One day, many years ago, I received an envelope in my mailbox from the all-girls high school I had attended. It didn’t look like the usual plea for money, so I opened it, to find a request for alums to consider speaking to the current student body about their chosen career.
At the time I was working as an intern at an interior design center, and I thought to myself, “maybe I could speak about this career to teenage girls, they might find this job interesting”. There were several questions to be answered and submitted to the event organizer (a/k/a the school’s president) before actually being scheduled to be a presenter for the school day event.
The questions she asked were pretty general, I think they were basically looking for an overall picture of how one’s time had been spent since graduating from the Christian, college-prep academy.
I’ll be the first to admit my high school years were not a favorite time in my life. In fact, I hadn’t once returned for a reunion, yet something in me wanted to give this opportunity to return and speak a shot. Maybe on some level I wanted to give the school a second chance to be a place that left a better taste in my mouth than the one so many years before when I had graduated. After all, I had more to do with the result of my high school experience than the people who ran the school, right? It was my fault, not theirs, if I couldn’t wait to get out of the place.
Of course my responses to the questions asked were truthful, I cited becoming a mother after my freshman year in college, my marriage a few years later, additional children who arrived after the big “I Do”, and I talked about my return to community college and my current desire to help others transform their living space from a house to a home they would love and create memories in.
I was candid about the twists and turns my road had taken since graduation. I thought it was a well-written, honest account of how my life had progressed since walking down the church aisle on that May day in 1986 draped in my full-length white gown, complete with white gloves…
I sealed the envelope, mailed it off, congratulating myself for having done something “out of my comfort zone”. For me to decide to speak in front of a group, especially full of young women who may not care one iota about the design field, was a real stretch. I’ll admit I mentally patted myself on the back for my effort as I dropped my response in the box outside of our home.
A few weeks later I, again, received a doesn’t-look-like-the-typical-alum-fundraiser-envelope in the mailbox. Excited about the possibility of what the letter might bring, I opened the envelope to find a carefully worded decline of my offer to be a part of the career day.
The exact verbiage escapes me now, but the bottom line was they were not willing to include an alum who’d gotten pregnant out of high school, married, had more kids, then decided to go to community college and decorate people’s homes for a living. The tone was along the lines of looking for speakers who made “healthy” choices and “had accomplished careers in keeping with the qualities of a graduate of the school.”
My initial reaction was anger, which is rare for me, then beyond the anger, I realized I was hurt.
How dare this woman tell me my story wasn’t worth sharing with the students?! Did she live in a dream world where every graduate of this fine institution then went on to a four year university, bounce into a masters program, go on to find a wonderful husband, and after a satisfying career take a break to have a few well-behaved, beautiful children…all the while living behind a white picket fence?
My second written response to this woman was equally honest. And in the many years since I wrote it, and she’s continued to be president, I have never received another request to help fund the education of the fine, young women who attend the beautiful walls of that Christian school.
Although initially angry and hurt, I realized something much more important… I wouldn’t change even ONE curve in my road. In fact, I’d go so far as to preach that it’s the curves and that have created the woman I am as I embark on 2016. And, I won’t ever apologize, or spend another second feeling badly for not becoming “the ideal graduate”.
This year I intend to grow in ways I cannot even imagine, despite the box someone wanted me to get into so many years ago.
I can’t visualize a more boring route then going from point A to point B on a straight road. The twists and turns are where I slowed down, considered my options, made choices, and grew from the personal challenges of the events in my life.