Professor Gibson
Thought Bubbles

40 Chapters: The Evolution of a Dreamer

Hello, dear friends,

The past year has been a steep learning curve for me. It’s been rough and one of the hardest yet. But even though the fire raged, the house didn’t fall. It didn’t fall because I wouldn’t let it. No matter what life threw at me, I told myself, “Don’t let this be the thing that breaks you. This is not worth you breaking over. When you break, do it over something spectacular. Go down in a blaze of glory.” And the moment worth breaking over never came.

Looking Back

When I was two, I was upset that the big kids at church wouldn’t play with me. I was upset that they called me a “baby.” I was upset that there were adults in this world who couldn’t read, and I promised myself that I would never forget how frustrating it was to navigate the world without the ability to read.

When I was four, I was devastated that the teacher said I couldn’t be the star of the two preschool plays for which I brought different shoes so I could “change characters.” I was devastated when she told me I couldn’t play with princess dress every day, that I had to share. I was devastated when Kristi didn’t stay on her X during circle time.

When I was six, I was surprised to see a real dollhouse. I was surprised that the houses had actual electricity. I was surprised to be on the news and share how much I loved the exhibit.

I was excited to get the Barbie 6 O’Clock news set when I was eight. I was excited that the backdrop changed and rotated for different news segments. I was excited that I saw my mom on TV once talking about how important women in music were.

When I was ten, I was heartbroken that a boy didn’t like me. I was heartbroken by how I felt in my own body. I was heartbroken that school did not come easily to me.

When I was twelve, I wondered what working for 20/20 in 2020 would be like. I wondered what my life would look like in 20 years. I wondered who my kids would become.

When I was fourteen, I was convinced my parents needed to move with me to Los Angeles. I was convinced that one day I would be famous. I was convinced that my parents didn’t understand my vision for life.

When I was sixteen, I cried my entire birthday. I cried because I felt misunderstood. I cried because I didn’t know how to handle emotions that hurt so much.

When I was eighteen, I was lost. My home foundation was lost. My identity was lost.

When I was twenty, I began to start living again. I began to trust myself again. I began to find my fearless voice again.

When I was twenty-two, I accepted a lot of awards. I accepted a college degree. I accepted a proposal from the love of my life.

When I was twenty-four, I lived in grad school. I lived tired. I lived the time of my life learning what I loved.

I became a professor at twenty-six. I became a professional. I became a “productive member of society,” as my mom would always say.

When I was twenty-eight, I explored a new world 2,000 miles from home. I explored new and emerging technology. I explore a new chapter in my life.

When I was thirty, I second-guessed myself. I second-guessed my intuition. I second-guessed my abilities.

When I was thirty-two, I suffered the miscarriage of my first child. I suffered from deep, dark thoughts. I suffered quietly and often alone.

When I was thirty-four, I had a new baby. I had a new job. I had a new life and a chance to build a new relationship with my parents.

When I was thirty-six, I agonized over infertility. I agonized over life choices. I agonized over the future.

When I was thirty-eight, I endured the loss of my mother. I endured a dangerous and difficult pregnancy. I endured the most significant life decision ever and started caring for my father daily.

When I was forty, I proudly celebrated because now people would take me seriously. I proudly parented two adorable children. I proudly stepped into a leadership role.

Yes, And.

No matter if I was upset, devastated, surprised, excited, heartbroken, wondered, convinced, cried, lost, beginning, accepted, alive, becoming, exploring, second-guessing, suffering, having, agonizing, enduring, or proud, I am complex, excelling in some areas and seeking growth in others.

Aren’t we all?

But living life isn’t just about us and how we feel. It isn’t an either-or. It is a yes-and. It is a give-and-take. It is about our community and how we show and accept love from others. It is about the support that we receive and show. It is about knowing when you are needed and when you need.

Yes, the past year was tough, but a year later, the house still stands and I am grateful for my grit. I wear it, like my age, as a badge of honor. I still have a lot left to do. But life is good, and today was good.

Now that I am forty-one, I know my power. I know my value. I know how to navigate life. I know when to give in and when to fight. I know how lucky I am to be surrounded by great people at work, at home, and across the country. I know I will still doubt myself at times, but I know I can rely on the people around me; I am learning to rely on the people around me. Yes, it is one of my SMART goals for the year.

Forty-one feels good. I can genuinely say today was special.


2: My earliest memory is of kids being unkind and my mom’s comforting words, “It takes two to tango.” It’s a phrase that irks me even now.

4: With my mom’s guidance, I crafted a tale about Kristi, who never remained on her marked X. By the end, a fictional monster had her. I proudly illustrated this book, which remains a keepsake.

6: The footage from the dollhouse exhibit remains a testament to childhood wonder. Those miniature houses never fail to amaze me.

8: The Barbie news set is on display in my office.

10: Memories of a boy from school, brief but vivid, linger on. His stay was short, but his impression endures. His whereabouts remain a mystery.

12: I grew up watching Barbra Walters., but working for 20/20 in 2020 remained a dream. Looking back, I can’t help but think they overlooked a marketing gem that a twelve-year-old in Texas developed. Although, in all fairness, other things were happening in the world.

14: Dreams of TV auditions consumed me. Despite his reservations, my father’s LA visit to a talent agency, for my sake, remains one of the most touching gestures he ever made.

16: Birthday tears are never easy, especially on a ‘sweet 16’. Whenever I see “My Super Sweet 16” and its drama, I can’t help but think: appreciate the celebration.

18: Freshman year was grueling, with theater dreams crushed by a program rejection. But, in a twist of fate, Dr. Cheryl Mann Bacon’s advice to try journalism for a year revolutionized my path.

20: College, with its myriad opportunities, played a pivotal role in rebuilding me. This transformative phase is why I’m passionate about mentoring young adults. There is so much change in their lives; building them up and sending them into the world is a privilege.

22: I won so many awards in college. But I can tell you the three most meaningful awards in my life. First, the Most Valuable Person for the academic competition in junior high. I still have the plaque. I set a goal to get it and worked hard for it. The night I received it, I slept with it. I was so proud. It is in my office today. Also, I received a national award for my second documentary. Interestingly, the award ceremony in LA coincided with my honeymoon. Another notable achievement was my student’s national Murrow Award. Just today, I sent off the final version of the advertisement for the program in October.

24: Graduate studies have been instrumental in shaping me. Notes from every lecture still serve as a valuable reference.

26: My teaching debut was overwhelming, leading to tears. The classroom’s spotlight, often daunting, makes one yearn for the back row’s invisibility.

28: Oregon was an enriching chapter. A great university, Clella Jaffe, and Patrick Allen played pivotal roles, with Quaker values deeply influencing my academic ethos.

30: I didn’t like turning 30. I had a crisis. The end of my twenties brought fears of aging.

32: Battling infertility was grueling. Yet, this pain has since transformed into a conduit for empathy, allowing me to comfort others in distress. The beauty of life is our pain often becomes our redemption.

34: Motherhood has been life’s greatest gift.

36: When we gave up all hope, our son’s arrival filled an irreplaceable void in our lives.

38: You can never overcome the loss of a parent. But the day my mom died was unexpectedly perfect. No one knew it was her last day.

40: Embracing forty was empowering. It came with an unexpected perk: commanding genuine respect. As my students often ask why forty feels so good, I say, “It’s when the world truly starts listening.”

Here’s to embarking on another four-decade journey!