InSession Magazine- July 2022

Page 28

Grow Your

from NAVY

MARIA G First Generation Sicilian American I was born and raised in Trenton, NJ to two Sicilian immigrants whose story in the U.S. began when they arrived at Elis Island NY in the hopes for a better life for the family they planned to have. It was a humble household, my father a WW2 Italian Army Veteran and a barber by trade and my mother a tailor, our measure of wealth came down to my parent’s ability to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. They sent me and my two older siblings to a private Catholic School from K-12, making that monetary sacrifice to ensure we had a good education. We were raised Catholic and received all the milestone sacraments. I was the youngest of the three and fit the perfect title of the Sesame Street song, One of These Things Is Not Like the Others. I began to come to terms with my sexual orientation in high school and being in a traditional Sicilian catholic family, it wasn’t something I could talk about openly with anyone. Throughout my childhood, my career aspirations leaned towards very non-traditional career-fields. I watched a lot of police shows, played with the neighborhood boys, and annoyingly followed my older brother around, always wanting to be his little helper. If I was cajoled to play Barbies with my sister and her friends, that only meant that a very masculinized Ken and GI Joe were coming to the party in full military regalia. When I was in the 2nd Grade, we were tasked with drawing a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up for show and tell. I drew a picture of a police officer and proudly showed my mom the finished product. Her reaction was “Why don’t you draw something nicer like a doctor?!” With my head bowed low, I returned to my desk and redrew the picture. I don’t even remember presenting it to the class because I was so crushed that I couldn’t share my picture of a police officer. 28 | InSession- July 2022 | FMHCA.org

In the early 80’s I was captivated when I watched the movies, Private Benjamin starring Goldy Hawn and She’s In The Army Now with Jamie Lee Curtis. I would run into the kitchen with excitement after getting all pumped up with the possibility of me joining the service, declaring, “I’m going to join the Army!,” only to be met with a firm “Get out of here, forget about it!” from my mom. By the time I hit the 12th grade, I had to decide what my future held. The unspoken expectation in my family was that you don’t leave the home until you’re married. That seemed like a grim prospect for me, and the military was off limits, so I followed in the footsteps of my older siblings and applied to colleges. Early college days I started off at the local community college, majoring in Humanities and Social Sciences. I attended for one year, then transferred to Rowen University (formerly Glassboro State College) in South Jersey, enrolling as a Health and Physical Education Major. My parents were not thrilled with the idea that the school was 90 minutes away and I’d have to live on campus, but alas, the local state college where my sister attended didn’t accept me. After three years of college, I managed to earn a whopping 45 credits and an embarrassing GPA. I majored more in social experiences than the curriculum. I dropped my classes at the end of my last semester and withdrew from school. Even though I was working, the pay was terrible, and I now had student loans and grants to repay. Working for peanuts was for the birds and I knew I needed to get back into college, though there was no easy path to affordably get back into school. I had passed the NJ State Police Exam at the time, but was denied entry during the interview, with the interviewing officer telling me to go back and finish school, then try again. By this point it’s 1985, and the Navy had


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