Betsie’s Story

Reading Recommendations

Identify one of the stories from the Culture and Identity text that was not assigned reading for HMSV5334 this quarter. Summarize the story and what you learned and convince your course room colleagues why it is worthwhile to read.

Betsie’s Story

I am 100% Jewish, having been born to two Jewish parents, both of them born to Jewish parents. I personally remember my two paternal great-grandmothers and have heard stories about their families and those of my two maternal great-grandmothers, whom I am named after, and their families. My family was seldom dull. I have always felt this way about my family history, which includes my life and the stories of my ancestors’ lives that have been passed down to me through my parents and grandparents. First, I only have three sides of family because my mother’s parents were uncle and niece. My grandfather, Bert, married his oldest sister’s daughter, Fran, my grandmother. This was in 1926, and they had to get married in Illinois because it was illegal in Indiana. One of the many reasons I do not consider myself a truly White person from European decent is because all of my family (the Frieds from Rumania, the Staks from Poland, and the Nobles from Russia) came to the United States because none of their home countries allowed Jews to become citizens. All three families came over between 1900 and 1905. They came both out of fear of the pogroms and for the economic opportunities, which were very limited for Jews in the aforementioned countries at that time. My maternal grandfather’s (Bert’s) mother died on the crossing from Rumania when my grandfather was only 3 months old, so he was raised by his oldest sister, Ellen, and her husband, Yeshiva, a butcher. It is a Jewish custom to name your children after dead relatives whom you were close to, and my middle name is Ethel, after Ellen, whom my mother knew as her grandmother. My maternal grandmother’s (Fran’s) parents were my grandfather’s next oldest sister, Bluma, and her husband, Abraham, who owned a jewelry and watch repair shop. My first name, Betsie, comes from Bluma. My mother considered naming me Bluma but could not see sticking her head out a window and calling “Bluma, come in for dinner!” So she Americanized Bluma to Betsie.

Bert was always in love with Fran (they were 6 years apart in age), and he used to write love letters to her. The mail in Bloomington used to get delivered twice a day, and Bert would write Fran a love letter in the morning on the streetcar on his way to school, where he got his master’s degree in education, and mail it from campus, and Fran would have it in the afternoon mail. She used to show my siblings and me the letters. My mother still has them, and I will eventually inherit them. One quote of my grandfather’s I will always remember is “I will always be your knight in shining armor, protecting you and our future family forever.” They were very much in love with each other, happily married for 63 years until their deaths, and I think it gave my mother a much romanticized notion of love; I know it did for me. They were both in very good physical shape. Fran wore midriff tops until she died at 83—and looked good. Until the end of their lives, when they took their afternoon 3-mile walk, they did it holding hands. They were both teachers. Bert started out as a mechanical drawing teacher at a vocational school, then got his master’s degree and doctorate and ended his career as a professor at Indiana Institute of Technology. He was brilliant, and I know that I got my brains from him. Fran was no slouch either. She was also a teacher at two schools, got two master’s degrees, one in reading and one in administration, and ended her career as the assistant principal in charge of discipline. It is from this side of my family that I got the most pressure to do well in school.

I was always the smart one of my siblings, and as far back as I can remember my parents always took it for granted that I would get top marks in grammar school and high grades in junior high, high school, and college. Fran began working in 1928, retiring after 40 years in 1968. She always worked under her maiden name, Miss Brooks. If I ever have a daughter, I will name her Brooke (to honor both of my grandmothers, Brooks and Betsie). Bert and Fran lived right behind Bluma and Abraham. Because Fran worked, Bluma cooked dinner for both families. My mother, Millie, remembers that Bluma often cooked three or four different dishes because she loved to cook what each person enjoyed. Millie and her brother Joshua were both very picky eaters. At one time in their lives, Millie would only eat chicken, and Joshua would only eat lamb chops.

Both sides of my family followed many Jewish ideals, but closeness of family is probably the strongest one on both sides. As I mentioned, my grandparents lived right behind their parents; my father’s (Jacob’s) mother’s (Betsie’s) family was even closer. Betsie’s parents came over from Kiev, Russia, before she was born in 1903. My great-grandmother’s (Martha’s) sister had died, leaving Isaac and six children, so Martha married him, as was tradition. I have a million stories about this side of my family, the side I have always been closest to. Martha and Isaac lived in Philadelphia and had six children together. After Isaac died, his brother Abe’s wife also died, leaving him with four children, so Martha married him. Betsie always said she had 15 brothers and sisters, even though 9 were first cousins. She was the oldest girl of the second set of six. When Isaac was alive, he was a cantor and a Torah scholar, and Martha ran a restaurant to earn enough money for their family. All of the children lived around their parents. The oldest two girls, Carol and Eve, were opera singers who toured throughout Europe with an international opera company, always sending one half of their money home to the family. With 11 children, the money wasn’t enough, so during the 1920s Martha added a speakeasy menu to the restaurant. Betsie was forced to quit school after eighth grade to go to work in a department store to earn money. She looked older and was able to get a job as a clerk. She always had a great love of learning and was a voracious reader until she died at 85 years of age. Meeting her, one would never guess her lack of education because she was self-taught. Betsie’s older brothers, Sam and Charley, started a clothing business, which became such a success that they sent Martha and the youngest 11 children to Chicago to own an apartment building and restaurant in the late 1920s. So Martha, Abe, and the 11 youngest children, including Betsie, moved to Chicago. Leah and Hyman and their four children—Samuel, my grandfather Jack, Victor, and Silvia—were tenants in the building that Martha and Abe owned. Hyman was a tailor. Sam fell in love with Betsie, who was engaged to a man, named Samson Cowen, who was going to medical school out East. Sam made a deal with Samson. Sam asked Samson to give him 1 year to woo Betsie while he was away at school; if Sam could not convince Betsie to leave Samson in 1 year, Sam would back off forever. Samson stupidly agreed and left for school, cutting off all contact with Betsie, without telling her anything. She thought he had left her, was heartbroken, and started dating Sam on the rebound.

Sam was a good-looking, smooth-talking dreamer. He was a bellboy at a prestigious hotel, with lots of connections for free tickets to concerts and shows and passes to all the fine restaurants, so he wined and dined Betsie and soothed her broken heart. By the time Samson came back from school, Sam had already asked Betsie to marry him. Samson finally told Betsie the truth. She was so angry with Samson for playing games with her emotions that she married Sam out of anger and spite. Although they did remain married for more than 50 years, until Sam’s death, they fought often. I got two things from Grandfather Sam. One was his love of partying and having a good time; the other was his quick temper and big mouth. He yelled, and yelled loudly, a great deal of the time. I can get very angry, sometimes very quickly, but like him, after I let it out (I do it in a more appropriate manner than he did) it is over. I rarely hold a grudge.

Although my mother’s family was close, Betsie’s family took family closeness to a new art form. When Betsie married Sam, her sister, Sarah, married Sam’s brother, Jack. All of Betsie’s siblings who moved to Chicago lived near each other as adults, and the two brother-sister couples were no exception: They always lived next door to each other until 1948, when they bought a three flat with another of Betsie and Sarah’s sisters and her husband. This was known as “the building.” Martha lived with Betsie and Sam for the last 15 years of her life. I get my great love of family from the many weekends spent at the building. Betsie was the most loving, caring, giving person you could ever meet. She loved and accepted everyone, just like her mother Martha had done. Martha’s youngest son, my Uncle Maurice, fell in love with a Las Vegas showgirl, an Egyptian woman, my Aunt Jessica. Martha welcomed Jessica into the family. After Maurice’s death, Jessica and her new husband Sam, came to all of our family events and continued to do so for almost 20 years. When my Uncle Jack’s son, Chuck, married Sandra, an African American woman, we all welcomed her as well.

If I had to pick one person who influenced my life the most, it was my “Nonny” Betsie. I was her oldest granddaughter, and that made me the luckiest person on earth. She was my best friend and my greatest advocate. She died about 5 years ago, and I miss her terribly. I am crying now as I write these words. I consider myself a third-generation party animal because, with such a large, close family, there was always one event or another happening, and everyone was invited. Every other Friday (Shabbat) night we went to “the building” for dinner, and then my siblings and I slept there overnight. My father’s sister’s family did the same on the other weeks. At 4 p.m. every afternoon, cocktail and snack time was held. Betsie and her sisters met in one of the kitchens for one glass each of vodka, filled to the top. Each floor was filled with cousins; many were my second or third cousins, but that never mattered. Before they bought “the building,” my father, Jacob, grew up very poor. Because Sam worked for tips, money was tight and did not come in on a consistent basis, which had a big impact on Jacob—and hence on me. Sam finished high school but did not go on to college. His brothers, Jack and Victor, went to college and became accountants. Jacob became a certified public accountant (CPA). As a class project, he volunteered to be the accountant for the theater department. He took the elevator to the top floor of the school, which housed all the sets and the dressing and rehearsal rooms. As Jacob got off the elevator, he saw a man carrying my mother, Millie, over his shoulder. The man said to Jacob, “Wanna pinch something nice?” Of course Jacob said yes and pinched Millie’s behind, and that is how they met (Millie was a theater major). My smooth-talking father romanced my naive mother, and they were married 2 years later, after my father graduated. Their marriage lasted 15 years. When I look back, I see what they had in common at ages 20 and 21: They both were (are) Jewish, they both were (are) close to their families, they both have a great love of literature and the arts, and in the 1950s, they both wanted to do what their parents wanted them to do—raise a family of their own to continue the Jewish traditions.

So you have now read much of my family history, and finally I am born. But just like in the movie Avalon, I grew up hearing all of the stories I have just shared, and they have been an important influence on my life. These stories grounded me and gave me my great love and appreciation of history in general, especially my family history and traditions. In 1954, when they were 21 and 20 years old, Millie and Jacob got married. Millie quit school and went to work as a secretary, while Jacob sat for the CPA exam and started working with Victor and Jack in their accounting firm. I was born in 1958. Victor died suddenly in 1959, and Jacob became a partner in the firm. At age 26, he was giving advice to men twice his age about how they should run their businesses. My brother was born in 1960, and my sister in 1961. As I mentioned, Jacob grew up poor, which inspired him to do better for himself and his family. For example, in both the apartment we lived in until I was 4 years old and the house we moved to in the suburbs, we always had air conditioning. Jacob would not buy a house unless it had central air. His dream was to have an office on Market Street and to live downtown. He has accomplished both. He worked extremely hard throughout my entire childhood.

Until I was 7 or 8 years old, he worked 6.5 days a week part of the year and 7 days a week from January to April, tax season. To this day I hate math, and I believe it is because I used to fall asleep to the sound of the adding machine. Whereas the Frieds are very conservative, the Staks are very liberal. When my parents looked to buy a house, my father purposely moved us to a mixed suburban community so that we would live in what today you would call a multicultural neighborhood and attend a multicultural school. My four best friends on my block were Dana (Jewish), Laurie (Japanese), Annie (Chinese), and Betty (Polish). I have always been proud to grow up there. Education is another Jewish value I identified greatly with. Because I was the smart one of my parents’ children, it was always expected of me that I would do well in school, and I did. Schoolwork always came very easy for me. My brother was the athlete, so it was okay that he did not have top grades, and although my sister did well in school, she had to work very hard to do so. I have to admit that I was actually rather lazy, but because I caught on to things quickly (I have an almost photographic memory and am able to relax when taking a test), it was very easy for me to get high grades. I was also tested for my music and dance abilities and received high marks. When I was 7 years old, my parents bought a piano. The store that we bought it from had music testing. My parents were told that I had the musical ability of a 16-year-old. I took ballet classes at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) near my house. My class was taught by a prima ballerina who, after escaping from Russia, was helped by the Chicago Jewish community and was giving back to our community by teaching dance. She told my mother that I should be taking lessons at a higher level. We could not afford better ballet lessons, and I got lazy about practicing piano, so I did not go much further with either one. I am still a frustrated artist. First, I am always drawn to artists. I got involved in theater in high school and was in the National Thespian Society. Most of my friends from college were theater and music majors. I love to take pictures. I am the one on vacations and at parties who brings out the camera; it is my muse.

Another important aspect of my childhood is that I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I lived through and was greatly influenced by the civil rights movement, the hippies, the Vietnam War, and the women’s movement. I understand that everyone has some prejudice, but I have always felt that because I am Jewish I know that there are plenty of people in this world who hate me because of my ethnicity. I hate this fact. It scares me, makes me very angry, and bothers me, so I feel like that I can’t do that to anyone else. This may sound corny, but I truly believe this. My family was always very politically active, and the historic events of my youth made me even more aware of how important it is to be involved in the political process.

The women’s movement really messed things up for me. Even though Fran worked, she still got married at 18 and had two children. Most of the other adult women in my life were homemakers and mothers, some with part-time jobs. Millie did not work until my sister started first grade and was in school all day. Millie got a job as a secretary in the school district’s central office so that she would always have the same days off as we did. All of a sudden, everything changed. Now I was expected to find a career and fight for women to have the right to be trained and work in fields dominated by men—and to earn as much as men—and to have the right to a legal abortion. All of a sudden men and women were supposed to be equal. I remember starting junior high school in the fall of 1969. At that time, girls had to wear dresses or skirts, no slacks or shorts. One day in October, the word went around that all the girls were walking out at 10 a.m. to protest the dress code. We wanted the right to wear pants! At the appointed time, virtually every girl walked out of school. We marched around the school chanting for about 2 hours, and then we went home. The rule was changed, and we could wear pants. This felt so powerful, to have a voice and have it heard.

Another aspect of Jewish women is the notion of Jewish women as nurturers (to the point of worriers), always taking care of their families. Being the oldest, and a girl, I took on this role as soon as my siblings were born. One of the first messages I received as a child was “Take care of your brother and your sister!” And I did. Whenever anyone offered me candy, perhaps at a store or at the doctor’s office, I would always ask, “Can I have one for my brother and sister?” My mother loved to tell people about this. Somehow I was able to understand when my sister talked baby talk. When I was 11 years old, I began baby-sitting my siblings when my parents went out. They would pay me a quarter per hour. Kids used to pick on my sister because she was so small. I took care of that. Being 3 years older, I was always bigger than her peers, at least through grammar school. Even once we were all in college, my mother would still call me and ask, “Where is your brother?” The funny thing is, often I would know. We were very close growing up and still are to this day. I talk to my sister almost every day, and I talk to my sister-in-law often also. I would talk to my brother more often, but he is a psychologist and is with clients all day.

The most traumatic event of my life was my parents’ divorce. They got divorced when I was 11 years old, in 1970. They seem to have started the trend. When it happened, I only knew one other family with divorced parents. I was devastated. Sometimes I think that I still have not completely gotten over it and wonder if I ever will. I know it is part of the reason that I did not get married until I was 44 years old. My siblings were 29 and 34 years old when they got married. We all say that we will never get divorced. It was very ugly. Jacob was cheating on Millie. They told us about it in December of 1969, and the divorce was finalized in March of 1970. Jacob was married again on April 15th of that year. Fran was cruel. She would always badmouth Jacob. The only good thing to come out of it was that we got to spend more quality time with Jacob. Instead of him coming home late every night, tired and crabby, and doing chores around the house on his days off, he was now responsible for us every Sunday and had to spend time with us, and we still went to Betsie and Sam’s every other Friday night and slept over.

Jacob’s second wife, Avis, was a wonderful person. She had two daughters, Barbara (5 years older than me) and Lynn (2 years older than me). Lynn and I became very close. Jacob and Avis were married for 5 years. Avis and Lynn were major influences in my life. Lynn was thin and beautiful, and Avis was a former model, so she was beautiful, too. My mother is very good looking, but she is short. Avis was tall and glamorous. Avis had helped her daughter Barbara with her weight problem, and she urged me to deal with mine. At age 13, I was 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighed 179 pounds. I looked 8 months pregnant. My weight brings me to another aspect of what I believe is part of the Jewish culture: food. All the Jewish women in my family were avid cooks who loved to feed us and urged us all to eat, eat, eat. And I loved food, so I did. Also, after years of therapy, I have realized that this was the way that I got love from my mother: She fed me. Because Jacob worked so much, Millie was left alone to raise three little children. I was always a good girl. My brother was always mischievous: He would get lost in the grocery store or hide our toys. My sister was a big crybaby and demanded my mother’s attention, so I did not get enough attention from Millie. I know that she loves me very much, but as a child what I got most from her was her excellent cooking. Avis gently talked to me about how Barbara had lost weight on diet pills (after all, it was 1971, and pills cured everything), took me to my pediatrician, and started me on amphetamines, and I have been conscious of my weight ever since. My metabolism is such that I was on the verge of needing thyroid medication, so the pills just curbed my appetite; I did not get jumpy or lose sleep.

One negative aspect of my family and the era I grew up in was substance use and abuse. As I mentioned, the three sisters always had their cocktail hour. When my father finally did come home from work, he always had a drink almost immediately after walking in the door. Alcohol was never a big deal for us as kids. We always had wine at Passover and could always try our parents’ or grandparents’ drinks if we asked. Although drinking was no big deal, smoking pot was much more exotic. I tried pot for the first time at age 12 after being influenced by Lynn. I only smoked once or twice a month for the 5 years I knew her, and though I stopped in high school, I started up again in college. I believe it was the pressure of trying to do my best and be successful at the University of Chicago. I was a lazy student in high school. If I even put my hand over a book, I would get an “A.” I was number 98 out of 647 in my class, I got a 29 on the ACT and an 1150 on the SAT, and I had a great interview, so I was accepted to college. Sometimes I think that maybe I was also filling their Jewish quota. Whatever the reason, there I was surrounded by class valedictorians, feeling like I did not belong. My first 2 years were a disaster. I loved going to class and listening to lectures and participating in discussions. I read the books, but it took me 2 years to really learn how to study and write papers. In the meantime, I got “Cs” and “Ds,” something I had never gotten before. In high school, I got a “C” in typing and one in biology and then finished my last 2 years with straight “As,” so my grades at University of Chicago were ego shattering. I hid them from my parents and had many sleepless nights.

Another message I always got from Millie was “Don’t worry, don’t get upset!” Pot smoking was the perfect solution for my worry and anxiety. I began smoking every night. At least, I never went to class or tried to study while high; I just smoked instead of studying. I finally developed good study habits my junior year after I was put on probation. I am very proud to have a diploma from the University of Chicago and that I did it in 4 years despite my partying, but I am humiliated about my grades. Once I was out of college, I continued to smoke pot virtually every night for 10 more years. I was still using it as a crutch, this time to ease the pressure of not being successful at a career and my lack of an ability to find a husband. These relate to issues in the Jewish culture, the push for success, which for a woman from my generation means success both in a career and in a relationship.

I always loved history (my major), but in 1980, my senior year, schools were closing, and teachers were not paid nearly as well as they are now. I definitely had the desire to be successful, especially monetarily. I worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a summer job when I was in college. My uncle was the head of the computer department and got me the summer job. I did not have a clue what he was talking about when he offered me the job, only that it paid much more than minimum wage and that the hours were 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I loved being out in the sun during the summer, so having a summer job that ended at 2:00 p.m. was heavenly. I carpooled with two girls from school whose fathers were commodity traders. I remember them telling me on my first day, “Forget every rule of life you know. You are about to enter the trading floor!” And they were right. It was a trip: a room full of thousands of people—most men, most young, and most without a college education—all excited and shouting. I thought, “Hey, I’m a University of Chicago student. I am smart, so I should do really well here!” The object of the game is very easy—buy low, sell high—but playing the game is hard: Having the guts to know when to stay in as your money is ticking away or when to get out and cut your losses.

I kept moving up the ladder of jobs, and I helped many people make literally millions of dollars. Many promised me a share, but it never materialized. I had eight different jobs in 10 years. For example, my third to last job was as a personal clerk for an options trader. Commodity options were new, and it actually took some brains, not simply luck, to trade them successfully, so I took the job to learn how to trade options. Rick paid me almost no money (I had to work a second job at a video store to pay my bills), but he promised me he would lease me a seat to trade with him in 1 year if I helped him make money and learned enough about options. In one year with my help he went from earning $100,000 to earning $300,000. He gave me a $200 Christmas bonus and promptly went into the florist business with his brother and left the trading floor. I could go on, but needless to say, commodities and options was never a career for me: It was just a fun and exciting job. I met a lot of fun, interesting people, and to get through the nights of feeling like a failure I smoked pot. After performing well and still losing three jobs, I decided that God was trying to tell me something. Millie offered to let me live back at home while I got my master’s in education to become a teacher. I did not completely stop smoking pot until 4 years later, but from the time I started in my career in education, I only smoked occasionally on the weekends, until I finally stopped for good when I got my first teaching job.

I also felt like I was failing in my attempts to form a marriage relationship. I have a large number of friends, a couple since high school and many since college, but I had difficulty in bonding with a man for a lifelong relationship. Part of the problem I alluded to earlier: I think I had romanticized a relationship with a man after seeing the love letters Bert wrote to Fran. Another part was my lack of confidence in my looks. I grew up with the commercials on television touting “blondes have more fun,” and I was never going to be a blonde. I was a tomboy growing up before it was popular for girls to play sports. Sometimes I think my parents fought a great deal after my birth because I subconsciously thought a relationship with a man meant fighting, unhappiness, and divorce, and I sent out negative relationship vibes. I did not wear makeup until I was 26 years old. Until that time, I wore blue jeans and T-shirts most of the time when I was not at work. I was always busy with family and friends, so it was not like I sat home doing nothing. I think that the way I dealt with the pressure from my family was to smoke pot and avoid dealing with it. Since I was not getting an “A” in relationships, I was not going to even try to be in one.

Another aspect in my life that kept me away from relationships was my family experiences with my father. He has been married three times and has had two long-term relationships since his last divorce. His third wife, who was 11 years younger than him, was a jerk. After a 10-year relationship, including 2 years of counseling, they finally came to the same conclusion that I realized the moment I met her: that they had nothing in common. His next relationship was with a woman only 3 years older than me. She looked much older because she was a heavy smoker. Betsie made my father promise that he would not get married again because she got attached to his wives, and all of his divorces hurt her a great deal. She died 5 years ago, and I think he has finally realized that she was right. His most recent relationship has lasted 10 years and will probably last the rest of his life because she is only 51 years old and he is 70. All of the women he has had relationships with were skinny and gorgeous. Maybe part of my problem was that I felt I could never live up to my father’s image of a woman.

Finally, at 26 years old I met a man, Tim, on the trading floor. He was 4 years younger than me. He seemed nice and very giving, and he really liked me, so we started dating. He was not Jewish, but he said that he would never ask me to convert and that even though he was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school he did not really believe in religion. I was so relieved to finally have a boyfriend that at first I did not realize that he was taking over my life. It was also nice that he came from a very wealthy family. His uncle owned a large company and was a multimillionaire. They were in the vending machine leasing business. We all went to a convention in Atlantic City, and we stayed in a luxurious hotel and were driven around in limousines. His uncle really liked me and asked us to join him in his limo for the weekend. I felt like I had hit the jackpot: a man who loved me and who would be able to take care of me in style. So what if he had cut me off from most of my family and friends? So what if he was telling me what to wear and how to wear my hair? I had been too much of a tomboy anyway, and I was looking much better. My mother was not thrilled, but I think that she liked the physical change in me. She had always tried to get me to dress up more, and I always fought her. I used to hate shopping, which was unusual for a Jewish girl in my new neighborhood.

Maybe part of why I did not mind Tim taking over my life was because I was used to not having important things my way. So many things had already happened to me that I had no control over. We started living together after 1 year and lived together for 4 years. I was so happy that the pressure was off of me to get married. I finally felt like I fit in. Thank God that one of my college friends married a woman, Tina, who is a therapist who works with battered women. She saw what was going on and talked to me about how unhealthy my relationship was. She began to predict how Tim was going to behave. He started breaking my things, and she insisted that it was only a matter of time before he started to hit me. The turning point came when Tim’s father won a trip to Cancun and gave it to us. She had warned me that batterers often begin battering in a place outside the United States because the woman is so distant from her family and friends. She warned me that I better have a credit card with me because Tim would start a fight, and if I tried to call the police they would just laugh at me because I was a “rich, White American girl” and do nothing, so I would have to jump on a plane myself. Sure enough, as we were having dinner one night, Tim started up with me. He had asked me to marry him a few weeks before, and I had said that I would think about it. The only thing he could not get me to change my mind about was raising my children as Jews, which I was determined to do. He agreed to this as long as they could celebrate Christmas and Easter, which I had no problem with. So at dinner he said to me, “How can you think I would ever agree to raise my children Jewish after I went to Catholic school all of my life?” I said, “Because you said you would when we first talked about it.” He started yelling at me right there in public, and all of a sudden the lightbulb went off in my head. I realized that this was the fight Tina had alluded to, and I knew right there and then that I had to end the relationship. I did not want a scene. Six months before, when I had talked about ending things with him, he broke a glass table of mine. I did not want more violence to happen. I stopped the argument by agreeing to think about it and started planning how I would leave.

The trip had been in late November. I had very early work hours; Tim worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Just before Christmas, I pretended to go to work, waited at Jacob’s apartment until I knew Tim was gone, and then arranged with a few of my friends to pack up all of my things and move out. I went to stay with Tina. I attended her battered women’s group and learned a lot about myself. I got into group and then individual therapy as soon as I got back home. I still struggle with my self-image and self-esteem, but through therapy I have gained enough insight to have a healthy career and a healthy marriage.

When I look back at my life so far, I vacillate between two feelings. On the one hand I feel angry because I have wasted so much time being scared to live a full, adult life. I partied away 10 years of my life in commodities and have only had my real career for the past 10 years. So now I am working my behind off catching up. On the other hand, I look back at all the great experiences I have had and know that I would never have been able to have them if I had begun teaching right after college or had gotten married right away. My family’s history, experiences, and lessons will continue to help me in my future.