Building a Solid Foundation


To think is to be undermined.
—Albert Camus

I’ve been tagged by Adebola to write about how my dreams have moved my life forward and enriched my life. I’m not sure how useful this post will be to others, because my goals have always been long range. I mean ridiculously so.

I mentioned in At Home In the Universe that I had a shift of consciousness in the fifth grade that blew my little world apart and replaced it with a world/universe view that was infinitely larger. It was scary but exhilarating, and I never wanted to go back. The only way I could explore this new world was through books, so I read a lot. By the time I got to high school one of my main goals was to develop a philosophy of life that would give me a strong foundation. So I read Western and Eastern philosophy, some of the Great Books of the Western World and the Harvard Classics, and books on science. I had friends my own age, too, but I did hang out a lot with my role models…wise old men.

I had also decided when I was in grammar school that I wanted to go to college. I was the first person in my family to do that, and I wasn’t sure my folks would support the idea, so I saved all the money I could. That wasn’t a dream, it was a non-negotiable decision. I didn’t know how it would happen, but somehow I would go. I wanted a good, solid education.

As you might guess, I was a serious kid for a while. But as time went on I lightened up a lot. I was developing a better foundation for myself, and I had friends and teachers who loved learning, too. One of the teachers was Miss Myers, a young, vivacious woman who taught sophomore English. She was a new role model. She loved ideas, but she was also fun. She had even traveled around Europe with a friend one summer, including hitchhiking for a while. I never expected to do anything that adventuresome, but I decided I wanted to be more like her…the inner her..the confident, intelligent, fun-loving her. I knew it would be a long project, so I gave myself 20 years. Yep, that’s what I wanted to be like when I was 35.

As it turned out, I got a scholarship to Stanford and majored in physics, and I spent two quarters my junior year at Stanford in Germany. I also spent another month or so traveling around Europe that summer…including hitchhiking with a friend. After graduation I decided not to get my Ph. D. but to work and save money for more traveling. My husband and I married right after he got his Ph. D., and we spent 13 months in France and traveled around Europe during holidays and weekends. Then we came back the long way…including the Middle East, East Africa, India, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. We got back to the states just before my 26th birthday, which we celebrated with my folks.

Nine years later, when I was 35, I thought about my high school dream. On the whole I had achieved it by then. My main feeling then was gratitude, for my folks, especially my mom, my biggest supporter… for Miss Myers and the other great teachers I had in high school, both in real life and from the printed page…and for Stanford, for giving me a chance to go to Europe for the first time, a chance to explore the world outside of books.

So, some of my dreams and supporters have made a big difference in my life. What about you? Have you had dreams that moved you forward and changed your life? Who has helped you achieve them? Who are you grateful to? This site is about sharing, so please tell us your thoughts in the comments section. .

Photo by PhilP_England via Flickr. Used with permission by owner, who reserves all rights.

Check out the rest of the posts in this series at Adebola’s site. Thank you, Adebola, for bringing back some wonderful memories.

Related post: What I Learned From Being Downsized

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post: Adebola, Bob, Dean, Ellen, Carol, Tracey, Abu, Secret Simon, Armannd, and Shirley.

This entry was posted in Following the Path, Living Fully. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Building a Solid Foundation

  1. Adebola says:


    You have really made my day! This post is awesome. I can now look back to my High School days and wish I have learnt about dreams then. I was just floating around then. πŸ˜‰

    How great it is to find one’s purpose at an early stage.

    Your post should be the last for this project and I am glad it is this type of post I am using to round everything up.


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  3. Danny says:

    What an inspiring story!

    Unfortunately, my childhood dreaming was impaired by violence and addiction. Though I turned my life around at 16, it did take some time to lift the clouds of the junkie mindset, so I was a bit of a late bloomer.

    Today, I’m very grateful for everything I have experienced. It has taught compassion and appreciation for many things in life I might have otherwise taken for granted.

    I am most grateful that I can appreciate the variety of experiences we all have and learn from the experiences of others. For instance, reading your story reminds me of the importance of roll models which is something I have not always valued in my own life.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Jean says:

    Adebola and Danny,
    πŸ™‚ Thank you both!

  5. Adebola says:

    Oh Danny! Would have loved to have your story but I can’t extend the date. But I am sure you have something wonderful to share. Will get in touch with you another time man.

    Jean, love you πŸ™‚

  6. Bob says:

    Jean, what an inspiring story of how are dreams can come true! I’ll be making my first trip to Europe (London) this summer. I am very much looking forward to it!

  7. I found out about your post from the Motivational Corner blog of which I am a subscriber.

    What a great post! Your story about what happened in fifth grade immediately brought me back to when I was in elementary school. I had a fifth grade teacher who forever changed my life with three simple words, THAT’S RIGHT, STEPHEN! It caused a ripple effect, planting a seed of greatness in my mind and helped me become who I am today.

    I wrote a story called “Three Words” over at my blog if you’re interested in reading it. It was because of my fifth grade teacher, my parents and an assortment of other “teachers” who appeared in my life at just the right time to nudge me in the right direction.

    The story can be found here:
    Three Words


  8. Jean says:

    I agree with Adebola, I would love to hear your story. You say on your site that Steve Pavlina has influenced you. I assume you’ve read the following description on his site:

    “Steve’s passionate pursuit of personal growth began in January 1991 while sitting in a jail cell. Arrested for felony grand theft, the full weight of responsibility for his life came crashing down upon him. He realized his own decisions had put him there and that no one was going to save him. He knew his recovery wouldn’t be easy, and he felt inadequate to the task. He was 19 years old.

    Upon returning home from jail, Steve received a letter informing him that he’d been expelled from school. Apparently schools do that sort of thing when your GPA starts with the decimal point. In that moment he understood that his options were either to grow up or to give up. He chose to grow.”

    So, what prompted your decision to change? Could you write a post about it? I’ve read your About page, but it didn’t talk about your past.

    I started to write that I would love to hear your story, too, but decided to go poking around to see if I could find it myself. It’s at if anyone else is interested. It’s well worth reading. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to it.

    I’m happy for you on your trip to England next summer. I hope you’ll share it with us on your blog.

  9. Jean says:

    πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the link to your story. I watched the video and think it’s neat that your teacher recognized your voice after all those years.

  10. Adebola says:

    Thanks Jean for “discovering” me πŸ˜‰

    I think my story is best told in my book available on the home page. It is a must read for all dreamers πŸ˜‰

    Jean, I think I will be starting off another project in December because of an inspiration I have received from some of the responses. I will send you a mail on that to see if you can start it off here, if the time is there. πŸ˜‰

    I should be making my trip around the world come next year. I can’t wait to discover new grounds πŸ˜‰

    God bless you Jean.

  11. Adebola says:

    Stephen, I would have appreciated it, if you had participated in the Writing Project. πŸ˜‰

  12. Jean says:

    I downloaded your book and have started to read it. Next Monday’s post will be addressed to a question Danny has asked me, and I think your book ties in to that.

  13. Adebola says:

    Alright Jean, I look forward to the post.


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  15. Hi Jean,

    Excellent post. It is amazing how much life can change, when we reexamine what is important in life.

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  17. bikehikebabe says:

    Great dreams Jean! Mine were simple. I graduated liberal arts college 1955. No job training was offered unless I went to grad school which I wasn’t inclined to do. (Actually women then were teachers, nurses or secretaries!) I WANTED TO BE A HOUSEWIFE WITH KIDS. I did–4 kids. I WANTED TO BE PHYSICALLY STRONG. Stopped practicing organ 2 hrs. a day & took up sports (ice skating, skiing {downhill & cross co.}, back-packing, hiking, river-running {kayak, raft} Mt. & road bicycling {+160 mi./wk. & a wk. bike trip a yr. —for 35 yrs.) Perfect!– except I have a Monkey Trap problem.

  18. Jean says:

    πŸ™‚ Thank you for showing us a different model of success. It sounds as if your life has been one! About the Monkey Trap: you can always change that if it’s worth the time and effort. But who knows, your life may be doing just find without making that change.

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  20. Actually, Jean, we’re a lot alike. I spent a lot of time as a child reading – and reading – and reading. I think that’s what opened me up to the possibility that the world “out there” was more interesting than I had originally thought.

    I’ve been something of a rolling stone ever since.

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  23. Noor says:

    That is really inspiring. I wish I would have had such an experience in high school, I am still in high school but still, I have a bit of a hostile attitude towards it, it’s normal though. I do love to read as well, and I try to read as much as I can, it definitely gives you a lot to think about, and plus for me, I feel less and less ignorant about the ways of the world as I read, if that makes sense.

    As for dreams, for me, it’s like changing the world and the whole package of volunteering, and trying whatever I can to help people, but as beautiful as that may sound, it’s hard. I come up with excuses, and I don’t think I want to major in college to work in that area, because I might end up feeling like it’s something I have to do, not something I want to do. So that’s actually a bit settled, but the problem lies in the fact that I can’t, for the life of me, decide what major to choose in college. It’s such a tough decision, and I’ve blabbered enough on it on my blog, but the thing is I like most of my subjects at school, and I’m fairly good at them, and I think I can do well on any major I choose but the problem still lies in the fact of actually deciding something and sticking to it. But that’s just teenage problems, I just thought maybe I’d get some perspective, since you’ve led a pretty nice life after college from what I can tell from your post.

    And sorry for the long comment, once I start, I can’t seem to stop! But I truly appreciate your comments on my blog. Thank you.

  24. bikehikebabe says:

    Noor, I don’t know what country you live in, but here in the USA most don’t know what they want to major in (at age 18!). Take courses the 1st year or so to find out.
    You are intelligent & motivated. You’ll know soon enough.

  25. Jean says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about your major yet. The main thing is to take responsibility for developing the life skills you will need. One of those skills is to change any negative attitude you have towards school and instead focus on your opportunities to learn and grow. As adults there’s a good chance that sometime or another we’ll wind up in a job or other situation that is less than ideal, so we might as well learn to handle it now. Learning good work habits is crucial, of course, as is learning what our interests and deepest values are. If we don’t learn to be self-starters, then we’ll always be tossed around by circumstances.

    My basic motto/mission statement is “Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.” It works for me. What would your motto be right now? Figuring out your mission statement is more basic than deciding on a major. It may take a while to figure it out, but it’s well worth the trouble.

    Thanks for coming by. πŸ™‚

  26. Noor says:

    @ bikehikebabe: I live in Oman in the middle-east. Next year I’ll be a senior at high school, and the thing is I’m not too worried about choosing a major, but all the pressure that’s on my to decide on is what’s making me start to freak out a bit, because everyone assumes that I have my whole life planned ahead of me, because I somehow come across as that kind of person. Thanks for the encouragement though, it means a lot. πŸ™‚

    @ Jean:
    “If we don’t learn to be self-starters, then we’ll always be tossed around by circumstances.”
    ^^ that’s exactly what worries me about the whole thing, is that I’ll end up choosing something that is socially accepted than what I want, and it’s likely since I’m not sure what I want to do.
    I don’t exactly have a motto for the moment, but if I had to say I think for now it’d be something like; ‘Live life, and find out your passions.’
    I agree with you when you say that finding out a mission statement is more basic than deciding a major, I’m doing my best trying. πŸ™‚
    Thanks a lot!

    Noors last blog post.."Cause basically this place is needing instruments of harmony, Spreading my philosophy of love and inspiration…"*

  27. Jean says:

    What exactly have you tried? Have you taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? That’s a great one.

    Your motto is similar to the last part of mine. πŸ™‚

  28. tammy says:

    sometimes… not often, but sometimes i think i recognize a feeling of despair. i lost my dad to a heart attack about 6 weeks before graduation. my mother was very dependent, emotionally, on me. we became best friends though, because of it. my brother left for viet nam. i married my husband when i was 19. my brother survived the war, but then my mother died of cancer. then when i was 33, my husband died of cancer.
    i only state all this because it makes me curious at my lack of “dreams” that other people always talk about. i never seemed to have any dreams. odd, now that i think about it.
    we moved thoughout my childhood. by the time i was in 12th grade, i’d been to 10 different schools. my gift was adjusting.
    remember the line in “you’ve got mail?” meg ryan’s character said “i’ve lived a very small life.” she went on to say she didn’t know if it’s because she liked it, or that she never had courage.
    and that is the story of my life. i live a small life. but i seem to be happy.
    maybe i’m just a happy under-achiever!

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