white smoke coming out from a building

I’m an Artist and a Nuclear Worker – Can the Two Exist?

white smoke coming out from a building
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History – Early Years

I grew up in the town of Richland, Washington, most famous for it’s contribution to the development of the bomb known as “Fat Man” that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. My family didnt move to the area until 1954 when I was six months old. My Dad worked as a pipefitter at the nearby Hanford site where the bomb had been developed. By this time, the war was long over but the area was still under Top Secret controls. Richland was a government town where all the houses were fabricated and very little differences existed. They were called “Alphabet” houses as they were given a alphabetical name. We lived in an “A” house. The sameness of the houses left the artist side of me longing for something with more aesthetics. I lived in my own fantasy world a good part of the time.

History – Teen Years

I came of age in the mid 60s and early 70s. I went to the local high school where our team name was and still is the “Bombers.” I took art in high school and soft electives. I told one teacher I wanted to be a writer. She said “you can’t make a living doing tht.” I told another I wanted to be an artist. I received the same assessment. Those years were chaotic. The Vietnam War was still ongoing with no end in sight. “Make Love, Not War” was the common mantra among teens. I wanted to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out.” That did not go well. One thing I did know is that I would never, ever work at Hanford like my Dad. I learned to type and take shorthand and spent most of my junior and senior years working. Before I knew it, I was working with one of the companies associated with Hanford.I married WAY too young to a man who abhorred the concept of work.

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History – 20s

I moved to Portland, Oregon and was overjoyed. What architecture! What history! I was amazed at how green it was and the abundance of trees and flowers. My husband worked, but he hated it! We spent time in Portland, but soon left to take an adventure on the road. We headed to California. I had never seen a palm tree or the ocean. Back home, we settled in Walla Walla, Washington where my son was born. My husband was not working and I was the sole breadwinner. After a few years of this, guess what? We decided to move back to Richland. Guess what else? I went to work at the Hanford site. Around this time I took my first Meyers-Briggs personality test and found I was an INFP – often described as an “idealist” or “mediator” personality described as  introverted, idealistic, creative, and driven by high values. INFPs also have strong interests in making the world a better place. The results resonated with my view of myself – all rainbows and unicorns.

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Hisory – 30s through 50s

Life was hard, but I found myself moving up through the ranks. This was during a time when very few women pursued technical careers or were even accepted in them. I had very little time for art. I made Halloween costumes for the kids and tried to find creative moments in the everyday. I told myself, I would have time to make art when I was retired. I continued to rise through the ranks and was promoted to supervisor of Quality Assurance and later Corrective Action Manager. The company was just getting into aspects of leadership and organizational effectiveness. As a result, I was given the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I thought to myself, “Surely I will test different because I’ve changed so much since the first time I took the test.” The results were the same.

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History – Retirement Years

Thankfully, due to my years of hard work in difficult fields, I was able to ertire when I was 55 years old. We traveled. We moved to Arizona. We traveled some more, visiting friends and family. One day I had an epiphany. I had been retired for five years and had not done anything in the way of art! It was a wake-up call. I went at it with a sense of urgency, trying to make up for lost time. I took classes. I did Paint and Sip parties. I joined an art cooperative. I tried virtually every medium in the world of art.

a man and a woman painting on a canvas
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Take Aways

My life didn’t turn out as I had planned – no surprise there. I put my creative side on the back burner for many years but could feel it smoldering inside. Looking back, it all worked out for my good. My years working in the nuclear field taught me to be organized. It tought me to find beauty in the wasteland. I am proud of what I accomplished. Art and creativity was always waiting for me and I’m still trying to make up for those lost years but no regrets here.

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