A recent tweet by Maria Shriver came up unasked for on my FaceBook feed: Don’t carry your mistakes around with you. Instead place them under your feet and use them as stepping stones to rise above them. Have been pondering these words and find them very powerful. It is all too easy to be consumed by a mistake. I like the visual that Shriver paints. Mistakes should not be given the power to dominate our lives, rather they should become”stepping stones ” to something better.
There was a time when reflecting on my life decisions I regretter heading to college two days after I graduated from high school. My first day of kindergarten was in February, as was my first day of grade school, as was my first day of high school and my first day of college. I was in one of the last classes in New York State to start my school life in February. Someone finally came to the decision that February starting dates for school students were not a good Idea and that phase of educational life was put to rest.
In high school I took an intense class load of subjects that culminated in New York State Regents exams. Some of my fellow February graduates opted to take a break from school and not start the college phase of their school life immediately but to rather wait till September. Not me, I wanted to go full speed ahead with my life. So one week I was immersed in a period of Regents exam taking and then soon after I was immersed in a fairly heavy load of college courses. On reflection, It might have been nice to take an education break. Had I made a mistake?
Starting college my plan was to go into teaching and perhaps attend law school at night – as my parents had done. I didn’t feel passionately about following this life path, it was just one that I was familiar with and comfortable with. In the first few weeks of my first college semester I read an ad on the subway as I was heading to a day of classes at Marymount. The ad had a profound effect on me. The ad was from the American Red Cross promoting their Spring class schedule. The subway was crowded. I had not been able to get a seat. To pass the time I starting reading the ads posted on the subway car. The ads were kind of boring except the one from the Red Cross. It spelled out information on their Home Nursing Classes. I was intrigued and interested in the medical content of the classes. I thought this is something I will do when I have finished all my other schooling. And then the subway arrived at the stop for Marymount and I got off. At the end of the day when it was time to take the subway home – I was a day hop – I searched the subway ads for the one on the class offerings of the American Red Cross. When i found it, I read it carefully and slowly. It was early March and I was in the midst of making a Novena to St Francis Xavier that I be guided in making the right life decisions.
As I shared in a previous blog, after a period of reflection and study of what would be involved, I started investigating nursing programs and in particular those programs that offered a BSN. I wanted a BSN nursing program because I felt it would offer more opportunities in whatever nursing field I ended up working in. My search came to an end almost as quickly as it began when I discovered that Cornell University’s nursing program, which was attached to New York Hospital, offered exactly what I was looking for. Cornell required 60 undergraduate credits coming from some very specific course requirements in order to be considered for admission. By participating in the six week summer school semester which Marymount required of all its February admissions, by attending Marymount for one additional year and by getting appropriate grades, the Cornell nursing program was definitely available to me. I was excited. I did not apply to any other nursing school. My maternal grandparents were both Cornell graduates in the late eighteen hundreds. My mother and her twin sister had attended Cornell for two years before they transferred to Barnard College of Columbia University. Their brother, my uncle, was a Cornell graduate as were many cousins. I felt like Cornell was in my blood. Now all I had to do was get the grades which would make admission to Cornell a reality.
Trying to be very disciplined in my studies and in what college activities to get involved with, and trying to do some good decision making, I decided that I could just join one club at Marymount. I was still feeling the academic blitz that included my final term of high school and the full load of college courses I started just three days after my high school graduation. The Marymount club that was most appealing to me was the Collegiate Council for the United Nations. I loved the discussions of world events. I thoroughly enjoyed when we had mock UN meetings with other colleges and each college was assigned a country to represent.
A few months into my CCUN membership I was honored when the president of the club asked if I would be one of the two Marymount representatives at a week-long overnight conference being held in June and hosted by Sarah Lawrence College. All CCUN organizations in our area were sending representatives. I thanked the club president for the honor but said it would mean missing a week of the six week summer school program. But she persisted in asking me as did the club moderator who stressed that since I would be representing Marymount the school would be covering all the costs of the conference;. The moderator even took it a step further and checked with the facilitator of the summer school program who gave her OK to my missing a week of class. I was so conflicted and did not understand why these good people were pushing me to attend a conference like this when I would only be at Marymount for one more year? I was very clear with everyone that I was on a nursing school trajectory. They replied that in the year plus time that I would remain at Marymount I could do some valuable promotion of the Marymount model UN program to my fellow students.
Here I was trying to make a good decision about my use of time and I was having dangled in front of me attendance at a conference that I knew I would love but didn’t think I should be attending. Finally with the encouragement of the summer school facilitator I agreed to attend the conference. And it was awesome!!!
Krishna Menon -who was a leader in India’s fight for independence- and Eleanor Roosevelt were my two favorite speakers at this conference. Though Franklin Roosevelt had been dead for a little over ten years, Eleanor continued to be very active in many socially important causes. I had never been in an intimate gathering with two such famous leaders. At the host college Sarah Lawrence, the setting for the gatherings with our guest speakers was a homey room with lots of comfy chairs. It was an intimate setting for the twenty five of us in attendance. To this day I still remember the awe I felt spending an evening sitting about five feet away from Eleanor Roosevelt. There are so many Eleanor Roosevelt quotes I like to ponder. One of my favorites is SUCCESS MUST INCLUDE TWO THINGS:THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN INDIVIDUAL TO HIS UTMOST POTENTIALITY AND A CONTRIBUTION OF SOME KIND TO ONE’S WORLD.
. Some decisions are not black and white and might entail mistakes and yet have very positive results. I learned so much about current events and past world history at the Sarah Lawrence conference. In my remaining time at Marymount I was a very vocal advocate for the Model UN organization, and at the same time, was well prepared to move on to Cornell.