With a big college reunion coming up, we alums were asked to write an essay reflecting on our lives and college experience– really made me think about who I was as a college student and the directions my life took. Here’s what I wrote:
Other than my summers teaching at Interlochen, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more inspiring dance space than the Boathouse studio overlooking Paradise Pond! In fact, whenever I’ve returned to Smith, I’ve been struck by the incredible beauty as well as intellectual richness of the campus. And I’ve wished I could have attended at a later time in my life when I might have been less filled with coming-of-age angst and better able to truly appreciate the experience.
In all honesty, Smith was more my father’s choice than my own. I had unsuccessfully petitioned to attend a school with a dance major, which Smith did not have at the time (although I wrote a proposal for one in my senior year). But my dad was determined that his daughters attend Seven Sister colleges, so off we went to Wellesley, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith.
Looking back, I had no idea how privileged I was to get a first class education and not have to work and go into deep debt to get an education, as is the case for so many of my college students. At Smith, I discovered a major, sociology, which I genuinely loved, and had professors who took my work and ideas seriously. It was a heady experience! Perhaps most life-changing during my college years was the summer I spent living and working in an African-American community in Atlanta. Along with my immersion in sociology, that experience unquestionably ignited my life-long passion for addressing issues of systemic racism and inequality.
Like everyone else on the planet, my life has had its challenges—a painful divorce from my first husband, struggles with depression, professional disappointments, and now a beloved parent’s dementia. But I’ve also been incredibly gifted with many blessings. My two sons and their families have been a tremendous source of joy —and of course, worry. Do we ever stop worrying as parents? (True confession: I still find myself occasionally telling my forty-something CEO son to “be a good boy” in our phone conversations.)
My work as a long-time dancer/dance educator and now as a writer/teacher has also been enormously rewarding. I am at heart a teacher and a nurturer and have been fortunate to spend my life doing work that made a difference.
The biggest blessing of my life has been Alan, my husband, soul mate, and best friend for close to 40 years. We met in a dance company, and he has kept me laughing and loving as my amazing partner in dance and life ever since.
As I look back, I wish I could tell my younger self to savor each moment and spend less time agonizing about the past and the future. Above all, I’d advise my younger self to be less of a wimp and stand up for myself. I spent way too much time trying to please other people instead of listening to my own voice.
However, I cannot fault Smith for my youthful shortcomings. It’s an amazing place where women’s voices are encouraged and empowered. And for that, I am so thankful.