I'm also grateful to the university, not only for a great education, but also for generous financial aid and work study opportunities.
And I'm grateful to my parents for letting me go. My father was unemployed and they couldn't afford to pay for my college education but they encouraged me to find a way to go nevertheless. Their preference would have been UCLA, my father's and Aunt Molly's alma mater, that was less than an hour from our house. But they trusted me to know what I wanted and needed at that stage of my life. Despite the emotional toll on both in terms of worry, they sent me off with kisses and good wishes.
But for all its benefits, this wasn't a choice lightly made. Late in my senior year of high school -- holding acceptances from Northwestern, UCLA and Stanford (at my high school, we were only allowed three college applications) -- I had brainstormed with Sister Ramona about my choices. Northwestern was my first choice, but I worried about the expense and that I would end up taking out student loans before I was through. Sister Ramona smiled and said "So you take out student loans and you pay them back. No one can take away the education and the experiences you'll have there."
It resonates in the writing career I might never have had if I hadn't made the choice to go there. It resonates in memories of lessons learned and a sense of belonging, then and now. It resonates in some of the most treasured relationships of my life.
Karen felt moved to write after watching the above video and let me know that, many years ago, I unknowingly influenced her college choice. So she wrote:
"I'm about to attend my first Northwestern reunion (my 30th) this fall, and you are key to my having ended up there: I admired your writing in 'TEEN magazine back in the 1970s, and learning that you had studied journalism at Northwestern first put it on my map of awareness.
You have my heartfelt thanks for writing so engagingly that it captured my attention, for attending the country's #1 undergraduate journalism school, and for inspiring me to do the same through your example.
It was also one of the best decisions I ever made!"
And I wondered how often we all influence the life of another -- a stranger or a loved one -- without ever knowing.
I felt so grateful to Karen, a busy and accomplished professional, for remembering and for taking the time to reach out and to let me know that one of my very best choices in life was also her own.