Blaine Paxton Hall
As I write this (10 April 2019), the “Event Horizon Telescope,” by astronomical interferometry, has produced the first ever image of a black hole. This was an international collaboration which effectively made the Event Horizon Telescope (as large as) the size of Earth. In addition to other experiments and observations (i.e. LIGO), this proved Einstein’s general relativity theory which he dared to dream, 103 years ago.
This and other international collaborations for scientific knowledge, such as the International Space Station and the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN in July 2012, will continue to result in overarching benefit for all humanity, and continues to inspire me.
I hope to inspire students and all persons to live an authentic life, to dare to reach for their most imaginative aspirations and to remain lifelong learners.
It is supremely satisfying to be a part of the SCC Scholarship Fund because education, and lifelong learning have been core values which have guided my life.
I have overcome several “insurmountable obstacles” in my life; but I am a survivor-thriver. I have never identified as a victim, even though I’ve suffered parental abandonment, abuse, neglect, rejection, overt discrimination, and betrayals in my life. I have not just “followed my dreams,” I have had to “chase them down and tackle them to the ground.”
I was first made a Ward of the State at age 2. As the eldest of 4 siblings, I was healthy and with a superior intelligence. I had never been in or caused any trouble. I was abandoned by my (married to each other) parents; and I grew up in a children’s home through high school graduation.
I realized and learned many things at much too young of an age. I became acutely aware that I had to take care of myself and I couldn’t depend on anyone else. I knew that I wouldn’t have any chance of taking care of myself without an education.
I “put myself through college” by working part-time, and with college loans. I also earned a merit scholarship, for which I had to maintain a B-average over the 4 years. It helped with some (but not all) of my undergraduate tuition. I absolutely would not have been able to achieve my BS degree without that merit scholarship.
I achieved my BS degree in only 4 years following my high school graduation. I received no help of any sort from the children’s home, or from the agency which placed me there, or from any family, friends or church members (the children’s home was private and was supported by a mainline protestant denomination). I had no mentor or advocate.
To this day, I can’t imagine how I managed to achieve my BS degree in just 4 years out of high school; but I was motivated out of desperation, to the brink of panic. I knew I had to get an education to have any chance at life.
I was also acutely aware that there were no “social safety nets” for me if I failed; and failure would have been just one misstep. I was not qualified for military service, as an option.
You see, as a throw-away kid, tossed out onto the scrapheap of society to grow up in a children’s home, and as a female at that time, I was not expected to achieve or succeed at anything.
Over my lifetime, I have provided the means and have completed 3 different degrees, from 3 different, excellent private universities. I am proud to say that the first 2 years of my baccalaureate degree were earned from a community college.
The pursuit of an education is not only about the achieving of a degree. It is also about learning those traits which it takes to achieve any hard-won goal including: perseverance, self-discipline, emotional intelligence, deferred self-gratification, having a teachable spirit, and a willingness to make mistakes.
The emotional ramifications of having been abandoned by my parents and having grown up in a children’s home through high school graduation, have taken a lifetime to reconcile. It was psychologically devastating for me to have to face the question: why did my parents throw me away, when as their eldest, I was a healthy, intelligent, good kid?
As I alluded to earlier, additional “insurmountable obstacles,” include that in 1983, I underwent full medical, surgical, social and legal gender reassignment. This was before any of the present day medical, legal and psychological understandings. This was before the world-wide-web! I knew of no other person going my trajectory. I lived in deepest stealth because I knew that, should my history be known, I was at high risk for loss of career, blackmail or physical danger.
I was not able to obtain a Passport until I was 61 years old. Not being able to prove that I was born in the USA, I was not able to travel abroad. I was a second-class citizen even though I worked all my life and paid into taxes and social security since age 15.
After my transition, I was not able to convince my undergraduate alma mater to issue my BS degree transcripts with my correct, legally changed name. I despaired at the thought that after all my efforts in achieving my BS degree, I might never be able to prove that I had the degree. Therefore, I couldn’t get credentialed; and I remained underemployed for about 10 years. And of course, I couldn’t apply to any graduate school without a transcript of my BS degree.
I was not able to own (or co-own) a home until I was 58 years old. In addition to obtaining my education, to someday have my own home had been a lifelong, driving goal. In 2003, I published my literary memoir Hestia’s House. In the book, I dared to dream that someday, I’d be able to buy my very own home, and when I did, I’d name it “Hestia’s House,” after the Greek goddess of the hearth. That day finally came. I bought my first-ever home in 2010; and it was brand-new then. I paid the mortgage off in 2017.
Over the decades, I have provided a complimentary, new copy of Hestia’s House to any person who asks. I did not write the book to “make money.” The greatest gift I can give anyone is inspiration and hope.
I don’t know why my life has been so unspeakably difficult. But I know that the only meaning my life has, is the meaning I make of it, the meaning to which I ascribe to my life.
My core values have been: to live an authentic life, to get an excellent education, to continue as a lifelong learner, and to live my life in such a way as to do my small part to advance humankind.
Therefore, it is supremely satisfying to assist young persons in obtaining his/her education, and by making something good out of the circumstances of my life, to relieve suffering, to promote understanding, hope and inspiration.
Now, it is delightful to imagine that other young persons will also overcome their various “insurmountable obstacles.” And over the course of their lives, might also remain lifelong learners, remain captivated with the intrinsic beauty of math and physics, and be fascinated by such discoveries as I am (analogous in their time), like new particles and black holes!