Thursday, May 26, 2011

If I'd Only Known

Posted Today

Going along with the business tips theme, I recently had a post on Art Bead Scene called "If I'd Only Known".  Click the title to read it -- you might find some good info and a bit of humor!

As you can see above, today I have our first Guest Blogger, a looooong-time friend of mine.  She could tell you some stories about our adolescence.  Ask her about the motorcycle in the potato salad.  No, not a REAL motorcycle.  A toy one.  But it's one of those weird memories that sticks in my head -- her kid brother zinging his toy into my dinner.

source with recipe

Ah, memories and why they stick in my mind.  School graduations are coming up -- but how many of you remember the guest speaker?  Unless they were someone uber-famous, you probably don't remember.  But you probably DO remember who you walked with, if a beach ball was bounced around over everyone's heads, and what it felt like to finally get that all-important piece of paper.

I went to college later than most.  The reasons are long and convoluted and best left to the book I'm going to write, but anyway, I paid my way through four years of grueling biology, chemistry, and every micro-level science class I could take in pre-med to get a degree from the University of Virginia. 

Due to the size of the university, everyone Walks the Lawn from the Rotunda to listen to the Key Note Speaker.  Here's where the pomp and circumstance, the tears and giggles, the balloons and beach balls, reign supreme.  I can't tell you how very, very close I came to skipping my own graduation because I couldn't handle the drama of not enough seats for two sets of parents, but I finally threw my hands up in the air and said, "Screw it" and realized -- I paid for this.  I paid a LOT for this.  This is my day.

my photo, taken with film (ah the days before digital!), Walking the Lawn in 1997

After we all roasted a bit in the heat, each School (in my case, Biology), went to various buildings on Grounds to actually get our diplomas.

Even though the building was drab and less than academic, I couldn't have been more proud of myself.  I've often said that I'd rather do four more years in the military than go through four more years of college -- it took that large a toll on me financially, emotionally, and mentally.  I took over-full course loads, rarely took anything that wasn't a science class, and spent my first semester at UVA wondering why in the WORLD the Dean had admitted me into this amazing university.  I even made an appointment one day to ask him (in tears) why he'd done it.

But it all turned out.

Putting myself through the rigors of higher education at UVA, alone but for a few friends, took its toll.  The robe hid it well, but I'd lost a lot of weight by this time.  A crotchety old professor even pulled me aside to ask if I was ill and suggested I might want to consider eating a sandwich.  Eating disorders have been a part of my life, and while I'm definitely plump now, I always wonder what bit of stress might be the bit too much.

Eating or not eating, I was happy.  No one else existed in that room but me, the kindly professor, and that piece of paper.  I'd worked so hard.  I'd dreamed so often.  I'd filled out the application so many years, between my high school graduation of 1987 until the day when I finally mailed it in.  No one could possibly know what that degree meant to me.  I still have dreams that, as I'm walking the Lawn, I remember I've forgotten to take a class and they take my diploma away.  Ever have a dream like that?

So this isn't just about the Art Bead Scene article "If I'd Only Known", an article about the beading business.  It's about If I'd Only Known back in 1997, when I graduated UVA -- would I have done it differently?  Would I have pushed myself so hard?  Would I have done it at all?

I do know the answer to that last question -- an emphatic, resounding "YES".  I had something to prove to myself when I was in the Air Force, a woman in a man's world in Korea, and I had something to prove to myself in a highly-regarded university in a place where I knew no one and had no support system.  I never ended up in medical school  (you can read more here) but I don't regret going to college at all.  

There's nothing you can do about a regret, anyway, except turn your back on it and make it into something else.  What that something else is, is up to you.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. Those dreams you mention? Had them all the time.

    And the advice in your last paragraph is priceless. We don't get do-overs in real life, we don't get extra lives, we have to make the best of the one we have.

  2. My graduation stories are different than yours- I didn't want to attend but my family wanted to see me graduate. I do not much care for ceremony.

    I have no regrets about my education. Our own history, the highs and lows, enrich our lives. I admit it does take time to perceive some of that enrichment.

  3. I started writing that comment and forgot the most important point...

    Lessons in self discipline (like putting yourself through college) are never forgotten and are always useful.

  4. you should be proud...its quite an accomplishment to earn a degree especially in the field you chose at the school you chose. Good for you - I finished mine at age 40 and was as proud of my degree at that point of my life too. I had been promoted so I supervised an office staff, processing through a divorce and going to school. Simple! We are Woman!

  5. You've accomplished so much. Clearly you're a woman who has, and will continue to, accomplish anything she puts her mind to.

  6. Your courage is so amazing, Lori. I'm constantly inspired by you!

  7. Lori I love this post. It brings me down memory lane. I went to college later on and I would have done it differently. When I went I was going full time, raising a family and working a part time and full time job. That's nuts!
    It also reminds me of a quote by Oscar Wilde,
    "One's real life is often the life that one does not lead”

    I don't know if I ever had an ideal life in mind for myself. I just know there were things that I must accomplish and I would not let anything get in the way of that.

    I have gotten to know you bit reading your blog and you are to me a very successful and accomplished women who is fearless.

  8. I admire you more and more! Very cool history! :o) & I often wonder HOW you do it all?! You ARE amazing!

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  10. I have that dream all the time. It's compounded by the fact I often can't remember anything specific I learned in college. I can be a witness to the fact you really earned your degree.

  11. Thank you for the wonderful posts today. That potato salad recipe sounds delish! Everything is better with bacon--well except may desserts. Perfect timing for the holiday weekend.

  12. What a great post, Lori. I'll be honest, when I saw the gal in the cap and gown I thought it was a stock image. Did NOT even recognize it was you until you showed another one! WOW!!! I love that long hair on you, Lori. I hope you let it grow long again one day....
    What proud moments - you can just see your pride and excitement in that smile! :-)

  13. Anonymous9:47 AM

    That is the most amazing story... You are truly inspiring... I love how you write and describe what and how you felt/feel. Thank you for sharing... I don't know you and I felt proud... You truly are awesome.
    I myself have battled the yoyo thing my whole life... this time I have lost 80lbs... I am sad that I have gained 20 back, doesnt sound like much unless your as short as I am.. trying to learn why I eat and do the things I do... Since my parents passed away I have had the hardest time... I miss them both so much.
    Take care...Lori Nice talking to you today!

  14. A wonderful and inspiring post ! Our decisions and the paths we take on our life's journey are what make us who and what we are. Your educational path was a challenging one and I applaud your tenaciousness in seeing it through.

    I truly marvel at your high energy level and ability to tackle so much so often. It is a rare gift, much like your artistic creativity and your amazing ability for organization.

  15. My daughter partook in the UVa tradition of streaking the lawn in the middle of the night sans clothing. She's the most modest girl I've ever known and when she said she did this traditional UVa thing I nearly fainted. Then I applauded. Did you do it? UVa is an amazing school on so many levels. There's a freeway here called the Sam Houston. My hubby & I call it the Thomas Jefferson. We miss Virginia!

  16. Thanks for stopping by my blog today :)! Have a great weekend!

  17. gosh Lori, so much of your post speaks to my heart. I am just beginning my journey into higher education, having spent so many years lost and un-knowing. Having re-awakened my creative soul last year, i realized what i had been missing all those years. Sure it is hard going back into full time education at the age of 29, leaving a relatively well paid job with security. I am coming up to the end of my first year, it has been hard, joyful, enlightening, stressful but most of all worth it every step of the way. My only regret is not doing it sooner.

  18. Congratulations! I love the pictures of you graduating :)


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