A Charmed Life

485554_10103551672855941_112437061_nLast year, my Charms Chapel speech took an hour to write at 2am. It was a simple stroll down memory lane. This year, my speech has come down to the wire. I wanted it to be unpredictable, but not like I aspire to be a graduation speaker. So I decided to throw it back to my senior year and honor our past Chaplain. Mixed with a little yuppie advice and some young gun style, I came up with this:

This is the time of year when amazing women like Michelle Obama and Amy Poehler get to share their words of wisdom to graduates all over the country. I’m neither, obviously, but I hope what I have to say will stick with you at least through the afternoon.

Dear Class of 2015,

When I was a student here, Chaplain Anne Riggs was our School Chaplain and she started the first chapel of each school year with this reading: Numbers, Chapter 13: 1-33. She called it the Grasshopper Homily, and it always resonated with me.

13 The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran.

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.

21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

It’s not hard to see the parallels. Canaan was the real world. Every single adult was a Giant. And I was a grasshopper.

Since graduating from St. Margaret’s, I have felt this feeling on more than one occasion; like I had worked so hard and made it to the promised land, only to find that I was still just a grasshopper in a sea of giants, vastly more knowledgeable and more experienced. I guarantee at some point, you will feel this way as well, whether it’s your first day of college, your first job, or even, like myself, at soon-to-be 30. It’s very overwhelming, feeling like you’re the youngest person in the room all over again.

However, Isaac Newton also had something to say about this. “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Education replaces an empty mind with an open one and you will never have the opportunity to learn and grow so much in so little time, as you will for the next four years.

At my SMS Graduation, Lee Boudreaux, class of ’86 was our speaker and she said, “Anyone who stands behind a podium during the month of May feels compelled to tell their audience to go out and follow their dreams. There’s probably some fellow down at the Moose Lodge at the other end of town, telling a bunch of deer hunters that they should go and follow their dreams even as we speak.”

So aside from telling you to Dream big, stay foolish and wear sunscreen, here are some other things to keep in mind:

Be open to making connections.

Find mentors and read the books they read. Real books.

Know that it’s not just about making career connections, but also about building relationships, with giants and with grasshoppers alike.

Remember we not only grow with our professional accomplishments but multi-dimensionally as humans. It’s what makes us truly interesting.

Celebrate that you went to an all-women’s school, because you will see the difference it makes in just a few short months.


Give back.

Find a cause and share it with others.

Help build something that stands the test of time.

The SMS Alumnae Association can be a valuable resource for all of this. I often say that some of the smartest, most inspiring people I know are the ladies I graduated with. Excelling in the fields of law, medicine, science, education, business, the arts and more, we are constantly learning and growing. It is a testament to the magic of this place.

You are joining a great network of over 1,900 women, and 3 men, who share the same traditions, memories and sisterhood. It is a network that stands on the shoulders of those who came before, helping each new generation grow and thrive, and building a more solid foundation for those to come. Nineteen hundred of us who all started out just as you have, as grasshoppers. Whether you know this or not, we have been watching you and we’re excited to see where you will go as ambassadors of St. Margaret’s School.

So young grasshoppers, Padawans, novices, soon-to-be giants and St. Margaret’s graduates, enjoy your time in college and beyond. You’ll find it’s not such a scary place after all. Come back often to share your experiences, with us and with each other. And as you grow in age, may you always grow in grace.

Congratulations and welcome to the St. Margaret’s Alumnae Association.

The chapel service is tomorrow afternoon. I think for one of my last duties as President, this is a pretty good note to leave on.

Little Leadership

This past weekend, I attended my last Board of Governors Meeting as Alumnae President. I also got to talk with the Freshmen Intro to Leadership class.

St. Margaret’s Senior Charms

When I started writing about leadership, I brought in a coxswain point-of-view, paired with a young professional’s ambition, as seen in this post (and also this post). But when I met with the freshmen, I realized all of that didn’t really hold much weight to them. I had to start at the beginning.

Why did I choose to be a leader?
Why did I jump at this position?
What was the spark that started the fire?

When I was in college, my Reverend told me something invaluable. She said, “When you’re sitting there thinking ‘I can do this better,’ you obligate yourself to do so.”

Don’t wait for your turn. Don’t hoard all your good ideas. Don’t do it for the recognition.
Do it because it is right, or stop complaining.

In high school, I had to move around a lot, starting over every couple of years. Leadership was not an option when you’re continually trying rebuild your foundation. When you’re that young, most of your confidence comes from your peers. Ask anyone who’s ever run for Student Council…. In that world, going out on a limb is the scariest thing. (Read A Separate Peace)

For me, the key was showing up. Be present. Show genuine interest in what you’re doing through your time and effort. You don’t have to be a leader yet, just someone who is interested in the cause and wants to learn more. Your actions will speak for themselves. And then when you’re ready, you make your move and it’ll seem like the most natural thing in the world.

One of the things I tried to do during my term was to be more visible and active on campus. That meant flying up to Virginia more than expected. In case you’re wondering, it was completely worth it.

I learned that I am the type of leader who likes to get her hands dirty. The type that will email often, push the agenda, and doesn’t want things to be business as usual. I like being a fun leader, and letting my age show every now and then. I can wear different hats and engage with many different types of people. I’m not changing the world, but I think I changed the perception on what it means to be an active volunteer.

Meet Me Online

My favorite doll jpeg was an animated GIF Britney Spears from the Lucky music video.

When I was a freshman in high school, I had my own website. Don’t laugh. It was hosted by Chickpages.com. AOL, Geocities and Angelfire seemed much too complicated for my 14-year-old self.

So you after you registered on the site, you would pick a subgroup that best represented your style and personality. I originally wanted http://www.chickpages.com/girlbands, but after messing up and restarting I had to go with http://www.chickpages.com/thriftstoredivas. Again, don’t laugh…. My screen name was Cloudgirl827 for a very long time.

After setting up, you could post dolls (seen on the left), post photos or blog TMI about what happened in yearbook club. I even had subpages for each city I lived in to keep in touch with my friends. Since we didn’t all have email, I’d spread the word about my page on my AIM profile.

As cheesy and girly as it was, Chickpages was also the only site I can remember that encouraged girls to be tech-y. Sure, most girls would be posting photos (scanned from an actual camera) or writing about the group politics of high school, but they’d also be in front of a computer, building a web page, learning HTML and experimenting with web design.

That was in 2000, and sorry, my chickpage has since shut down. I’ve had a Xanga/LiveJournal and a couple of Blogspots since (sorry no MySpace), but it’s definitely weird to know that I’ve been openly sharing online for the past 15 years. There are some regretful posts that have thankfully disappeared, and I’m pretty sure there are a couple that thankfully never made their way to the person they were intended for. You’ll never know what mood I was in or what song I was listening to at some random date in 2003, but all of those posts and sites did provide a lesson.

Technology was never that intimidating to me, and after taking time to understand it, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. I am a girl who knows HTML. I can build a site. I want to learn how to code and get into web design. From little girly beginnings, grow some pretty substantial things.

#LeanIn #GirlsWhoCode

A Charmed Life

485554_10103551672855941_112437061_n Two days ago, Sweet Briar, an all-women’s college, announced that it will be closing after the upcoming summer semester. This is coming after Foxcroft School received a multi-million dollar bequest, the biggest gift in the history of an all-girls school.

I’ve had this discussion with Troy multiple times. Private school may not be for everyone, but single-sex education can be an amazing experience, especially for girls. My two years at St. Margaret’s in Virginia not only challenged me academically but made me a more confident and capable person. I didn’t go there as a punishment or because I was having trouble. My family was in upheaval and I went because I knew SMS was a place I could focus on me, instead of trying to please everyone.

Now, as the St. Margaret’s Alumnae Association President, one of my favorite things to do is speak at the annual Charms Chapel. This year, I will not be able to attend the service, but I’m hoping my speech/homily will still be heard. This is a special chapel service where the alumnae association welcomes the graduating seniors officially into “alumnae-hood”. The receive a charm engraved with the school crest. Mine is pictured above.

Private schools often talk about leaving a legacy, whether it’s through your financial donations, the time you serve, or things you leave behind. I like to think mine will be the culture of being present, being a visible leader, even if it is all the way from Georgia.

I still wear my class ring and charm, and make every effort to create relationships with the current students. I like meeting with the leaders and talking about college. I like sharing my bucket list and giving them ideas for theirs. I like showing that not all alums are boring. It’s not all about your career or your salary, but the kind of life you want to lead. While going to an all-girls school might seem “cute” or “restrictive”, I and all other girls’ school alums know that the experience is nothing short of transformative.

Photo: http://www.sms.org