LIFE STORIES

About Me — Courtney Burry

Whirling dervish. Adventurer. Reformed helicopter mom. Fighter.

Photo of author and her dog by the author

Chapter 1: On the Move

I was born in White Plains, New York to Canadian parents. Both of my parents came from big Catholic families and had 5 brothers and sisters apiece. Interestingly, my father’s sister also married my mother’s brother. This just goes to show, you don’t have to go to Tennessee to see people keeping it all in the family.

Our family stayed in New York for a year before moving to Rotterdam, Holland. Fun fact: our house in Holland had a secret room in the attic that had once used to hide Jewish children during WWII. Our house also looked out onto a pond, where my older brother and I would go to feed the ducks every day. In the winters, it served as our own personal skating rink.

Dutch was the first language I learned in school. Apparently I was pretty good at swearing as well. At least that’s what the principal told my mother on a regular basis.

My younger sister was also born in Holland. Just after her first birthday, we all moved to Toronto, Ontario in Canada. This was my first time in Canada, but Canada would become my on-again, off-again home for the next 15 years.

In Toronto, I learned to ride a bike and play flag football and street hockey. I was always a tom boy and because I refused to brush my long wavy hair, my mother decided that it was best to cut it all off when I was 7 years old.

In 1976, when we were at the Montreal Olympics. I remember a man saying to my mom, “what a nice- looking boy you have.” He was referring to me on account of my short hair. I may have kicked him in the shins for that comment.

Chapter 2: The Teenage Years

I had the joy of having braces, headgear and elastic bands. All at once. I looked like the teenage terminator.

During this time, I met many of my friends who have been with me for life. This was also the time that my parents decided to split. Unfortunately, they loved to play broken telephone with me. I was the broken telephone, and this was their sole way of conversing. Parents — a quick note to not do this to your kids.

I spent my high-school years working part-time in a series of jobs. One spectacularly bad job involved serving Licks Burgers after school each day. Everyone working there was allotted stars each shift based on how friendly they were to the customers. A gold star meant you were top dog. I only ever received grey stars. They were the lowest.

Summers were spent tree planting or working in camps or resorts. One summer I waitressed in a resort. Think Dirty Dancing and you have a pretty good idea of what this place looked like. We used to serve food during the day and dance all night. But not the kind of dancing you are probably imagining. This was more of the 80s two-fisted air punch. But it was still fun.

One day, several of the girls cleaning the rooms were sick. I was one of the unlucky ones that were asked to step in. The couple staying in one of the rooms I was cleaning had decided to leave me a little present. Two used condoms. I made the bed with the condoms still in it. After that, I decided that being a chambermaid as a part-time job was completely off the table.

Photo by Taisiia Shestopal on Unsplash

Chapter: 3 My Traveling 20s

When I graduated from University, my mom said to me, “I know you will never come home.”

I didn’t believe her at the time. But she was right. I have not lived in Toronto since.

Upon finishing school, I knew two things. One — I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Two — I wanted to see the world.

So, I strapped a backpack on and set off.

My first stop was Banff, Canada. I love the outdoors. And a winter in Banff taught me how to really ski.

Photo by Reynier Carl on Unsplash

My second stop was Japan. I think I chose Japan to prove a point. I had lived there as a child but had not really learned the language or much about the culture. I was determined to change that.

I taught English in the evenings and studied Japanese at a school each morning. I lived by the beach in an old wooden shack. Given there were no dryers in the house, I used to regularly hang my clothes out to dry. But I always had to keep an eye on my undergarments, as they had a habit of going missing. I later discovered used underwear vending machines in Japan, so perhaps someone out there was trying to make a buck.

Japan is also where I met the monster spider who was having a party in my room.

And it’s where I met my husband. Unlike the spider monster, I decided to keep him around. He later proposed to me in front of the Dome in Hiroshima, which was bombed during the war. Thankfully, unlike that building, our marriage is still intact.

Hiroshima Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash

Chapter 4: The Career Years

We arrived in the Bay Area during the height of the dotcom boom. My husband had wanted to move to the US. I had wanted to move to Europe. Being British, he was supposed to look for jobs in Europe and I was supposed to look for jobs in the US. So, I sent off my resumes to try to land a job. My husband, on the other hand, did nothing. He is clearly the smart one in the relationship, because we ended up coming to America just as he had hoped.

When we first moved here, we had no credit history. This meant we could only open bank accounts with secured funds. Our funds. The bank charged us interest to borrow our own money.

We moved into our first apartment and I remember seeing a sea of carpet. After our tiny place in Japan, this place seemed like a palace. Our first purchase was a computer. We slept on the floor in sleeping bags in a completely unfurnished apartment, but we had a computer.

Some years later, we decided to go to Business School. We ended up getting into the same program at Berkeley. Most of our classmates didn’t know we were married because we have different last names.

But they knew we were a couple by the time we graduated three years later. Because at our graduation ceremony, I had our 6-month old daughter strapped to my chest. She was the youngest MBA graduate to grace the stage that day.

Chapter 5: The Frenetic 40s

We added a boy and a dog to the mix just to round things out. My kids look like my husband. Me — not so much. What can I say, he has strong genes.

I never thought I would be a mother. It never felt right, until I had my own kids. But now, I can’t imagine a day without them. They are everything to me. And I have learned over the years to be less of a helicopter mom.

They say that women these days can have it all. “They” have likely never tried to work and raise kids. It’s tough. I jumped on planes for work, only to high five my husband upon my return so he could jump on the very next plane out. I plopped my kids in front of the television so I could take conference calls. I trained for marathons at 5am so I would be back in time for work and to make breakfast for the kids.

And it all went swimmingly. For a while. Until my body decided that it couldn’t take it any longer. Until one day after a run, I ended up with excruciating pain that never went away.

Chapter 6: My Fighting 50s

Yes, I’m that old. Or young. Depending on how you look at it. I’m going with young.

The pain that unexpectedly dropped in my lap unfortunately never left. I ended up with a condition called Fibromyalgia. I never really had a lot of empathy for people who were sick when I was younger. I do now. Everything has changed now.

Getting sick has taught me to slow down. It has taught me that I need to fight harder than ever to do the things I love. And it has taught me to be grateful for the people in my life and for every day that I get to enjoy.

At the moment I’m still writing this chapter. But I expect many more good things to come. We’ll both just have to stay tuned.

Fun Facts

  • I swear like a sailor, even my kids know that
  • I have visited over 50 countries and love to travel
  • I can’t sing. I am horribly tone deaf and once received a score of 43 out of 100 from a Karaoke machine. I may have thrown my drink at that machine.
  • I have been called the Lion King on one occasion by 3-year-old twins who saw me first thing in the morning with my wild, wavy hair.
  • I live on cardboard. Literally. After being diagnosed with Fibro, I can no longer eat anything that remotely tastes like food.
  • I can’t cook. Although I did dupe my husband on our first date when I cooked him the one thing on the planet that I knew how to make.
  • I am a dog person. Cats not so much. I have always told my kids I am allergic to cats. I’m not really.
  • If you want to kill your plants, be sure to leave them with me.
  • Before I got sick, I was a pretty active athlete. Now I am a kick-ass walker.
  • I just started writing. I am like the kid on the bicycle with training wheels. I’m just starting to find my way.

Favorites

  • Favorite film: Life is Beautiful. I also love American Beauty.
  • Favorite band: U2
  • Favorite color: Black. I don’t care if this isn’t really a color. It’s still my favorite.
  • Favorite book: Anything by Murakami
  • Favorite food: Brussels sprouts. My dad tried to feed me baby food one day when my mom stepped out. Apparently I didn’t stop crying until he tried feeding me brussels sprouts.
  • Favorite place in the world: Banff Alberta, Canada
  • Favorite guilty pleasure: Crack bars and non-dairy ice cream
  • Favorite pastime: Hiking in Tahoe with my family

© Courtney Burry 2021, All Rights Reserved

5X top writer. I love to use satire and humor. I write about travel, politics, family, feminism, sports, health & music. So, basically everything.

Sign up for About Me Stories

By About Me Stories

About Me Newsletter. A Medium newsletter about the faces behind the stories: The writers of Medium! Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store