Lessons from Santa

Santa

I’ve been critical of this whole Santa business for a long time. In fact, I’ve been critical of gift giving in general for a long time. A few years ago I went to Africa and saw how happy people can be without any of the trappings we’ve been told are required for contentment. I came back and vowed to give up my life as a stuffologist and learn how to live with less. As far as becoming a minimalist is concerned, I am a work in progress. As far as the stuffology is concerned, I really think carefully before acquiring anything new.

When I got back from Africa I did talk to my friends and family and declare a cease-fire on gift exchanges. I explained that if I really want something I’ll buy it for myself, that anything we might buy each other might just end up being more stuff. Stuff one of us would have to be responsible for, stuff that may or may not satisfy either of us, and stuff that would, certainly, one day end up in a landfill. I didn’t make any new friends with this new no-gift philosophy but most of the people in my life have begrudgingly abided by my request.

I was told, however, that children have to be exempt from my no-gift rule. My sisters want their children to grow up learning how to give and receive gifts. So I have dutifully purchased gifts for them every birthday and every Christmas. This year I was able to spend a few days before Christmas with my nieces and nephew and saw first hand the excitement and anticipation of not only the gifts under the tree with their names on them, but also the yearning and uncertainty of the impossible gifts they had asked Santa for.

My youngest niece had asked for “A pink princess castle with no doors for little people.” Evidently she’d seen this in a catalog somewhere and set her heart on having Santa bring it to her from the North Pole. The way she talked about this castle was so cute that everyone kept asking her what she wanted from Santa so that she would repeat the same description of this pink princess castle over and over. She never wavered. Every single time it was the same.

So, on Christmas morning she was overjoyed to find a pink princess castle with no doors for little people in front of the fireplace. Then it struck me.
She wanted a pink princess castle. She asked for a pink princess castle. She received a pink princess castle.

She received exactly what she asked for.

So, do we as a society promote the idea of Santa Claus to help children use their imagination? Is it so that they learn how to believe in magic? Or is it to show them the only way to get what they want is to ask for it?

This Christmas my lesson from Santa is this- You get what you ask for. Ask for what you want.

Christmas on a Fire Truck

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For the last five years or so my department at work has come together at Christmas to support families in a small trailer park by our office. We found out about these families through our local fire chief so every year he arranges a fire truck and a Santa to deliver the gifts we collect to the children in this park.

We can usually coerce six or seven people to leave our busy office to ride on the truck and help Santa pass out the gifts to the children. Let me tell you, riding on top of a fire truck is pretty fun. Seeing the faces of the children when a fire truck drives up their driveway with Santa on top is fantastically fun.

This year we decided to try to help this small community beyond supplying gifts to the children. Everyone brought in little luxuries to make gift bags for the families. Luxuries like chocolates and Christmas cookies and handmade fleece blankets. In addition to providing gift bags for the families with children we decided to make gift bags for the trailers without children as well. Year after year the people in those trailers have come out to watch us take care of the families with children and been happy that they were getting support. Everyone in our department came together to put the gift bags together. We were all excited to know that this would be a complete surprise for absolutely everyone in the trailer park.

We also took up a collection to provide gift cards for a local grocery store so that the families could buy supplies for a nice holiday meal. We’ve done this in the past but we wanted to make a bigger impact this year so we set a pretty high monetary goal for the department.

I was particularly struck by the generosity of a woman I work with. She didn’t bring me money for the collection until the very last day. She apologized and explained that she thought she was going to have to tell me that she just wasn’t in a position to contribute this year but at the very last second miraculously the money appeared. She gave me more than we requested so I offered her change. She insisted that we use it all for the gift cards. She was honored to give more than her share.

A few of us rode on the fire truck today with Santa to deliver everything to the trailer park. It is always incredible to see the children accept their gifts from Santa. For many of them, the gift we give them will be their only gift for Christmas so we all know that it is very special to them. The parents always hang back, taking photos and letting their children have their moment in the sun. Today, however, the parents were all called forward and presented with a gift bag and a gift card for food. They were surprised and grateful.

After all the families with children had received their gifts we started calling forward the homes without children. The first house number we called was that of an elderly couple standing in the background. They couldn’t believe that their names were being called. They slowly came to the fire truck to receive their own gift bag and gift card. At first they were shy and trepidatious, but when Santa handed them the gift bag I saw in their eyes that in that moment they too, felt that they were special. They understood that other people in the world took the time to make sure that they were cared for. It was stunningly beautiful.

Every single person that we gave gift bags and gifts to in that little trailer park on the side of a major city street accepted their gifts with grace and honor. I’ve seen children tear through a dozen gifts on Christmas morning and barely realize what they’ve received. Today I know that every gift was special. Every gift was appreciated. And every recipient felt valued.

This, for me, is the true nature of the holiday spirit. It’s not in what we get this holiday season. The real joy is in what we give.

Born to Run

In the words of the incomparable Bruce Springsteen, “Baby, We Were Born to Run.”

I’ve found myself humming this song in my head the last few weeks because I realize my incredibly strong urge to run from each and every uncomfortable situation. Recently this urge to run has come from my battle with an insect invasion at the apartment I moved into last month. I seriously considered the possibility of re-packing everything I had just unpacked and hiring movers all over again to move into another mystery situation. Surely, I thought, bad insect karma couldn’t possibly follow me if I were to go further into suburbia.

I realized that this is the way I’ve handled a lot of situations in my life. If it seems too hard to fix something or if there is any possibility that I won’t be successful at something I instantly want to run away and start fresh somewhere else.

I know this started when I was a child. My father worked for the government and we moved a lot. This followed me into adulthood, when I wanted a change or things weren’t going the way I hoped they would I packed up my Ford Escort and moved somewhere new.

I’ve moved so many times in my life that I’ve lost count. I’ve been so used to moving that it’s only in the last decade that I’ve started making an effort to make the places I live in a home, including unpacking every box and putting pictures on the wall.

For most of my life I’ve thought that this urge to run away was somehow instinctive in me, that my true nature thrives on constant change. I’m questioning that now. Right now the thought of packing up my whole life again and moving somewhere new, although still tempting given my latest insect problem, seems like too much work. This is partly because I have a lot more stuff than I did in my twenties and thirties when I could move everything I owned in a Ford Escort.

I’m also not in my twenties or thirties anymore. I am craving stability. I am craving a sense of community that only comes with staying on one place for more that a few years. I’ve been in LA for over 11 years. Before this the longest I was anywhere was 5 years. I’m realizing that there are major benefits to staying in one place and dealing with problems one by one rather than running from them. Stability. Comfort. Community support. Peace.

I won’t be running this time. I’ve unpacked every single box. I’ve put art on the walls. I’ve asked my landlord to work with me and weather-strip all my windows. I’m standing my ground. My insect invasion, precarious as it may be, seems to be over. I see now that I was not really instinctively born to run. Running was the easy way out. I’m in this for the long haul. I’m staying.

Red Lipstick and Halloween

Halloween is a big deal at my company. For most of my tenure there I’ve begrudgingly played along with whatever theme our department conjures up to try to win a pizza lunch or movie tickets for the elusive “Best Department” or “Scariest Costumes” awards.

This year we decided on a Great Gatsby theme. I agreed simply because I have dress in my closet that I knew would work perfectly. It’s black lace with a blush underslip and it definitely looks twenties. When I arrived at work I was accosted by my co-workers who felt it necessary to exclaim over and over again that I looked beautiful.

In fairness, I only wear dresses and red lipstick on Halloween. Last year our theme was 70’s and I went as Mary Tyler Moore. I also wore a red dress, which is forbidden because, as I was told as a teenager, I am a SUMMER and SUMMERS never ever wear red. I realize that I was also accosted last year. The comments were about the red dress, of course, but also about the red lipstick and the fact that I had used hot rollers in my hair.

I used to wear red lipstick all the time. My sister regularly warned potential suitors that I could take up to half an hour applying said red lipstick. The ones who made it, of course, were the ones who understood that that’s how long it takes. Applying red lipstick today is a little more challenging. I realized this morning that the lip landscape has changed.

This year the comments were all about this black lace dress and how it made me look more feminine. I admit, I usually wear a black t-shirt and one of the six pairs of technical black pants I bought to take to Africa- the classic designer uniform.

What stunned me, however, was how adamant the comments were. One person suggested I change the way I dress altogether- not that the way I usually dress is bad, but the way I dressed today could attract a husband. A male co-worker made a comment that if I approached his desk in that dress that he would have no choice but to ask me out to dinner.

I have to say that all the attention and the comments made me really uncomfortable. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so aware that people are looking at ME- that people are thinking about the way I look or what I am wearing or how I walk in a dress. I think I’ve been under the impression that I am sort of invisible. That when I don my uniform every morning that other people can’t really see me, that I am invisible.

But of course, I am not invisible. People see me everyday, whether I’m wearing a lace dress or my standard Africa-ready black technical pants. Isn’t the real issue how I see myself? Have I buried myself in a uniform because it’s easy or have I buried myself in a uniform because I’m hiding from something? I just moved 8 hanging garment boxes full of clothes. Regardless of the fact that I realize I need to simplify and edit the fact remains that I don’t wear the majority of the clothes in my closet.

I don’t know what this all means for me, but I do now this- I think I’m going to wear red lipstick on a random Tuesday and see what happens. I also think that I can take a risk and wear a dress on a day totally unassociated with sugar overconsumption and ghoulish behavior. I think I’m ready for a change.

Spirituality and Pest Control

I moved into a new apartment 2 weeks ago today. The entire affair from conception to packing to moving truck took just under two weeks. This gave me little time to process one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life. I have a lot of stuff. I moved a lot as a child. I tend to overanalyze everything.

There has been a series of small things that have made me uncomfortable with the new place. First there was the issue of plastic melted inside the dryer that ruined a load of laundry. The very next day I saw a creepy crawly bug which prompted me to look under the washer and dryer to find that the rock star cleaning crew hired to clean the place didn’t touch under the appliances.

Then I saw the grease on every wall in the kitchen.

Then I killed 7 of the same type of bug over the course of this last weekend.

The landlord has been relatively sympathetic to my causes, each time he’s immediately sent someone out with the promise of “rolling up their sleeves” to address my problems.

Today, however, I learned that my current pest infestation is not treatable by the exterminator. I have stink bugs, a bug so new to this country that they don’t have chemicals to kill them. Seriously? This is 2013, the age of instant information, the age of pharmaceutical dominance, the age where you can pay for a coffee at Starbucks with your phone.

This has rendered me an emotional mess. When I lived in Hawaii we had a cockroach problem. I kept a can of Raid by the door. Every day I walked into the apartment and crept around with my can of Raid killing anywhere between 2 and 6 cockroaches. Big flying nasty Hawaiian cockroaches. Then I’d leap into bed and wait for the boyfriend to come home and vacuum them up. When I tell people this story they always cock their heads to one side and say,

Awww. What a sweetheart.

To which I say, “Hey, you’re missing the point. I have insect PTSD.”

For the past week every time I walk in my house I walk in on high alert. I scan every surface I can see looking for bugs. This has greatly affected my perception of my own alleged Spiritual Peace. I keep thinking of my trips to Africa. We didn’t stay in 5-star hotels. Some of the hotels had a lot of bugs. All kinds of bugs I’d never seen before. When I came back I put all my socks in quarantine in plastic bags, afraid that they were somehow infested with insect eggs. Because some of these socks had touched the floors I knew they were unsafe. Rather than unseal these socks I’m sorry to say that I threw them all away and started over. It just seemed easier.

I realized yesterday that most of these bugs were coming in through my open kitchen windows. Even though all my windows have screens, these bugs are sneaky and dedicated. I haven’t seen one of these bugs in a room where the windows haven’t been open. So I closed every window in the house. I love open windows. I routinely keep a window open even in the winter. I thrive on the idea of fresh air.

I had plans tonight but I stopped by my house first just to see if my closed window sacrifice had paid off. I didn’t see one bug. I checked thoroughly, every corner of every room. I was really ready to begin packing again and start the whole process all over. I’ve decided that I have a zero bug tolerance policy.

I’ve been working lately on gratitude. I’ve started a gratitude journal that I try to remember to write in every night. Tonight I will write about how grateful I am that I can just close my windows to solve this problem. There are so many issues in the world with vastly more complicated solutions.

Again, Spirituality and I have a long way to go.

Spirituality vs. My Closet

Last week I went to a fashion event for work. One of the classes I went to was all about the evolution of black tie dressing and the history of the Little Black Dress. Our presenter detailed how Coco Chanel coined the phrase Little Black Dress in the twenties and admitted that in order to prepare for the class she had looked through her closet at all her black dresses.

She said,

I went through my closet with a critical eye, not a negative eye.

She spoke of how her son had helped her inventory her collection of Little Black Dresses and decide that one of them had good bones and should be altered. The rest, she shamefully admitted, she decided to donate.

I moved last week. The entire process from conception to moving truck took less than two weeks so I had very little time to pack. I ended up donating a lot of clothes. Not everything that I need to donate, certainly, but as much as I could without getting severely overwhelmed.

When I heard our presenter speak of her need to donate the black dresses in her closet that didn’t fit or were suddenly too short or too dated I thought about how fortunate we both are to be in a position to give clothes away.

The first time I went to Africa we visited tribes in Southern Ethiopia. It takes almost three days on really rough roads to see these tribes so five years ago when we went to see them they were relatively unscathed by the consumerism and greed we are used to in the west.

In one tribe a few women kept pinching at the animal skins covering their shoulders. I had no idea what they were trying to tell me so our guide explained that they were literally asking for the shirt off my back. Now, I was in Africa for the first time. I was not wearing a shirt that could even remotely be considered fashionable. I bought severely practical clothes to take to Africa. One of my sisters is a very accomplished mountaineer and she taught me long ago the value of good gear. The shirt I was wearing is a technical outdoor shirt with SPF and insect repellent built into the fabric. It is NOT flattering. It has pockets in the front, roll up sleeves with tabs to keep them rolled up, absolutely NO waistline, and a rather horrific men’s tie print.

I was flabbergasted. I was so taken with the women in that tribe. They wore traditional animal skins. They made their own jewelry from keys and shells they found at the market. In my artistic fashion designer brain they were fabulous. But they wanted what they didn’t have. They wanted my ugly high tech button down shirt.

I didn’t give them my shirt that day but I know that they would have loved some of the shirts I donated last weekend preparing for my move. I’ve known that I needed to move for almost a year but I kept putting it off and making excuses as to why I needed more time based solely on the fact that I didn’t want to face my closet. I didn’t want to come face to face with jackets and pants that were still, as people so often advertise on eBay, New with Tags!

I didn’t want to try on the dozen or so pairs of pants that I have in various sizes- for the Just In Case scenario that I gain or lose the same 10 or 15 pounds that I’ve been gaining and losing my entire life.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that I have more clothes than I could ever wear, that I could be a clothes hoarder, that people who have much less than myself might be incredibly grateful for the t-shirt at the bottom of my drawer that they gave me at the one and only mud run I will ever participate in. The shirt that is kind of cute and makes me look really curvy even though I’m not and is a blue that makes everyone comment on how they’ve never noticed my blue eyes before. The shirt that I’ve worn exactly twice but I can’t convince myself to get rid of because it’s a perfectly good shirt.

In hearing another human speak with shame about the black dresses in her closet she needed to donate I realized that my problem is rampant in our society. I’m not the only one embarrassed of my closet. Other women also pore over their closets every day, flipping through items one by one feeling not just like they have nothing to wear but knowing perfectly well that their closets are too full, that they’ve devoted too many of their resources to buying clothes they neither love nor wear.

I intend to follow the example set by the presenter last week and look at my closet with a critical eye so that I can start to simplify my wardrobe. This may take some time but I know that it’s one more step towards gaining control of my life. I do know that the 5 or 6 black cashmere sweaters in my closet don’t define me. I’m defined by the way I treat others and the beauty and honesty I put out into the world.

State of Emergency

For those of you not following the news, there is currently a state of emergency in Colorado. The areas around Boulder have been flooding for days. Unlike most disasters that I just casually read about on my AOL home page in the morning, this one is personal to me. My sister lives in one of the communities most affected.

I haven’t spoken to her as there’s been no phone service for the last few days, but she has been able to communicate by e-mail and on Facebook so I know details about what is going on with the people in her area. She is safe but many of her friends have been evacuated and some have lost their homes.

Her community is devastated, but as is true in any tragedy, there are glimmers of true beauty. The beauty of people reaching out to help others who need assistance, of friends opening up their homes to those who are suddenly homeless, and of ordinary citizens setting up ropes across raging rivers to evacuate people they don’t even know. There are heroes among us. Heroes who truly are, as they ask every exit row passenger on every airline, ready and willing to help in case of an emergency.

What strikes me the most deeply, however is the fact that my sister is close to several people who’ve lost their homes. One of them is staying with her. He went to check on his house after the worst of the storm to find his house completely gone. His entire house, with all his worldly possessions, gone. The only thing remaining was his kitchen sink buried in mud.

Another friend was rescued, carried by ropes across the river by volunteers after she lost her house. She salvaged her wedding album and her dogs. Everything else she owned is gone.

I don’t know that I can imagine what either of my sister’s friends must be feeling. This has prompted me to look around my own house and wonder what is important to me. What would I try to take with me if a tsunami was headed for LA? I know it wouldn’t be the original fashion illustrations I bought in Paris or the incredibly rare Givenchy monograph I proudly display on my bookshelf.

What do other people save in instances like these? What do they grab just before the tornado or the hurricane hits? They save photo albums. They save mementos from their past. They save things that will remind them of the relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives.

I spoke to my father the other day; he’s been in close communication with my sister. He talked about a time when he got stuck camping with my mother and my baby sister in severe weather. They were terrified that they wouldn’t make it. When the storm cleared they all came out of the trailer and breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for the sun peeking through the clouds. My father wasn’t concerned with the damage to the trailer or the vehicle. He realized in that moment that the only really important things in his life, his wife and his daughter, had been spared.

The relationships we have with other people are what really define us. We are not our circumstances- the house we live in, the job we hold, the clothes we wear every day. We show who we really are by the way we treat other people, the ways in which we share our hearts with others, and the love we bring into the world.

Crème de la Mer

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I’ve lusted over the ridiculously expensive ($150 an ounce) miracle cream Crème de la Mer for years. No matter how successful I became I still couldn’t bring myself to purchase such an extravagant beauty product. As I’ve aged I’ve caught myself time and time again eyeing the Crème de la Mer counter at Saks and Neimans from a distance, knowing that I should be skeptical of their promises of smoother younger skin.

I was recently given a gift card to Barneys New York to indulge myself in luxuries that I’d never allow myself. One of the first items I thought of when I saw the card is this miracle elusive face cream. The cream that is, as written on their own packaging,

Coveted by those in the know.

Barneys doesn’t carry this product in stores so I had to order through their website. I am so rich in gift cards that I even sprung for overnight shipping. Through a comedy of errors Barneys didn’t ship the package to me. It took two weeks for them to admit their mistake and actually ship the cream.

In those two weeks I had time to reflect on the other times in my life I’ve lusted over something and been disappointed in the actual product or the experience surrounding the product.

8 years ago I was able to fulfill the highest of all fashion dreams- that of buying a Chanel jacket. I’d fantasized about owning a Chanel jacket since I was sixteen. I used to spend my lunch hours in high school devouring Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Even then, Chanel was the ultimate fashion house.

Even though I bought the jacket at the original Chanel store in Paris, the experience itself was underwhelming. I wore the jacket once and lost weight so it didn’t fit. I went to Africa and decided that I couldn’t be a stuffologist anymore. I tried to sell it to a friend who ended up losing it. The entire Chanel jacket experience was empty and sad.

This became the topic of a lunch conversation the other day with people I work with. One of the other designers has a daughter loves fashion. Six or seven years ago when True Religion Jeans were the hottest denim label in town my friend primed his daughter for her first $200 jeans buying experience. They talked about it for weeks. Finally, they went to a great store, they were treated like royalty and she gleefully chose a pair that fit her perfectly.

A few days later she looked at my friend and said,

I thought these jeans would change something but my life is still exactly the same.

Wow. We all know that most consumer products can’t change our lives. I might argue that my recent Vitamix purchase could be an exception to that rule, but in general everyone knows this to be true.

The True Religion Jeans experience changed my friend’s daughter’s viewpoint forever. Her tastes tend towards vintage now; she no longer buys something new because of hype or the media.

Which brings me back to my disappointing buying experience of the Crème de la Mer. Certainly I know that this new cream will not change my life.Part of me just wants to know what I’ve been missing. Do the women in the testimonials know something that I don’t? I doubt it. Will this experience leave me empty and sad like the Chanel jacket experience? Possibly.

But right now, when I was finally able to open the jar and touch the creamy smooth goodness I’ve wondered about all my life I feel optimistic. Not optimistic that this cream will change my life but optimistic that in realizing this small dream that other larger dreams are attainable as well.

South Coast Plaza

South Coast Plaza

I met a friend for lunch last weekend at the Orange County super luxury Mall-to-the-Stars, South Coast Plaza. I was early so I wandered the stores for an hour or so. As a fashion designer it’s my job to shop the stores and know what’s going on but I was completely unprepared for the mayhem at South Coast Plaza on a hot August holiday weekend.

First it took me almost half an hour to find a parking spot. The whole mall was crowded. Not with college students enjoying the air conditioning with their slim Forever 21 bags, but with women and men bustling from store to store with multiple shopping bags on their arms.

I was astounded. I usually go out on weekdays to shop for work when I am the only one in the store and numerous employees circle around me catering to my every whim, so to see exactly the opposite was unnerving.

The most disturbing part of my experience for me, however, was the display directly outside the Rolex store. There was a sculpture of cans of food associated with a Cat in the Hat campaign to collect food for the Orange County Food Bank.

Again, this display was directly outside the Rolex store. As I stood in front of the sculpture I turned my head to the left and saw people inside the Rolex store perusing watches worth tens of thousands of dollars. I then turned my head to the right to see evidence of the people of Orange County’s generosity to help people who need assistance satisfying one of the primary human needs, putting food on the table.

To the left, opulence, luxury, and greed. To the right, alleged compassion, generosity, and kindness. The ultimate contrast, the classic tale of the Haves and the Have-Nots.

I met my friend at a swanky restaurant and enjoyed lush appetizers and a fabulous glass of wine and contemplated the question-

Hey! What am I? Am I a Have or a Have-Not???

Admittedly I’ve never needed food from a food bank. I’ve also never owned or been in a position to buy a Rolex. But I certainly wasn’t out of place in the Mall-to-the-Stars and I was quite comfortable with my happy hour half price glass of sparkling rose’ champagne.

For most of my life I’ve felt like a Have-Not. I spent my entire twenties and thirties watching the Haves and wondering what it must be like.

But really, what does being a “Have” mean for someone on a spiritual pursuit? It’s no longer about hoarding material goods or having the most money in your bank account. So what is it about, really? Is it about having the most friends? Is it about having the right kinds of friends? Is it about knowing yourself? Is it about being comfortable with yourself?

I don’t have the answers to these questions today. I think it’ll be a process, navigating my position as a Have or a Nave-Not in this new landscape- this landscape independent of the financial markers I’ve used all my life.

I AM certain, however, that whether I am a Have or a Have-Not, I will find ways in my life to be of service to those who truly need my help. Often that has little or nothing to do with money.

Spirituality vs. My College Transcripts

I applied to a graduate school a couple of weeks ago. This required reviewing and requesting copies of all my college transcripts. There is a question on the graduate school application that specifically asks if I’d ever been dismissed from a college program. I had to answer “Yes” because I was.

There is definitely shame and anguish associated with this fact from my past. I was a straight “A” student in high school. I did everything correctly. I took home numerous awards for playing the piano perfectly. I won many debate matches. I placed in the state finals of the Academic Decathlon.

I was also utterly and completely unprepared to venture out into the real world my first year of college. I’d never even considered the possibility that I could fail at anything. I thought I was invincible. I was, however, absolutely socially inept. I decided that I had to learn how to connect with others if I was going to survive. Somehow in my eighteen-year-old brain that included going out anytime anyone asked me to do anything rather than staying home and studying. I knew I wasn’t performing to my capacity in school but I reasoned that I was smart enough to study like mad just before finals and that as a worst case scenario I might get a few “B”s.

I signed up for an 8 am French class in my first semester. All my life I knew that I would love Paris, that I had some kind of strange affinity for all things French. Manifesting my dream of living in Paris one day would certainly require speaking French so I added it onto an already full course load.

To suddenly be in a position where I was the only one responsible to get myself up out of bed at 7 am to make a class that wasn’t required for my Major confounded me. I learned that I really could stay out late the night before and sleep through class. I discovered boys and beer! Halfway through my first semester my midterm grade in this 8 am French class was a “C”. I ‘d never in my life earned a “C”. So I did what any responsible college freshman would do, I dropped the class and continued my pursuit of boys and beer.

That first “C”, that entry level “C” eventually led to my first “F” then to the first notice that I was being put on probation then eventually to the letter that informed me that I was no longer welcome at the University of North Dakota.

I was devastated but strong enough to pull myself together and find a way to get back into school. My parents instilled in me the belief that a college education was my ticket to a better life.

I joined the Army National Guard for the educational benefits, reapplied, and was accepted back into school. I worked hard and graduated with a degree in Mathematics. Even though I graduated with a dismal 2.9 GPA I still managed to get interviews when I graduated and I’ve done well in my career.

I had to write an essay about my dismissal from college on my graduate school application. I know now that failing out of college was preparation for the fact that I would fail over and over again in my life. Everyone who takes chances and goes after the life they want has failed; it’s simply part of the equation. The key is to learn from each and every failure and to move forward wiser but still willing to risk failure again.

I know that I will have failures in my future just as I did in my past. I also know that I AM strong enough and resourceful enough to overcome them, to learn from them, and to continue to take risks in my quest for my own truth.