As a new columnist for the Forest Park Review, I wanted to give the readers a little background on who I am. Although most people that I know have always considered me a strong and intelligent individual (do not laugh), I would have never imagined the amount of changes life has taken me through in my 30-something years on this great planet.

As a young adult, I traded the mean streets of inner city Philadelphia for the laid back metropolis of Greensboro, N.C., to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. Armed with diploma in hand, I once again morphed from an easy going, idealistic college graduate into a what’s-the-bottom-line, do-whatever-it-takes corporate professional.

One night I went to sleep as a single, independent woman of the ’90s in the southeastern United States and woke up as a maturing, married wife and mother of the new millennium in Forest Park.

I can not recall if I initially considered myself as an adopted member of the old Forest Park. I remember that Forest Park was an affordable alternative to our neighboring village to the east, Oak Park. By the way, did you get your tax bill this year! As a member of the old Forest Park, I openly admit missing the big smiley face on the north end water tower. I remember making trips to “the mall” to check out a few books from the local library. I proudly listed Circle Bowl at the top of my family entertainment options.

Nevertheless, despite all the fond memories I have as an Old Forest Parker, out of necessity I began a transformation into the New (and improved?) Forest Parkian.

I traded in my corporate suits for my stay-at-home mom battle gear. I gained a new appreciation for spending quality time with my four children, attending baseball games, dance classes and park district swimming pool events. As a true Forest Parkian, I always look forward to summer night treks to the Brown Cow for that perfect scoop of ice cream. Oddly enough I now see Circle Bowl only as TCH (Teen Central Hangout).

In addition, I have become more aware and involved with the progress of my children’s education. Seeing the development of my children’s math and reading skills first hand reassures me that positive things are occurring at the local elementary schools. When I go to pick them up in the afternoon, I see a diverse group of students and parents gathered in the playground. That diversity perhaps is the best aspect of the new Forest Park that I treasure. I imagine the next evolution of the new Forest Park will bring greater diversity to our government, business and educational leaders.

Speaking of evolutions, I woke up one night last year and excitedly informed my husband that I planned to return to college to pursue a second degree in fashion design. In a dumb Scooby Doo voice he replied, “Why do you want to go back to school?” Instead of choosing whether to punch him in the chin or gut, I calmly explained it’s what I want to do. He realized that the changes I have experienced have influenced my perspective on life.

Like many of the residents in Forest Park, I have absorbed the best of both worlds (Old Forest Parker and New Forest Parkian). I realized that I have embraced and welcomed change without having to sacrifice what is true and important to me. So in the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives … nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Andrea Blaylock has lived in Forest Park for 12 years. When she isn’t chasing her four kids and husband, she serves on the library board of trustees, attends college, and enjoys each day God has blessed her with.