My Journey Into the Sun – My Biography

I am fortunate that I have had many amazing people in my life, parents, teachers, friends. They have shaped who I am, teaching me lessons along the way. Who I am today, at the center of my sun,  has brought me here to walk the path of Waldorf. 

Age 0 – 7 
During the first 7 years of my life, the things I remember most are playing with my neighbor’s kitchen set, being filled with joy upon my first snow-filled winter, and spending time with my imaginary friends, Anne and Jack. From my parents’ account, I was jovial, curious and opinionated. 

The most profound lesson I learned in those formative years came during Kindergarten. Like many children, I met a bully on the playground during. She was very mean to me, called me fat and stupid. I went home crying. My mother imparted this lesson on my young soul. She said, “If someone is mean to you, they don’t deserve your friendship. And if someone is not your friend, there is no need to care what they think.”

My very first lesson in believing in myself and being proud of who I am.

Age 8-14
During elementary and middle school, I enjoyed playing outside with my little brother. We lived near 20 acres of wooded land that had a creek and a public swimming pool nearby. I also loved school. I loved all forms of learning. I had some incredibly memorable teachers; teachers who truly affected me. 

In second grade, I wanted two things. The first was a telescope so I could look at the stars. I became fascinated with learning more about astronomy and science. My dad and I spent a lot of time outside on clear nights, observing the cosmos. We learned about the constellations and the seasons and compass directions.

The second thing I wanted was to become a teacher. At that young ago, I knew the impact my teachers had on who I was becoming. I spent nearly as much time with them as I did my own parents. 

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Coltrane, was strict, academicly-minded but also caring and observant. She saw in me an ability to work through complex math concepts and encouraged me to dig deeper. She also saw potential in my friend, James, who excelled at language arts. 

She took James and I out of class so we could work on the things we excelled at. I remember her telling us that it is typical for girls to do better at language and boys to do better at math, but James and I excelled in the non-typical subjects. Mrs. Coltrane recognized that James and I didn’t fit the typical mold, an early lesson that let me know individuals do not fit into a neat, little box.  

In fourth grade, our entire school participated in a mock poll for the Presidential election. I, along with one classmate were the only two people in our school to vote for Ross Perot. This event again illustrates my desire to reach beyond the standard way of viewing things. 

When I was 11, I attended my first funeral. It was for my Uncle Larry, my father’s older brother. When deciding on what the wear to the funeral, I told my mom that I wanted to wear my sunflower print dress but I didn’t want to be disrespectful because you’re supposed to wear black to a funeral. Mom told me that Uncle Larry would love for me to wear my sunflower dress and that I could wear whatever I wanted to wear to honor him. 

Over these 7 years, I truly looked up to people who supported and encouraged my burgeoning individuality. 

Age 14-21
During high school and college I participated in drama club, speech & debate team, and took every art class offered. I  continued to be shaped by the adults in my life, but also by my friends and peers. 

During my Junior and Senior years of high school, I had the privilege of being taught by two insightful and truly motivating men, Mr. Rigsby and Dr. Browning. I learned about history, language, and critical thinking. They encouraged us to think for ourselves and explore the world. Because of their influence, my two best friends and I attended a full moon ceremony at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I remember the room very distinctly. It was warm in both temperature and color. The sounds of the throat chanting was like a spiritual bath. I also remember sitting so still for so long that it became very uncomfortable. 

My school district offered alternative electives at a centralized location called the Skills Center. There I developed an interest in graphic design, video editing and broadcast media. I loved telling stories through video and this experience led me to seek out colleges with a film program. With only two in my state, my decision was practically made for me. 

During college I made incredible friends from all over the world. During Senior year of college, half of my friends were American and the other half were exchange students and teaching assistants from Chile, Colombia, Germany, France, and Japan byway of Sweden. From them, I learned about different places and cultures. I learned that a rooster makes a different sound in Japan than in Chile. I learned the importance of camaraderie and how to make a toast in over 10 different languages. 

My college mentor professor, Johanna, was an independent filmmaker and animator. She sparked my interest in the medium. She taught me how to bring inanimate objects to life. Soon after graduation, I got an internship at an animation studio in the city. I was quickly offered an entry-level job and so began my first career, which took me through the next nine years life.

Age 22-28
I worked in the film and animation industry for the following years. At first, it was fun and creatively stimulating and hard work. I had to hustle to keep working and I learned the value of a dollar. I wore many different hats from production to art to acting. But as the years went on I grew disenchanted with the work we were producing and the environment in which I worked. I could write a book on my nearly ten years working in animation, but I hope this metaphor illustrates why I needed to leave.

Working on an animated feature film is a huge endeavor. Over 250 people work on a 1½ hour movie over the course of 2 years for 40-50, sometimes 60 hours a week. I was a wig-maker. I made tiny wigs for tiny puppets. So, I helped to develop a wig for the main character. A tiny, brown wig composed of natural fibers and glues that could animate and move in appropriate ways. The main character was in nearly every scene, so we were scheduled to make 18 identical puppets. So, I made another tiny, brown wig. And another. And another. Exactly the same as the last. Creating the first few was challenging and creatively rewarding , but by the time I got to the 24th, 25th, 50th wig, if felt more like manufacturing than art. It was creatively, mentally and physically exhausting. 

So, amidst my Saturn return, I took a job in LA with the intention of figuring out my goals. While there, I met a handsome, young man named Troy, with whom I had an instant connection – perhaps I sensed his own longing for purpose. Perhaps he sensed mine. I told him I was fed up with my job but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. He said, “What did you want to be when you were a child?” A teacher.

Age 28-33
I went back to work in the animation industry, meanwhile contemplating my next move. What does a teacher do? They work with kids. They make art, communicate, explore science and storytelling. 

I discovered Speech-Language Pathology as a career path. It was like teaching one child at a time using art and movement. I re-entered college. I took night classes in American Sign Language, studied science of the brain and child development; I immersed myself in the environment of therapeutic healing through communication. I volunteered at a speech clinic and for two summer camps for kids with social-emotional communication disorders, such as Autism.  

I loved the kids and I felt like I was making a difference, but…. something was amiss. The professionals I volunteered for fit into one of two categories. They either worked in speech-pahtgtlogy to help children yet were constantly being blocked by red tape and bureaucracy, slogging through paperwork and fighting insurance claims OR they were not there to help the children at all but rather were there to bloat their own egos under the guise of altruism.

Around this same time, my mentor from undergrad, Johanna, and I had been in contact. She was helping me with graduate school applications. She invited me to see where she worked. She had long ago left higher education and was a practicing Waldorf teacher. 

So, I went to her school. I instantly fell in love with it’s beauty. I felt good there. I started researching Waldorf and the more I did, the more I believed in its truth.

The Waldorf curriculum seemed to intuitively incorporate what I had been learning in speech pathology: namely that you have to meet children at their level, that you must lead by example, and that you must treat children with the utmost patience, kindness and respect. 

Now
So, here I am – pursuing this expansive knowledge. I am encouraged by its betterment of myself and of the world. I am slowly making my way out of the deep end of this cosmic bath and it’s invigorating. 

I am honored and excited to be walking the path of Waldorf with such an insightful, open-minded and caring group of people. Onward ho!

-SS

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