Michael Shook’s Where I’m From Story
My delightful Medium friend Dr. Christine Bradstreet 🌴, tagged me in a story she wrote about where she’s from. I am honored she thought of me to ask to share my life. Thank you.
I’m from a small city in upstate New York called Watervliet.
Watervliet has a checkered past, so to speak. It was the place where the Erie Canal bargemen and the river sailors went to burn off steam while waiting for their next berth. That is the polite way of saying the city used to be full of bars and houses of ill repute.
After the canal trade died off, the city became a place where new immigrants found work. There are a couple of factories and a really big armament manufacturing facility.
My grandmother was an immigrant from Ireland who spoke no English but met my grandfather in Watervliet. They married and had two sons, my dad and my uncle. My mom’s family was from central New York in the northern Catskills and moved there for work during WWII.
I was a difficult child to say the least. I had ADHD long before anyone had ever heard of it. I’m better now but I still have more energy than anyone I’ve ever met.
Life was hard. My family was dirt poor and my mom suffered from undiagnosed extreme bipolar disorder. When I got home from school each day, I didn’t know she would be dead from suicide, chain smoking while staring out the window, or baking cookies.
That upbringing caused me a fair amount of difficulties but fortunately, I did really well in school. School was a safe place for me because there were rules that everyone had to follow, so I pretty much knew what to expect on a daily basis.
Life was still hard though, and in my teens I became quite self destructive. I drank a lot, got arrested and survived 2 high speed car crashes.
After high school
I drove a truck for a clothing warehouse and then went to one year of college. I met my first wife there and we dropped out of school to get married. I spent the next 7 years knocking around from job to job. After that my uncle convinced me to join the Navy.
Change is good
That’s when my life really changed. In boot camp, I was selected to be in charge of the other recruits when our company commanders weren’t there. That one small thing changed my life forever.
I went from being a knockabout guy sweeping up sawdust on construction sites to being responsible for a lot of people. To this day, I don’t know why they trusted me to do this in their absence, but I did it very well.
The Navy sent me to San Diego, about as far from where I grew up as you could get and still be in the US. That was awesome.
While on active duty I went back to school at National University and got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Turned out though, MBA’s were a dime a dozen and even in San Diego jobs were scarce.
Life after the Navy
While crossing the street one day a piece of paper blowing by landed on my foot. It was a flyer for a brand new non-traditional program from Chapman College. You could earn a teaching credential in as little as 6 months if you already had some college.
That was all it took.
6 months later I had a preliminary teaching credential, had done my student teaching and had a job at a school in the middle of nowhere in the California desert.
I worked in 3 school districts in my career mostly as a teacher, counselor and administrator. My last position was one of my favorites. I was a master teacher, helping other teachers in the school district work with students who spoke English as a second language.
Behind the scenes
That was facts part. Behind all that was years of emotional and mental abuse as a child. A marriage to a woman who acted surprisingly like my mother and a growing ominous sense of zero purpose in life.
Truth be told, it was awful.
The good news for me though, is that it isn’t like that anymore.
I wound up going to intensive hypnotherapy sessions and got divorced. Now I am married to the love of my life who I re-met over the internet almost 30 years after going to high school together. We took our kids and grandkids to Maui and got married on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was one of the best days of my life.
Now we live a peaceful, blessed life in California creating and developing personal development programs and courses.
I’ve been around the block more than a few times and have been able to use that experience to help people change their lives for the better. Doing that is a blessing for me and I love my life.
I still have scars from my past. But now when I get up in the morning I look forward to the wonderful day ahead.
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to write this story and I would like to tag a few of my Medium colleagues to see if they might like to tell their stories too. Aleesha Lauray, MR. Molly Maguire, Steve Spring, Anna D. Invernizzi, Caroline DePalatis, and Joren van Schaik.