A few weeks ago, I came across Bring Back the Words Prompts via Leah's blog. Leah's blog is one of my favorites and I was intrigued. The first week of the prompt series, there were actually two prompts:
Prompt 1: Why’d you start blogging?
Prompt 2: What’s the best decision you ever made?
My answer for #1 is not that exciting for me to write about. Hannah had started a blog and it was fun. I figured this was a good way to show my family, scattered around the country, what I had been up to, while also creating a sort of journal of my escapades. So I was thinking about #2. At 30 years old, I feel like I still have some big decisions in front of me, but at this point in my life, I also think I have a decent answer. It's a long one. Grab a glass of something and get comfy.
My senior year of high school I was convinced I was going to be a broadcast journalist. I considered schools with strong journalism programs, specifically those with broadcasting options. The number of schools who fit the bill were few, and I had narrowed my list down to two: American University, in DC and Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio.
Mom and I visited AU first (in August 2000) and I fell in love with the relatively small but diverse campus, nestled into NorthWest DC. We were minutes from the center of the city, but the campus was distinctly its own. I was hooked and decided this was my place.
In the fall of my senior year, I learned I had been nominated to be a Manasseh Cutler Scholar, a prestigious scholarship opportunity at Ohio University. Not only was this essentially a 4-year FULL RIDE to Ohio University, but it also included summer opportunities between each school year, including a summer abroad internship. I still loved what AU had to offer, but this was a big deal. I asked teachers for recommendations, submitted required essays, and I waited. I don't remember how many people were nominated, but there was a decent sized group of us. After some time, I found out I was a finalist. It was between me and one other guy from the county. Very exciting
The two of us were then invited to visit the campus and participate in a panel 'discussion' which was basically a table of 10 - 12 adults asking each of us [separately] all KINDS of questions. I drove to southern Ohio with my parents and Auntie, an alumna of Ohio U. She was excited to go back to campus, and was excited that I might become a Bobcat as well. We enjoyed a campus tour, and I participated in the discussion - aka was grilled. I felt great about it. As Student Council president, aka "Suzie High School" to Pannie, I was used to talking to all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. I wouldn't say I enjoyed the interview, but I felt confident. It went very well and after meeting the other guy, who reminded me of Minkus on Boy Meets World, I felt like I had it in the bag.
I forget how long it took for me to hear the decision, but when the decision came, I was shocked. The other guy was awarded the scholarship. I was offered a 'consolation prize' which was generous but no where near what I lost out on. I was legitimately surprised, and also a bit upset. On paper I looked good enough to invite me to campus. In person, I felt great talking to everyone. What could have happened in his interview that landed him the prize? Obviously, I have no idea.
But then I had a decision to make. Ohio University, a public, in-state school, had a much lower price tag than AU. Plus they were offering me a decent scholarship. AU offered me a scholarship as well, but it covered much less of the tuition than OU's did. I was torn. Where should I go to school? In some ways they were very similar - two of the best journalism programs in the country, I had been accepted to both programs, and would have done well in either school. Their differences were perhaps a bit more obvious. AU is located in our nation's capital, a stone's thrown from the White House, Capital Hill, and countless museums, among other things. There was never a shortage of things to do. OU, on the other hand, is located in rural Ohio. Its somewhat isolated campus has, some would say, turned OU into quite a party school.
The decision sort of consumed my life. I thought abut it at school, at home, while falling asleep. I called Auntie to talk to her about OU. It had obviously changed since she attended, but she could provide insight into some things. I really was torn.
Finally, and here's the answer to the prompt up there, I chose American University.
At this point in my life, it is if not THE best decision I have made, certainly one of them. Up until 2001, I had lived in the same house my whole life. I had attended the same school, K-12. Ohio was my place. I had been to DC just twice, once in 9th grade for a long weekend, and again to visit AU's campus, during which time we did not get south of Ward Circle. It was a brand new place with a lot of unknowns. I was not used to that and it was kind of scary, but it was important.
Full disclosure- Michael and I were dating in high school and decided NOT to intentionally go to the same school. Junior year, our college counselor [who was not still there for our senior year!] told everyone and their uncle to look at American University. So we both did, and we both liked it. Hmm. As it would turn out, Michael was at AU and so was I. He was the only person on campus I knew, but we lived in separate dorms on the opposite side of campus and had no classes together.
As with many people, college was an impressionable time. I lived by myself for the first time, met people totally different than those I'd known back home. I loved my new stomping grounds and immediately became involved in the ambassador program and served as a tour guide. In keeping with the familiar, I joined the choir and met my two best friends. If I had not gone to AU, I would not have met Ash and Pannie. That is HUGE! When I really think about it, I get sort of panicky. What would my life be like without them? Not to be dramatic, but I literally cannot think about it.
After a choir concert
Low quality scan from 2003
Ash's 30th [yes these are costumes]
But during my time at AU I experienced some big happenings that no one ever could have predicted. I was in DC during 9/11 and we could see the Pentagon burning from the campus parking garage. We also had an arson scare. The following year, the DC sniper kept everyone on edge.
Ironically, after nearing the end of the journalism program, I decided I did not want to live that life. Being a broadcast journalist was not for me. I got my degree in broadcast journalism, but was not going go pursue those types of jobs.
After graduation in 2005, I decided I'd like to work in DC in some capacity. I applied for many jobs, and finally got hired at Inside Higher Ed in an entry level communication-type role. It was my first real job. I had an amazing boss (we are still in touch!) and worked with a fantastic group of people. While at IHE, I learned SalesForce, a CRM used among many many sales departments. And, most importantly, I was good at it.
Flash forward to 2010. Michael is studying at Cornell, and I am looking for a temp position. The temp agency has heard about a job where the supervisor would love to get someone with SalesForce knowledge. I get a call less than 24 hours later setting up an interview and am hired as a temp on the spot. Over time, as longtime readers know, I was hired for a full time position at the same company, and continue to work for them today, from my home in Florida. I am happy to report that I once again have an amazing boss and work with a fantastic group of people. It's truly remarkable that in less than 10 years working I can say that about two separate institutions.
Sure you can argue that I might have become a broadcaster after OU's program [I highly doubt it] or that I would have found another job that taught me a valuable skill that I could employ after I became a traveling spouse. And that may be the case. But for me, the combination of the skills I developed, and most importantly, the people I have met, cannot be questioned.
What would my life look like today without these people? I made, and kept, some wonderful friends at AU. I did not have a ton of friends while I was there, but the ones I had I still have.
What would my life look like today had I not dated my now-husband during that time? The hopeless romantics may say we'd have ended up together no matter what. The realists may disagree.
What would my life look like without my first boss? I still see her every time I am in DC. She has also written me some fantastic job references, for which I am forever grateful.
What would my life look like without my temp job? A one-year stint in Ithaca would have felt a lot different without my first gig. But would I have even been in Ithaca with Michael?
What would it look like today? Nobody knows.
In retrospect, I don't think there was a -wrong- decision to be made during my senior year of high school. I certainly would have done well, met new friends, etc. But these specific people are special, and have truly impacted the last 12 years of my life.
So, the best decision I have ever made? To attend American University.