Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Journey of a Poker Princess - The Beginning

I was born the eldest of two daughters to an upper-middle class family. Both my parents had an advanced degree in physics (my dad with his masters from MIT, his PhD in high energy from Columbia; my mom had a masters from NYU), and while I was raised in a very loving household I was also instilled with the idea that intelligence (and the corollary, good grades at school) reigns supreme. A's were expected in school, B's were tolerated and if, God forbid, you got a C, this resulted in the "I'm disappointed in you, I know you can do better" speech.

The expectations were always there for us to use our intelligence. While other kids were learning Go Fish or Old Maid, our introduction to "trump" and "trick" games was nothing less than pinochle; pinochle makes euchre and hearts look like Uno.

My father, in particular, treated me like his first-born son as well as his darling daughter, and neither he or my mother ever marginalized my actions, thoughts, or opinions. I was treated like a mini-adult, and can't count the number of times my dad made a point of telling me that I could do anything I wanted to do, and grow to be anything I wanted to be; there was never the faintest whisper of "oh girls don't do that, dear". I was encouraged to explore anything that tickled my fancy, especially "boy things" like science and math, which were near and dear to my father's heart, and by extension my own, as I was a daddy's girl through and through.

My mother was also a role model to me, though I wouldn't really understand how much she influenced me until later, when unbeknownst to me, I followed my mother's career path of working in a male dominated IT field in a management-type role. She was strong, and opinionated, and managed to hold her own in any situation, and I'd like to think I picked up a lot of these qualities.

My sister and I were either born competitive, or it stemmed from this environment, but there's no doubt that we fought and competed for everything. Eventually, this straightened out as we split our talents down the middle: my sister was the star history/english/writer/dance squad girl, I was the star math/science/yearbook chick, and this made things a little easier on everyone. But just by a little, as we were still ultra-competitive in many other respects; it wasn't really until I moved off to college and there was some physical distance between us, that my sister and I were able to have actual conversations that didn't devolve into winner-take-all bickering matches.

In short, I was raised to be intelligent, aggressive, trust my opinions, explore new opportunities, and to be extremely competitive. I think my penchant for being bossy was just natural talent. Armed with these weapons, I went off to college, my head full of dreams that I was going to be a Chemical Engineer.