Chapter 2 of my blog-to-book project, Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School concludes with three interviews. I am kicking things off with a very interesting and heartfelt conversation with Jackie Ferrier-Gibbon. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.
(In high school, she was Jaquelyn Ferrier)
Kwajelein Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands
My Life In High School
Who were you in High School and how did you feel about it?
I was quiet and kept to myself for the most part. I did not have many friends but the ones I had were good ones. I didn’t get involved or put myself out there. I did what I needed to do to get by other than that I didn’t put much extra thought into it. How did I feel about it? In a word – Safe. How do I feel about it now? In another word – Regretful
What did you think your life would become when you graduated?
I was happy to be moving on but I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I started out at Skagit Valley Community College and thought Business would be a good idea. I thought I would live in Skagit Valley forever, marry young and have kids right away. I didn’t really think outside the box to ponder any other more grand possibilities. My life is now is nothing like I imagined, and one thing that I’ve learned is never say never.
My Life After High School
What happened in your life to you, for you, and by you in the last twenty years (how have you used your time and who have you become)?
I’m going to start a bit before high school since some significant events took place in my family starting in I think sixth grade. My sister was a sophomore I think and she and a couple friends were playing a prank on an upperclassman. They decided to move his car from the lower lot to the upper lot. It was a stick and my sister didn’t know how to operate a stick. We didn’t own one and I’m not even sure she had taken driver’s Ed yet. Anyway, one of her friends fell out of the car and was run over. She died from her injuries. This event shook our family and started a cascade of difficult times for us.
My nephew was born when I was 14 (about 2 years later) my sister being 17. At this time she lost another very close friend to leukemia. She barely finished high school. My parents divorced in the midst of her pregnancy. My sister moved in with her boyfriend’s family and my mom moved out. All of a sudden it was just me and my dad. Life was not at all like it had ever been before or anything like I ever imagined it could be. I took my senior year at the community college through running start, which is one of two things I would do differently if I had the chance. I feel like I really missed out on a major part of my high school experience.
Now to life beyond high school. I finished an associated degree in Business Management at SVC and didn’t do much with it. I thought about a degree in accounting but quickly learned that wasn’t for me. So I got a job in retail at the mall. I had roommates and moved around a few times. Partied some and got a couple of MIP’s. Lost my license for a while and had to take the Skat bus, that was a character building experience in itself. After the mall, I got a job at Les Schwab and I got fired from that job. That really sucked. A huge blow to my ego. I thought I was a good employee, I was trying hard and always asking questions. Later it dawned on me that my bosses niece needed a job, so I learned what nepotism is all about. Today I am thankful for this event since it led me to my next job and a career that I love.
During my time at Les Schwab around Thanksgiving, there was a major explosion at the refinery. My dad was the incident commander, he lost six friends that day. That really really sucked. This was a bit of a rocky start to my adult life but eventually, in 1999 I got a job as a secretary at the hospital in Mt Vernon which led me on to nursing school. I took night classes for two years while working full time. Once I got into nursing school I lived off the generosity of my friends and family and Ramen noodles for two more years. I graduated in December 2005, got a good job and was supporting myself. I found something that I loved and was really good at.
Despite this major achievement and success, I suffered my first bout of major depression. I ended up trying just about every antidepressant out there until I found one I could tolerate. Determined to get off the meds and find a better way to heal I did some therapy and read Feeling Good a book by David Burns, MD. This book changed my life and helped me heal. I got off the meds and vowed that I would never take them again. In 2008 I bought my first home by myself. I also finished my Bachelor’s degree in nursing at UW Bothell in 2008 and I thought, “Oh good I’m done with school now.”
A year later I met my future husband through Match.com. I wasn’t doing a bang up job of finding a good man on my own so I resorted to the internet. I had a series of relationships that were going nowhere I made some bad choices one of which involved an affair with a married man whose wife and family were friends. This is the second thing in my life that I would do differently. I always here people say “No regrets.” Well, for me that is BS. I have two big regrets in life that have stuck with me for years. I’m still learning to let them go.
During my relationship with my future husband, I suffered another bout of depression and still determined not to take meds I did a couple of years of intensive therapy with a guy named Hal. We hashed things out on a weekly basis. I feel like I owe him my life as I know it. My husband and I married in 2012, our daughter was born in 2013, we moved to Fargo area in 2014, then we move to the Marshall Islands in 2015 and our son was born in 2016. I never thought it would take me so long to marry and have kids. I was 34 on my wedding day, 35 when my daughter was born and 37 when my son was born. I figured I’d have a ten-year-old by now. As my best friend would say, “The universe had other plans for me.” I am now working on my master’s degree in human nutrition and functional medicine through the university of western states.
I live in the middle of the pacific ocean in a place most people have never heard of and I’m getting to be a stay at home mom. I feel pretty good about where I am in life and am abundantly grateful for it. However, if you’d asked me at graduation if I’d ever do any of this I’d probably ask you if you were out of your mind. I always thought I would stay in Washington for the rest of my life. Moving away was not really an option. I am so glad that I did. Washington will always be home but there is so much to see in this world and so much to experience.
In these most recent two years, I have watched my mom battle pancreatic cancer and win. She is now in remission and back to work. I have been amazed by her positive attitude, her trust in her healthcare team, her belief in herself and her faith in God. During this time I watched my sister battle alcoholism, she is now in recovery and living a full life in sobriety. I have been amazed by her perseverance to overcome her addiction. I only hope that if I am every faced with such an illness that I will be as strong as these two women.
My Life Lessons
What were the major life lessons and wisdom that you gained during your journey over the last 20 years?
With an introverted personality, one of my biggest struggles in life has been making and keeping friends. Throughout my life, I have seen many friends come and go and I have always wished I had been better at fostering those friendships and keeping those people in my life. This life lesson has taught me the value of relationships and that keeping those relationships going takes a lot of work. I’ve tried to tell myself that I’m okay with it, not having many friends or lasting relationships, and to a degree I am. I love my solitude, my me time, and if I don’t get that time to myself I really struggle. I need that alone time to recharge. So in my adult years, I have worked to find that balance for myself. I still grieve for those lost friendships and I really envy people who have them.
My academic and professional accomplishments have taught me that I can do pretty much anything if I put my mind to it. It has also taught me that I can be very competitive and a bit of a perfectionist. Once I started school I never gave much thought to graduate studies, I think I might have even said I’d never do it. My goal was to get my bachelor’s in nursing since that is what the profession is looking towards increasingly. Now that I’m getting a master’s degree I’m thinking I could go for a Ph.D. Why not? So we’ll see. The lesson learned was: Don’t sell yourself short and never say never. If you want to do it, make up your mind to get it done and go for it.
I said I’d never move away from home and here I am half a world away.
I said I’d never go back to school and here I am contemplating a Ph.D.
I said many things I’d never do and I can’t count how many times I’ve eaten my words. So I never say never anymore because once I do that is usually the next thing I’m doing.
So many events along the way have taught me to trust my gut. As a nurse, we are taught to trust our intuition and I’ve come to rely on this in all areas of my life. If you aren’t sure about something ask yourself how does it feel?
My adult life has also taught me patience and faith. When I thought about starting a family I wanted to do it much earlier than my mid-thirties. Once I reached the end of my twenties I was very down about it and found it hard to be happy for others around me that were getting married and having kids. My best friend bought me a refrigerator magnet that said, “Whether it is clear to you or not the universe is unfolding exactly as it should’ I stuck it on my fridge and looked at it daily. It helped to have that reminder to just put faith in the universe. Eventually, it happened I found my partner in life and we have two amazing little people that call us mom and dad (well one of them can’t talk yet, but you get the idea).
Letter To My High School Self
If you could write your 18-year-old self (or however old you were when you graduated) a letter, and send it back in time, what would you say? What lessons, wisdom, encouragement, or warnings would you give yourself?
This is tricky. High school was not exactly the best time in my life but everything that I went through has made me into the person I am today. If I wrote this letter I would instead address it to my fourteen-year-old self.
Dear fourteen-year-old Jackie,
Friendships are a valuable part of life. You don’t need many but you have some good ones, please work hard to nurture these relationships. Some people will come and go but others are worth holding on to. Get more involved in school, join a club or sign up for a committee. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, you are a worthwhile person and you have a lot to offer. One very specific thing I am going to tell you is to stay at the high school for your senior year. College can wait, you have the rest of your life to go to college but you only have one opportunity to go to high school and this is it.
After graduation life will be tricky as you figure things out so just remember that you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to, so don’t sell yourself short.
Lastly and most important trust yourself and trust your gut, if something doesn’t feel right speak up for yourself and always know that it is absolutely okay to say no. Be patient, put faith in the universe and know that everything is going to happen as it should.
With love and encouragement,
Your 38-year-old self.
P.S. Gratitude and kindness go a long way.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jackie. Next time, I am continuing with the second of three interviews for chapter two, with William H. Mosley.
Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?