being there

Malyszko/Mount Holyoke PhotoA good friend of mine has this daughter, see. And this daughter is just insanely bright and accomplished. And a senior in high school.  So she’s been spending this spring wondering where she will spend the next four years of her life.  Fun times.

As it turns out, although she was admitted to several really excellent, top-notch schools, she was waitlisted at the college that she really wanted to go to — a phenomenally good school, one of the very best — and they found out today that she made it off the waitlist and has been accepted into full admission.

I know how I felt when I visited Mount Holyoke as a prospective student all those years ago.  How I had my interview in the admissions office across the street from campus, and then joined a group of applicants on a tour around the school.  When we walked across the street, and I set foot on the MHC campus proper, I swear to you that I felt the ground move.  No lie.

It sort of… throbbed under my feet. And I didn’t wonder anymore where it was that I needed to go to college.  The connection was immediate, real, and unquestionable.  And MHC continues to have a powerful effect on me, fifteen years later.

(As a side note, when I attended my 15-year reunion last spring, I taught a class as part of the Back To The Classroom series.  Coincidentally, my class was scheduled in the same building as the first class I ever taught, as a geology TA.  It was as a TA at MHC that I realized how much I wanted to teach, and when I taught in that building again last year, I remembered. Vividly. And then I went back to school that fall.)

I’ve had many friends over the years who never felt that sort of vital, visceral connection to their school.  Some eventually dropped out, or transferred from one school to another, over and over, never finding the right fit.  I really do believe that it’s all about the right fit (even if that is a cliche), and that you have to keep looking around, and physically set foot on each campus, to find the right one for you.  Brochures and websites won’t do it.  No marketing materials on earth can tell you if you have that visceral connection to a school (or any organization, as I later learned).  You have to be there.

So I’m thrilled for my friend’s daughter, who will now get that chance.  Yes, it’s a phenomenal school.  Yes, she is clever enough to have done well anywhere.  But the fact of the matter is, it’s the right school for her.

I know that I’m in the right school for me now, getting my MBA at Simmons.  And I’m glad that I know that this sort of connection is possible, and that I know that I need to insist on it for myself wherever I end up next, because, well, because school is hard.  Fun, exhilarating, challenging, sure, but sometimes it is nothing but hard, hard, hard work. And when the chips are down, you really need to feel like you’re in the right place in the first place — like you belong in a some meaningful way.  Like you have a right to be there.

So that the illigitimi don’t carborundum, as it were.

This summer, I’m concentrating a bit more on being here, on Cape Cod.  As a commuter student to a school in Boston over an hour away, I’ve lost touch with some of my closest friends, and missed the chance to establish new friendships with some pretty great people.  And as I begin the application process this summer to doctoral programs, I realize that this might be my last summer to just be on the Cape for some time.

So while I have a fair bit of work to do this summer (several related and overlapping research projects that are sort of insanely exciting to me), I’m planning on taking it a little slow this summer in my daily life. Get the bike tuned up.  Drive less, ride more. Go for long, rambling walks. Have lunch with friends. A lot.

I might suggest to my friend’s daughter that she do the same, even though I am sure all she can think about right now is SEPTEMBER SEPTEMBER SEPTEMBER. Believe me, I know that siren song very well.  It is one of my very favorite songs.

Because when you’re peering impatiently over the fence of your immediate future, you might be missing out on some really great stuff in the immediate now.


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