Authors: Erica Miller
Published by Emerald Book Company
Copyright ©2015 Erica Miller, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the copyright holder.
Distributed by Emerald Book Company
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Design and composition by Greenleaf Book Group and Kim Lance
Cover design by Greenleaf Book Group and Kim Lance
[Any other necessary credits here, for acquired art, for example]
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-937110-74-1
o the energetic, inspiring, and wholly committed activists of Austin and Los Angeles, my two homes full of incredible leaders. I had you in my heart as I wrote this book. Together, let’s draw on each others’ strengths and inspire the world around us to do good.
Throughout the process of writing this book, I have come to know many who work in civic leadership, children’s advocacy, women’s rights, LGBTQ support, critical food services, spiritual guidance, affordable housing providership, HIV planning, domestic violence care, drug rehabilitation, mental health services, and so many more areas of vital influence. My thoughts while drafting this book are reflective of your heartfelt actions. It’s my hope that your inspiration to me, coupled with the lessons drawn from my life journey, are enough to spark action in others.
facial is something you’re supposed to enjoy. I was there to be pampered by my friend, who was studying to be a cosmetologist. But instead of feeling relaxed and quiet as she applied the mud mask, I felt constricted, out of control. Suddenly, I was seven years old again, struggling to breathe as my mother covered my mouth to prevent me from screaming.
The Germans had showed up unannounced. They were at my family’s factory in relentless pursuit of a particular kind of prey:
(filthy Jews) like us. Crammed into the small space of the factory attic, huddled together in the dark on the prickly hay, we listened as the soldiers and their menacing dogs drew closer and closer. We knew the horrible consequences of discovery. We would be beaten, herded
together, then forced into boxcars on the train for deportation—unless they decided simply to shoot us on the spot.
I tried to calm myself. “You’re not a child,” I thought. “You’re not in danger. You’re safe.” But it wasn’t working. I began to hyperventilate.
“Eva! Eva, get this thing off of me! Get it off!”
Quickly my friend washed the mud off, delivering me back to the comfortably familiar world of the present. Amazing! In spite of my practiced cognitive abilities, I had been rendered helpless by a traumatic flashback I hoped never to relive again. Some memories cannot be extinguished, even when you live half a world away and are distanced from the events by decades of personal growth and achievement.
Yes, that childhood experience of being hunted like an animal is an indelible memory for me. At a time when I should have been learning to read and write, as destiny would have it, my “grammar school” education turned out to be a grotesque experiential life lesson in human cruelty and the outer limits of human suffering and stamina. No child should ever be subjected to the atrocities I witnessed as my family came under the
persecuting rod of the Third Reich. Yet today I understand that it was meant to be part of my life experience. Despite the flashbacks, I’m at peace with the rocky road that has brought me to where I am. Maybe that seems unlikely, even impossible, for someone who has faced the kind of adversity I have. But it’s true.
There is a poignant Jewish word I grew up with, a word for how we both shape and are shaped by our destiny:
meaning “fate” or “destiny.” There is a lot that has happened in my life that I had no control over. In one sense, my path was chosen for me. But in another, equally important sense, I have always determined for myself what to make of my life. No one—not the Nazis, not my parents, and certainly not the rules of society—chose the kind of person I would become as a result of traveling that path. Destiny may have charted my course, but I chose the pace. Destiny may have written much of the script for my life, but I’m still the executive producer.
I’ve spent my years marching to the beat of my own drum—audaciously living in the here and now. I know that destiny may hand me more than my share of sour grapes, but I refuse to let that be the determining factor
in how I experience the precious gift of life. Not since my family’s escape from the Nazi camp have I stood aside while someone else dictated the outcome of my future. I just turned eighty, and I shall not be defined by my age. I plan to continue living with gusto, till age one hundred-plus, life “according to Erica.” I am evolving!