Did you ever have a dream-come-true-experience that you never even thought was possible? I had my dream-come-true-experience in the fall of 1995. My first semester at Mount Holyoke College.
It was a fall afternoon. Yes, my first semester as a full time student at our country's first women's college, an opportunity that never even existed on my radar. I was a young, single-mother, so such an opportunity did not even occur to me amidst my life of paying light and oil bills, Little League and "Monopoly," mowing the lawn and buying groceries.
I sat in my usual chair at the mahogany table in her office. Sunlight poured through the two windows at the end of a room that felt more like a grandmother's parlor, with two big-overstuffed, tapestry wing-chairs.
"Dear, don't you know how to write with an active voice?"
"No, that is passive."
Over and over and over. What?
Sure. this was a dream-come-true-experience, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't figure out what my new professor meant about active and passive writing.
She extended weeks of kind and very generous effort to distinguish the difference between writing with an active voice, and writing with a passive voice.
"You want to write with an active voice, dear," it's stronger, clearer, more direct.
Hope and excitement filled me. Surely she would help me 'get it.' Despair and shame took over. I wasn't 'getting it.' But I was determined. And then she put her hand on my shoulder and tapped it ever so gently.
Old-Guard. Tenured with an air of aristocracy. Proper. Yes, very proper. And very kind.
"Don't worry dear, not everyone can learn to write."
Wait? What? Time stopped. Swoosh.
A vortex of embarrassment, shame and disbelief pulled me into a swirling force of zero confidence.
She thinks I am stupid. I am stupid. My classmates will know. How can I say that I am good, that I can do this, when I don't believe it?
For the next 6 weeks I did everything I could to hide my shame, my embarrassment, my feelings of humiliation from everyone, but this vortex of no confidence possessed me.
It was a sick kind of place to be in, I mean, they did say I was a real, true, bonified, make-no-mistake-they-really-did-accept-me Mount Holyoke student. Did I really fail already? I just arrived?
What was I thinking? How could I ever think I could successfully go to a school like Mount Holyoke? I'm not smart enough. I'm not remotely academically prepared?
I needed to keep up with my school work, but these feelings of less-than consumed and crippled me.
"You got a dream... You gotta protect it. People can't do somethin' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want somethin' go get it. Period." ~Chris Gardner
Within this state of despair, and I felt deep despair, I truly felt way over my head academically, I grabbed hold of my "fight" for me, for my dream.
I decided that I was going to graduate with Honors from Mount Holyoke College, which meant I'd have to write an Honors thesis.
I can't write?
I will learn.
Funny thing, during my MEd program at Boston College one of my professors said to me, "Carol, whatever you do in life, make sure you keep writing."
I laughed to myself and thought about the scores and scores of corrections my professors at MHC made on my papers, and the hours and hours I'd spend studying those corrections full well knowing that those corrections would teach me how to write.
From my experience, I learned what I believe to be a few Universal truths. I learned,
- we must dig deep to find that force within us that is unstoppable
- we can't let other's reasons and stories stop us no matter how well intentioned
- that we can do anything we put our mind to, if we do it smartly
- that our courage and confidence muscles grow when we flex them
- that on other side of challenge is a horizon of new possibilities we never even saw before
I learned that we should never, ever let anyone take our dreams from us, even when they are heart-full intended, as I know fully well my professor was.
When you have a dream, you've got to protect it.