There are two biographies to include here, the spiritual biography and the mundane one. These are the two threads that run parallel and intertwine throughout the days of my life. However, they both begin in the same place, a small town in northern Illinois, near where the country meets the city. It was a completely average childhood for anyone in the same place, with lots of watching cartoons, bike riding, school banquets at the tiny community center, and driving along the corn fields while the sun set beautifully in the background. In that land of 1970s fabulous split-level ranch homes with wall-to-wall shag carpeting and avocado colored refrigerators filled with homemade, hand picked mulberry pies, and three layer jello molds, there was a more mysterious side that few could see.
From the age of 3 years old, I saw spirits. Like old friends, they came to see me in my playpen. I talked with them. I asked my mom about them, but for her, they were imaginary friends (Isn’t that cute?). People in small towns in Illinois don’t have that kind of imaginary friend, so I learned early on that it was best to forget about it. In the meantime, I was good at school, and I was curious about other people, places, and cultures. I studied hard, and I knew a lot about the material we were studying. However, I also knew a lot of information we weren’t studying, for instance who “liked” who, who was sad, who was sick, who was going to die. It was sometimes a lot for a kid to know.
It was also at this time that I started noticing that people I scarcely knew would strike up conversations with me about their private struggles. I was flattered that older people, adults even, would want to talk with me, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure how to help them. What did they need to hear? How could I understand what they were going through? When you’re 12 years old, how can you understand what it means to lose a loved-one or go through a divorce? I had lots of sympathy, but the experience to really understand and encourage people came later, through my own learning and suffering.
In the meantime, I studied hard and participated in as many drama and choir extra-curricular activities in high school as possible. Our school, which was on the national historic register has an amazing theater, with a beautiful carved ceiling, seats for over 2500 people, several musical practice rooms, and a huge balcony. Of course, there was always some practice for some performance to attend, which meant many late-night rehearsals in the huge theater at my school. Unbeknownst to most of the other students or the coaches, we had spectators at those performances. I had more “imaginary friends,” who liked to sit and listen to the music. Fortunately, for me, this time, there were others around who could see our guests, too. Some of us would see them in the balcony. It helped me to see that it wasn’t all in my head, that I was only first to see what others could also witness.
Around this same time, my mother, who has never been terribly spiritual, decided to buy me a tarot deck. She never saw it as some mysterious way of talking with the spirits or some creepy occult paraphernalia. Her reasoning was that since I was going away to college in the next couple of years, it would be fun for me to have something to entertain people in the dorms. I am sure she never thought it would lead to me sitting with groups of friends of friends, with me reading an entire room of giggling strangers, who would fall silent as I suddenly touched on facts that were known to everyone in the room but me.
I entered the University of Illinois with a major in political science/pre-law, but I learned soon enough that languages were my gift. French was soon followed by Russian and German, then literature, then film, then religious studies. For me, each of these fields became an intriguing new way to express meaning and unite us all as human beings. The connections between different people and different cultures became my passion, and I was fascinated with the ways that people conveyed meaning through languages, both spoken and through visual signs. After completing my degrees in French, Russian, and Political Science, I went on to study comparative literature and Russian literature. Because of my experience with literature, I am able to connect visual signs and create a story to help people to understand their own stories in a new way. The symbols of the tarot or from my contact with “spirit friends” connect in my mind to uncover meaningful information that helps clients to understand themselves and their lives more clearly.