my sister had my nephew, she sought to find a more accurate account and I cannot say I was surprised of the horrors we found.
During my time writing this book I happened to meet a woman at a conference I was attending in Boston. As she asked that we exchange information she shared that she was adopted and writing a book about the experience. What drew me closer was her admission at finally meeting her birth parents.
My eyes flew open and I finally let her in on my little a-secret. I call it that because growing up there seemed to be this belief that adopted children are problematic, special, and not in a good way. It was a stigma that followed many of us around until adopting children from third world countries seemed to become a trend.
Anyhow I told my new friend of my own literary ventures and she asked the question so many always do. "Don't you want to find them?" And if I had been asked earlier on in my life the answer would have been a resounding yes.
At this stage in my life the gravity of just how fortunate a life I have been given, how full it has been and how nothing seems to be missing brought about a soft no.
With the exception of my worries that my mother had no one looking out for her in her older age, I was no longer at the edge of my seat in curiosity. Content and thankful for what I have I also know the rigid adoption laws within my most liberal of states will most likely not allow much to be found.
Towards the conclusion of my high school career, I was doing fairly well but beyond question, not putting in even seventy percent of the effort I could have. The varsity sports I played or even most of my classes. The only class that truly mattered, where I never received a grade below an A, was English.
I was accepted early and with scholarship to my first choice college, a large university that would provide socially diverse opportunities previously unavailable to me in my mainly white graduating class of one-hundred and thirty.
Driving up the foliage lined streets of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, seeing students of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, I felt a shiver of excitement. Here I would be on my own, finally an adult, to study what I wished and discover the person I was meant to be.
The Root of My Work Ethic
Let's take a step back to where it all began.
I began babysitting at a young age for the tiniest baby named Henry that lived almost directly across the street from my childhood home.
When neighbors went away on their exotic vacations they asked me to water their plants and feed their cats. I can still remember one day I had been taking my sweet time heading to take care of one house in particular and my father asked why I had not yet left.
Providing a noncommittal excuse, I was met with what I felt to be needless annoyance. My father insisted that no job was a small job, that anything I had agreed to must be met with the utmost of seriousness. No matter if it was the responsibility of dribbling a few drops on a neighbors cactus, I would take it just as seriously and maintain strict timelines.
That accountability stuck with me for all experiences and jobs that followed. I do not know if my father realizes how important that miniature speech was to forming little Georgina's attitude in life.
I grew up in what I still consider the most beautiful white ranch-style house.
My mother and father poured their spirits into that house making it the most wonderful home imaginable.
From the wide driveway with a slight curve and extra parking on one side, to our basketball hoop of official height and sprawling yard.
My father built my sister and I a miniature house in the backyard where we would have tea parties with our dolls, enjoying the small treats my mother would fix us. Chattering away in the innocent nonsensical way only children can.
Though some in our predominately white-collar town may have scoffed at the blue-collar plumbing company my father owned, it afforded us heated floors, a steam unit and later a sauna and jacuzzi.
I cannot and will not ever forget how hard my parents worked to give us absolutely everything they never had a chance to receive. My father coming in late in the evening just to awake again as the sun was rising.
A safe neighborhood where I could walk, bike and eventually run the figure-eight loop our house was situated upon.
My mother always insisted on us enjoying a homemade, hot meal each night preceded with a salad of course.
From a young age I was restricted by severed asthma, taking labored breaths into a nebulizer most evenings, reliant on an inhaler during the day and emergency trips to the hospital were far too frequent.
In an effort to help me increase my lung capacity, my parents hired a private voice coach for me. I remember hearing a recording of my warbling little voice and intermittent pitiful coughs. But it worked and slowly but surely there were no more emergency trips, no more evenings spent breathing into my machine. My parents truly spared no expense.
As my little voice developed, I began singing in the church choir, by no means any young Whitney Houston. The mainly older group of ladies loved having young energy in the group and soon had me singing solos in front of the church with my sister accompanying me on the piano. You would think this would have bolstered my confidence some but it did not. I was always acutely aware that I was different, some people never let me forget it.
We were so blessed with the priests at Saint Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Wayland and my father, devout as could be, herded us to church each Sunday, Catholic Holiday and holy day of obligation.
I still stop in every now and again to attend Father Bob's mass and am always greeted with a smile and hug.
My parents have a second home three hours north of Boston in the town of Naples, Maine. Right on the water without much way of entertainment and the nearest mall was almost an hour away. Needless to say, us children were not in a rush to get up there.
Thinking back, it was there we proudly caught our first sunfish, learned to waterski behind my Dad's Evinrude propelled motorboat, rowed out to the island in the middle of the lake on "adventures" and swam like fish with our dog Bella barking happily behind us.
Those were some of the happiest moments, where my father could relax having told his answering service to hold all calls. It is startling how unaware we are of this until moments of deep introspection. How lucky we are to examine, relive and be able to smile at memories others worked so hard to create for us.
Why Don't You Blog About It
I began my blog anonymously in 2008 with the sole purpose of seeing what others thought of my writing. If no one knew who was releasing these streams of nonsense I could avoid any potential personal attacks.
I never imagined where my blog would bring me; to a group of friends I now consider among my closest, numerous travels courtesy of some of my favorite brands and endless opportunity. To learn, grow and stay inspired.
After two years I took the risk of posting a photo of myself and letting all four of my readers in. Strangely that was what it took for my popularity to skyrocket (in the mildest sense.) My traffic did however, double ten-fold as people were excited to put a face to who was behind my little corner of the Internet.
I have studied the rise of many bloggers within every niche and always idolized those I consider the greats. Kristina Bazan being one of my favorites; Europe based and now modeling for the most respected fashion houses yet remaining the sweetest, most humble woman she has always been.
I have seen "internet fame" bring out the very worst in people at larger conference. Those that believe themselves above us smaller bloggers, displaying outward distaste when someone does not instantly recognize them.
Through my creepiness ahem, observations, I have always maintained that nice people finish first. The way you treat each person along the way will in the long run, help determine your ultimate success. Define whether you will merely be well-known, or well-respected.
During a trip to to Dallas to attend Blissdom I had the chance to sit in seminars run by some of the most remarkable bloggers, businesswomen and New York Times Best Selling authors. It was a dream come true and four day whirlwind of eager beaver giddiness as I tried to capture it all to memory to later recount.
Sitting in Susan Cain's session, she began with "It took me nine years to write this book." A book so pivotal to society that could not be more applicable to my life and blogger culture. At that moment I was never more inspired as I was struggling to write a book of my own; timidly proposing to share my twenty-something story.
Who would buy a book about my life when they would think my best years were still to come? Did I dare?
Later as I feverishly clutched Susan's book waiting in line to speak with her I thought about what I would say. I had no clue but as the last person in front of my happily trailed off, I stepped up to meet her smiling and welcoming face. "Thank you for what you said. I have been struggling so much to begin my own book" I blurted in-eloquently. She instantly understood the power of her words and asked me what my book would be about.
As I told her, she smiled and there was a brief moment where I second-guessed myself and my little book no less than fifty times. She slowly leaned in and said "I want to read your book and I want you to let me know when it is finished."
That is still one of the most emotional moments I have ever experienced because in that brief flash of time, all of my worries were laid to rest. My life's dream had instantly been validated and born was a new type of motivation to get started.
On the flight home the words finally flew out of me and periodically, okay far too often, I found myself tearing up out of happiness that this was finally happening and would certainly reach completion.
As a little young buck in the suburbs armed only with my babysitting money, I cannot say I was the most fashionable of children (read: the furthest thing from it.)
However if my dreams matched my closets reality, I would have turned heads everywhere (that and if my confidence and budget were also in accordance.)
When I finally took the plunge in getting fit for contacts, found a proper hairstylist (oh the afro-esque nightmares I previously faced) and I took a job at a nearby TJ Maxx; my style began to evolve and dramatically improve.
I was never going to win best-dressed, let us be clear. But only due to my hesitance in taking any of the more dramatic risks. A leather jacket (even faux?) Too edgy.
My style in college was atrocious as I was still in the process of figuring out just who Georgina was.
Later as my outfit made appearances on my blog and then on others during even recaps, I found myself making much more of an effort. I still do not consider myself stylish, though with a bit of thought I can do just fine. I do not aspire to anything more.
In preparing for a fashion show I was asked to walk in (hah, I know) we were required to attend a photo shoot where all of the promotional media for the event would be derived.
Awkward and self conscious in front of the other models, I remember the photographer seeming almost at his wits end. That and my being the only woman of color the hairstylist had to deal with (also QUITE exasperated might I add) brought on that level of self-consciousness I felt I had almost overcome.
Why in the world had I even been chosen!? I was no fashionista and yet I was being ordered to pose sexily (did not happen) and attempt to loosen up.
Later finally working with another talented photographer I learned the importance of establishing a level of confidence with the artists you work with.
Many of the writers whose lives I have studied thrive on that storied solitude. I could not identify with it more, though my full time and blogging requires me to be excessively social. Being alone allows us that extra time of introspection, the ability to gently yet intensely observe all that surrounds us.
How funny I must look walking this streets of Boston with my face always upturned. Searching for something new, notable, darling even.