Going back to school — and then back to life — trying to keep the inspiration flowing

rsz_amandaI was reminded this week why this website is so great … and so necessary. But I have to backtrack a month to take you there …

Exactly one month ago I returned from my 25th college reunion. Going back to my alma mater is always something I look forward to. As an alumna of an all-women’s college, there’s a different feel to a reunion, I suspect, than going back to a co-ed school. And this particular reunion was extra special for a few reasons. First, I shared it with my 10-year-old daughter. From the minute she hit the campus she ate up the vibe, and it reminded me of the first time I spent a weekend at Smith and decided that this was where I was going to go to college.  There’s something about the energy of being in an all women’s environment and she got it.

But also, the tone of the 25th was different. It was clear that we are all in this middle space together – we’ve all had ups and downs, some more significant than others and we all truly share the understanding now that life is what you make it, and there’s no more sitting around to make it happen. We were no longer the young “kids” of the 15th reunion (yes, we can call the 32-year-olds kids) still finding their way ten years out, and not yet the “mature” women of the 40th or 50th reunion classes on the other end of the spectrum (lots of talk of estate planning going on there!).

My daughter Madeline at the Smith reunion
My daughter Madeline at the Smith reunion

Where were we? First of all, we were honest. No one came to reunion to brag – sure there were successes to be celebrated, but no one came to say “I’ve made it.”  And people were equally open about the challenges they’ve faced – facing foreclosures, battling cancer, find the right schooling for special needs children and more. There was an understanding that “success” in life means a lot of things – beyond salary and titles.  There was also a lot of talk about where we wanted to be. People felt ready to tackle the next stage and do something new, and many people left campus vowing to push each other to follow through with those ideas. It was exciting and energizing … it was also so different from where we all started 25 years ago.

And that brings me to why we need this website.

When we graduated in 1990 it was in the middle of a recession.  Parents didn’t tell us to take a year to travel or to dabble in different fields to see what we liked. They told us to get a job and hold onto it.  Our parents were still of the generation where you got a job, held on for dear life and retired with a gold watch at 65 – if they were lucky. And they passed that onto us.

I vividly remember my sister coaching me on how to address the small gaps in my resume during interviews. She was clear – if a potential employer saw that you had switched jobs too frequently, or worse, you were unemployed for a few months, gasp – surely that would be a warning sign to them.

Well, gosh, it’s no wonder many of us stuck with jobs we weren’t passionate about with that advice right?  But times are different now – risk, failure, and experimentation are rewarded; pursuing your passion is rewarded. And my generation is beginning to get the message. But it’s hard and it doesn’t come naturally to some of us, and we need each other to push through when we can.  Especially when we’re still saving for college, and caring for parents.

That’s why we started this website and that’s why we continue to share inspirational stories. For today, I’m sharing the story of a woman much younger than I am, Afreen Ghandi from the class of 2015. I’d love you to read her story.  I hope you’ll be blown away the way I was.  I think it speaks for itself.

When I dropped off my son at camp yesterday, I ran into a friend who had just returned from her 25th reunion last weekend. “”Wow,” she exclaimed, “So inspiring. People doing such cool new things, I wonder if it’s time for me to make a change?”

And in that moment I realized, in just a month, I had gotten weighed down with life – wonderful life – graduations and camps and more – but it’s going to take lots of support and inspiration to get me to that next step, whatever it may be.

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