Contentment: To be at peace with the contents of your life

April 25, 2010

Harvard … Finally!

The other day I had the chance to spend the day at Harvard.  It was cold, rainy and windy.  As I wrapped my hands around my coffee and wandered the campus, I was struck with an event from my own university days that changed the course of my life for years.

In high school, I wasn’t poised, popular or beautiful.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there and head for college.  I had no idea what I wanted to do, and  didn’t get much guidance from my parents about what to study or where to go to school. I n their minds, it didn’t matter too much.  It wasn’t that they didn’t love me.  They did, fiercely.  It was just that they were of the generation that seemed to think that a girl grew up, got married and started a family.

I managed to find a school that seemed to feel right, but truthfully, I chose it because it was small, not too far from home and I loved the campus.  But as I began to study, I fell in love with learning, and started to understand that I was actually pretty darn smart.  They could have named one of the nooks in the library after me.  My junior year, after a lecture by my absolute favorite professor, he asked me to stay after class.  He had been encouraging me to consider graduate school, and offered to help me apply and meet the department chair at the school we had decided would be perfect.  This particular day he told me that he had to be out of town on Friday and wondered if I would teach the class.  Me?  Teach the class?  Me?  I said ‘yes”, scared to death and proud as punch.  I ran back to my room, unable to wait to call my dad and share the good news.  “Dad, you won’t believe what just happened. You are going to be so proud.” I shared my story with my dad.  The phone stayed quiet too long.  His response, “Honey, you need to be careful not to appear too smart, otherwise you will intimidate the boys in the class.” Hanging up the phone, I thought, “I’m not beautiful.  I can’t be smart.  What can I be?” I picked the phone back up, called my professor, and told him that I wouldn’t be able to teach the class after all.  Sorry.  I graduated magna cum laude.  I didn’t go to graduate school, my one and only regret in life.  I allowed that one sentence from my dad to become the story that wrapped itself around my soul, and held me captive for years.  While I held good jobs and found success, it took me years to re-discover my calling.

Today, I am a corporate trainer, working with global organizations. I teach people how to be effective leaders, and help organizations harvest talent and leadership from their workforce.  My classrooms are filled with men.  They learn and grow as I share my gift of teaching with them.  I don’t ask, but now and then, I get the feeling that the men in the room might be just the least bit intimidated.  Sorry Dad.

As I sat on the steps of the Harvard library, I wondered, not for the first time, what I might have done with my life if I had found the courage to ignore my dad’s well intentioned but ignorant advice. Such reflection doesn’t really do any good.  However, I thought deeply about my life now and the work I do.  Thankfully, I have a new story to tell. Walking down the library steps, I thought, while I may not have attended Harvard, I sure could have.


4 Responses to “Contentment: To be at peace with the contents of your life”

  1. melody Says:

    Love your post..and felt every single thing you were trying to convey! Youre was a different time and though parents can love dearly and want only the best sometimes they just miss the plot. Its funny to look at you now and even in the pic you post from “then” and even consider the possibilty that you thought you were not beautiful?

  2. Jean Gale Says:

    Your powerful share brings a huge lump in my throat as it’s so many of our stories. Having know your Dad brings it even more real but most important, you have rewritten your story and there’s no stopping you now! love you,

  3. Molly Says:

    Thank you my sweet friend. This, in some way or another is each of our stories… and I think part of earth-school (Anne Lamott) is that we rewrite our stories. You have your own exquisite story to tell as well. Blessings and love.

  4. Carol Bernal Says:

    Wonderfully put Molly, and reflected leaning into the light.
    It is so amazing to me how small, misplaced comments can change the course of a life. And yet, I am gratefull for the shifts in the stars that have had us all connect at this place in this time to do this work, holding each other in strength and committment.

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