I’m trying to make
myself back into the woman pictured to the right. I believe that was my first ever mock interview for a major fellowship in which I was the mocker not the mockee. The ear to ear grin reflects my joy at the prospect of probing and propelling the candidate onto greatness.
At that point, I had never watched a wonderful young person ‘lose’ an award he or she richly deserved. I was an innocent. I believed whole-heartedly that I could infuse candidates with the spark needed to ignite them in interviews and send them into the scholarships stratosphere. I leapt from bed at 5:30 each morning to exercise my body while my I my mind mused over the best means to mentor my charges.
I was thin (for me at least); my children had yet to reach the age of reason (for those of you less obsessed with early modern definitions of childhood, that means they were under seven); and my career had just climbed the stairs from my basement (literally) to the second floor of an elegant Victorian house with a beautiful view of my alma mater sprawled before it.
Next week, I will watch my fifth cohort
of candidates depart the collegiate nest for unknown futures. I think the photo to the left speaks volumes about what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed.
I’m a veteran. I’ve wiped tears of joy and sorrow from students’ faces and my own. I know how
little lies between the two. I still ignite sparks and fan flames, but I warn students and guard myself against committing scholarship suttee in the process.
It looks as if I am patting a student’s
head in the recent photo. “There, there, all will be well.” Outcomes don’t matter. The process itself will open your eyes to a bigger world. My waistline and my sons have
grown bigger as well. I am most unhappy with the first.
My sons’ perfection only increased in their mother’s eyes as
they turned into ‘tweens.’ I want to shrink my middle and
help my charges (academic and biological) to find a middle path
between maximizing their talent and defining themselves by other
people’s (selectors or schoolmates) standards.
I fell off the wagon of exercise and
abstemiousness in part because I thought I had to win a weight war
completely – get the BIG prize of the perfect body (laugh over the
opacity of that definition) – or not bother at all. It’s a
common plight. We think we must choose
between anorexia and obesity. I’ve never been able
to pull off anything close to former. As I fretted more over
my flock and less over my figure, I gave over to the later.
It’s like the student who thinks if s/he doesn’t win the
scholarship, then s/he will be an unemployed ‘loser.’ I need
to save us both from ourselves.