Cultured Pearls

Natural pearls occur spontaneously, take several years to form, and result in the death of oysters. On the other hand, to create cultured pearls, humans assist nature by introducing irritants into mollusks. This foreign body becomes coated with an iridescent and results in an incredibly beautiful gem.

Indeed, there have been humans whose ideas felt foreign to me at the time. People who did not believe I had potential, people who denied me access to places I wanted to go, people who told me I was incompetent/inferior, people who dissed my ideas, caused me shame and humiliation: they invaded my world with alien aggravations and caused me to think to myself, “Oh, yes I can!”

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes, wrote on my report card, “Kathleen wastes time.” Because of this, my mother told me that she felt like a failure and reminded me constantly not to waste time. As an adult, I realize that label was actually a clue to my gift of reflection and the luxury of planning “downtime” for creative exploration. To her credit, Mrs. Hayes singled out Tony Smythe and me to become the first La Porte Elementary students to learn to read phonetically.

The bandleader, Henry Einfeldt, teased me about clucking like a chicken when I played the clarinet. I eventually learned to play smoothly, but at age 50, I realized that the woodwind instrument that I inherited from my sister the twirler was wrong for me. I mastered other instruments and have continued playing in community bands and orchestras. What a fine start in music my bandleader gave me!

A high school English teacher, Mrs. Simpson, told me politely that I could not join her honors English class. I improved my grades, joined the honor society, and then majored in English for my bachelor’s degree. I currently edit manuscripts for an Austrian university including a bibliography published by Oxford University, Ms. Simpson.

The high school counselor agreed to let me take the Kuder Vocational Preference Test to help me determine what I would be good at as a career. I scored high on sociology and architecture. She said, “You don’t need to trouble your pretty little head thinking about college. You will make a fine housewife.” I wish I could flash my master’s degree at her and tell her about teaching medical school and working as a therapist.

My latest irritant, a medical humanities professor, Dr. Jones, red-penned my papers and told me “you can only write as well as you can think.” However, God bless Albert Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Touché, Dr. Jones.

Patient reader, this story could be considered a cultured pearl. Because of painful (at the time) feedback, I have become mindful and reflective, have a good ear for the music of words, am fortunate to be well educated, and have a lively imagination. Thank you, critics.