Written by the Fourtuitous ladies
We, the ladies of Fourtuitous, were reflecting on how we got to where we are today, how it is that we are standing in this place, trying something new. We couldn’t help think about the advice we took or, in some cases, dismissed along the way.
About a year and a half ago I had the opportunity to meet up with Sammy of Sammy Davis Vintage . The girl has some seriously positive energy. At that time I was in a pretty dark place because I felt really stuck in my career. I knew I didn’t want to teach for much longer, but I was too scared to take the leap and get out of it.
Sammy didn’t necessarily advise me one way or the other, but she DID share her bold positivity and talked about how she quit her corporate job. Just being around someone who was so brightly upbeat, brave, and persistent in pursuing her passion gave me a boost of confidence and a little seed of hope.
People hand out lots of advice. I’ve been known to give unasked for advice, but sometimes people aren’t ready to hear your advice. If Sammy told me to quit my job, I would have thought, “This chick is crazypants.” But she didn’t. She simply let me be with her in her happiness for a few hours, and that was enough. Thank you, Sammy D! Keep spreading that vintage love, girl!
My grandfather was my best-pal and I was blessed to have him in my life until very recently; long enough for our two daughters to know and love him well. He left school after completing 8th grade in order to work on trains in Philadelphia and help make ends meet. He was old enough to work. His youngerbrothers and sisters were sent to an orphanage because his parents could not afford to keep them. He swept train cars and collected stray scraps of coal every day. He saved enough money to eventually bring several of his brothers and sisters to live with he and my grandmother after they were married. Such struggles we will likely never know. My grandfather was a fisherman. He loved port wine. He loved Frank Sinatra. He loved to laugh. After such struggles as a boy and a young man, he loved the sweeter and gentler sides of life. Whenever I struggled with life (and also before I gave birth to each of our daughters), he’d wrap his big warm hands around mine, look me in the eyes and say “Take a deep breath and think happy thoughts.” Simple words. Sage advice.
I wish I could say that my life has been guided by words of wisdom from my elders, but that is just not the case. Either the advice was not offered, or my memory fails me. I do remember one sad incident from my youth. I was lamenting a financial loss. I had loaned a friend my penny candy money expecting a timely repayment. Broken-hearted, I confessed my loss to my father, hoping that he would cover it. Not so. Rather than offering a sympathetic ear (and maybe a nice shiny dime) Dad quoted Shakespeare’s Polonius:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend…
Sigh. It still makes me wince.
At college I was awarded the English award, President’s award, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was advised by not one, but two, of my favorite professors of English not, I repeat, not, to go into teaching. Both believed I should further my education immediately upon graduating. I didn’t follow that advice. I had other plans, wedding plans. Then teaching, which rewarded me with 35 meaningful years. Along the way, I had two wonderful, spirited children, and now three perfect grandchildren. I guess sometimes, no matter how well-meaning the advice, we have to find our own way.
The most evil essay exam was staring me down . . . and winning. I simply couldn’t muster the mental fortitude to get through that silly test. It would surely mean the end of me. I called my mom, needing some comfort in her security-blanket voice.
Feeling utterly defeated, I gushed, “Mom, I have to drop this course. I just can’t do this. I’m too tired. I have plenty of credits. I need a break.”
I even started to cry. I waited for the sympathy I had called to receive. And this was it: “No, Emily.”
Maybe she hadn’t heard the crying in my voice. I sniffed loudly, “I have to. I can’t do it.”
“You can do this, and you will do this. You may not drop this course. You do not have my permission to do that.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” my voice escalated. I started to get angry.
“You will finish this. Read the test to me.”
I read each of the grotesque prompts to her, and as I shared why each one was so totally ridiculous and made “no sense at all” and how the professor was “out of his gourd,” answers started percolating in the recesses of my brain, and I found my direction.
It was well past my mom’s bedtime, and she had to work the next day, but she listened. She didn’t give me permission to take the easy way out, instead she supported me as I pressed on.
“You can do this, and you will do this.”
So I did, and well.