Until I was in college and became keenly aware of my shortcomings in the study of chemistry, I planned to be a veterinarian. When I was in high school, we had two weeks for special, off-campus study for an internship or travel abroad experience. I always found a veterinarian to follow around and envy. From the emergency room to castrations and teeth cleanings, I was fully immersed in my future professional life. I was all, “shucks, this life thing is pretty much figured out.”
I had no idea I would end up living in another country, building a business that centers on forgotten family histories. But now that I think of it, there were some hints of an entirely different purpose from what I intended.
Recently I was chatting with a fellow start-up entrepreneur friend over a glass of wine at our first annual start-up retreat (named in the post-conversation debrief). As we tend to do at these business retreats, we covered topics ranging from the struggles of an adult revolution to a high school nerd’s evolution. Whatever we were talking about led me to remember an assignment from a high school English class: “carnation in the middle of the road.”
Our assignment was to write a short story about any topic. The only requirement was to include the statement “carnation in the middle of the road.”
I wrote about my ancestors. All about a journey to a fictional city, pursuing family history research and walking in my ancestors’ footsteps. A carnation ended up in the middle of the road.
At the time, I didn’t have any knowledge about my family’s history. And I’m pretty sure I still hadn’t done anything proactive to pursue such knowledge. I only knew enough to know there wasn’t much to know. In fact, I imagined my family’s history as a deserted city, with little more than abandoned street signs left behind. Pretty somber.
Following the business retreat, I reached out to my high school to see if they still had a copy of the journal that published my carnation story. Long shot – but completely worth it, because they did have a copy. And they were more than happy to share it with me. Shout out to Agnes Irwin.
After researching my family’s history for several years, having launched a business to introduce high school students to family history research, and as I travel quite a bit to talk about knowing our ancestors, the story I wrote in high school gives me the eeries. I believe in having a calling. And I thought I stumbled on this one by accident. But it turns out it was calling way before I was listening – deafened only by my dream to save all of the animals.